One year on from Sandy, building resiliency to extreme weather across the US is still a matter of urgency

23 September 2013

NEW YORK: One year on from Hurricane Sandy which hit the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, a coalition of voices joined together at Climate Week NYC to call for increased levels of climate resilience. They also warned that America's current levels of resilience remain insufficient to manage the impacts of extreme weather and urged businesses and governments to further integrate climate risk considerations into decision-making processes as a matter of urgency.

Panel participants praised the New York City administration for their efforts since Hurricane Sandy, highlighting in particular their report which contains actionable recommendations both for rebuilding the communities impacted by Sandy and increasing the resilience of infrastructure and buildings citywide. They also noted that much more remains to be done in the region and country at large.

Leading global reinsurer and the Founding Sponsor of Climate Week NYC, Swiss Re, played an important role in the New York study. The extent of the challenge face by the City was underlined last week in a publication the company launched titled, Mind the Risk. It identified New York as the most exposed urban area to storm surge in the country with approximately 1 million people at risk. Around the United States there is over $10 trillion of insured assets in coastal counties which are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather.

Philip K. Ryan, Chairman of Swiss Re America said: “In 2012 the impacts of severe weather cost the global economy some $160 billion, with only $70 billion of that being covered by insurance. As experts on risk everything we see points to the inescapable fact that climate change is something which we simply cannot ignore.”

Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group, said: “The effects of severe weather are being felt across the United States, every event damages infrastructure, businesses and the lives of thousands of Americans. We must not and cannot ignore the economic impact of climate change any longer and we need to work to climate-proof our society.”

According to the authors of the Stronger, more resilient New York, report, the level of loss that was caused by Sandy has a likelihood of occurring about once every 70 years. 

But, with climate change and its rising sea levels and stronger storms taken into consideration, a Hurricane Sandy-type storm in 2025 might cause the City a loss of $35 billion. In 2055, it might reach $90 billion—five times the loss from Sandy.

“Sandy was a reminder that cities are at the front lines of responding to the shocks and stresses wrought by climate change, as well as other catastrophic events, from seismic activity to terrorism to economic crisis,” said Dr. Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation and co-chair of the New York State post-Sandy NYS2100 Commission. “The Rockefeller Foundation is committed to helping cities across the globe build resilience to better prepare for, withstand, and emerge stronger when disaster does strike–and to minimize disruption and tragedy, too. This is an imperative of the 21st century.”

Panel participants warned that the National Flood Insurance Program–or NFIP–provides almost all of residential flood coverage in the United States. With the Program operating with a US$24 billion debt and the billions of dollars paid in Sandy claims only adding to that growing deficit, the current set-up is clearly unsustainable.


Related news:

New report from Swiss Re warns 616 cities to ‘mind the risk’ on climate change

Mark Way, Swiss Re: Mayors and governors are at the sharp end of climate action

Jim Kim, Todd Stern, Tony Blair, Richard Branson and industry leaders open Climate Week NYC, call for urgent action

Image by aherrero

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