Some environmentalists say New Jersey should consider not rebuilding everything lost to Superstorm Sandy.U.S. Geological Survey scientist Jeffress Willliams says that rising sea levels and changing weather patterns make it likely that the coast will be hit by more frequent destructive storms.
He and other shoreline advocates say officials should consider restricting development to reduce the harm storms can do. They suggest relocating homes and businesses farther from the ocean, building more seawalls and keeping sand dunes high.
Gov. Chris Christie says the shore is too important not to rebuild. But he leaves the decision whether to build again to individual property owners.
OK, I'm about to step in it. One of the reasons the cost of coastal disaster mitigation is so high is the inefficiencies created today by perhaps efficient development patterns from years past. What I mean is that development patterns are at least currently efficient if they are based on the best and most current information about potential current and future contingencies. So let's suppose that the pre-Sandy Mid-Atlantic coast was efficiently developed over the past 300 years (a leap, I know, but go with me). Even if that were the case, doesn't a storm of historic proportions that rearranges many of the past development afford loclas the opportunity to develop newly efficient development patterns based on the supposedly better current knowledge of the potential and future contingencies (like erosion patterns and hurricane evacuations and yes, even climate change contingencies)?
And doesn't letting individuals decide whether to rebuild leave us with the same type of insurance market failure that we get when we continue to allow residents to rebuild in flood plains after flood events? The systemic risk overwhelms the insurance system during catastrophic events and it forces the government to once again become the insurer of last resort. I'm not opposed to individuals rebuilding. But the efficient decision will only be made if any insurance on the rebuild is priced at market rates (and not subsidized or backed by local, state or federal government).
*I don't really know what that means, but it seems like it might be appropriate. Besides, I just like the song.