As bad as Hurricane Katrina was for the entire Gulf Region, the reality of global warming tells us that planning for future storms must include the likelihood that even larger, more powerful storms may occur and even become more common. Sea temperatures are rising and will likely to continue to rise. Sea levels may rise further over time. Storms that were category one’s in the past may become category two or three storms. We may have to invent new categories for future storm classification.
Plans to rebuild New Orleans should reflect these emerging realities. Plans to further develop coastal areas of the entire Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coasts of North America should reflect these realities. We may see future storm of 250 miles per hour winds, or even 300 mile per hour winds. We may see gigantic storms and gigantic storm surges and massive flooding of regions in ways that could make Hurricane Katrina seem small by comparison.
Global warming is changing the realities of life within a hundred or more miles of those coasts. We may find that either we will have to quit building developments and start recovering coastal wetlands, or establish ongoing massive evacuation plans for entire regions. Can we afford this?
Hurricane Katrina has taught us that failure to implement risk planning protocols turns a storm into a human disaster of almost limitless potential. The Bush Administration clearly does not "get it" and still may not. The Bush Administration believes it is economically unsound to prevent global warming, but not unsound (apparently) to spend tens of billions of dollars in rebuilding cities and infrastructure. The very processes of rebuilding place yet more strain on natural resources, needlessly requiring timber harvest and industrial activities that yet further global warming impacts.
There is a wise saying: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". If we had prevented the destruction of New Orleans by wise prevention, many lives would have been saved and enormous fiscal expense to a nation already deeply in debt could have been avoided. If we do not get a handle on our societal impacts to global warming, we will find that we may not be able to afford all the "cures" whose sources and causes we could have prevented with some wisdom.
Bush the Elder used to use the word "prudent" when discussing government planning and action. We need prudent government now more than ever before, and unfortunately, it is a term totally unfamiliar with Bush the Lesser and his crowd. Governance without prudence moving forward is a disaster in the making.