Remember the TV series with Lee Majors playing the role of astronaut Steve Austin? It’s OK, you can admit it without overly dating yourself – there have been reruns since the series was originally launched in 1973! In essence, Austin is ‘rebuilt’ after an accident using bionic body parts to make him stronger and better than before; in other words, with more operational resilience. That’s the idea behind the plan that the Mayor of New York City has recently had released, except this time the budget is rather bigger – over 19 billion dollars. But there may be bigger figures yet to come.
By 2050, the report on rebuilding New York after Hurricane Sandy issued by the city estimates that in a similar situation in 2050, the damages would be about $90 billion in current dollars (and so that much more, after factoring in inflation). To bring down the projected impact, the city is focusing on improvements in coastal, power and building protection. These measures should reduce projected impact by $22 billion. The benefit should also be felt for other severe weather phenomena, including torrential rains and heat waves that also menace the city.
While the report covers a number of areas involved in recovery and rebuilding, such as economic recovery, communities, healthcare, telecoms, transport and utilities, there is a clear thread running through the report: climate change. The city worked with the global reinsurance company Swiss Re to model the impact of changing weather conditions in the years to come. The models estimate potential losses according to simulations of storms that could hit the city in the future. They cannot however predict possible loss of life (43 lives were lost owing to Hurricane Sandy), nor the effect on specific sectors of the population more vulnerable in storm conditions. Although who knows, perhaps future medical technology will save more people and prevent fatalities, whether with bionic implants or other solutions.