Comparative analysis of Houston, Texas and New York City, New York’s incorporation of climate adaptive strategies in long term disaster recovery plans after large-scale hurricanes

Koslan, Katherine Linda
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Climate change is affecting weather through higher temperatures and increased precipitation. Specifically, “global annual averaged temperatures for 1986–2015 are likely much higher, and appear to have risen at a more rapid rate during the last 3 decades, than any similar period possibly over the past 2,000 years or longer” (Climate Impact Assessment for the City of Houston, p. 9, 2020). This, in turn, affects the severity of hurricanes which is illustrated by Hurricane Harvey in Houston and Hurricane Sandy in New York City. Some areas of Houston “received more than 40 inches of rain over a four-day period. The storm caused damages estimated around $126 billion, making it the costliest tropical cyclone worldwide” (Climate Impact Assessment for the City of Houston, p. 13 2020). For Hurricane Sandy, “The storm’s effects were extensive, leaving more than 8.5 million customers without power, causing widespread flooding throughout the region, and contributing to acute fuel shortages in parts of New York and New Jersey” (FEMA After Action Report, p. iii 2013). Hurricanes will continue to intensify faster and become stronger as climate change progresses. With more extreme weather events and precipitation, there are larger economic, environmental, and societal impacts. The economic impacts include property damage and rebuilding, increased cost of maintenance of infrastructure systems, increased emergency response cost, and business economic losses. Environmental impacts include vegetation damage, debris cleanup, and decreased groundwater and surface water quality. Finally, for societal impacts, extreme precipitation events leading to the evacuation of social services, increased waterborne diseases, and emergency stress in communities. It is important for communities and cities to be prepared by understanding their vulnerability to such events which includes exposure to events, sensitivity to events, and adaptive capacity to adjust to the event and its damage. Because of this, it is important to analyze the climate adaptive and resilience strategies used in the respective geographic locations to discern what should be used in future long-term disaster recovery plans as Hurricanes continue to be more destructive. This would include looking at green infrastructure and grid resilience strategies for making these areas more resilient as the next natural disaster is imminent.