Political Editors / September 1, 2021

In Brief: Hurricane Ida’s Climate Resilience Lesson

Spending to protect against extreme weather beats green boondoggles.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, tied for the fifth strongest storm to ever hit the American mainland, The Wall Street Journal editorial board took a look at the value of the infrastructure investments made after Hurricane Katrina, which struck Louisiana 16 years to the day before Ida.

The pictures of Hurricane Ida’s wreckage across Louisiana are grim. … But the good news is that New Orleans appears to have weathered the tempest as well as could be expected thanks to its post-Katrina flood-protection investments. This is a reminder of how hardening infrastructure against unpredictable Mother Nature pays off.

Damage from a Category 4 storm is inevitable, the Journal notes. Obviously, many were worried about a repeat of the breached levies and death brought by Katrina.

Yet Louisiana and the feds have since spent $14.5 billion on bolstering flood walls, levees and drainage systems. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reinforced pumping stations to withstand 205 mile-per-hour winds and established redundant power systems to operate them if the electric grid fails, as it did Sunday.

These investments appear to have paid off. Many streets are flooded from the heavy rainfall and some small towns outside of New Orleans’s flood-protection fortress were inundated. But more important, a Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority spokesperson on Monday said there were no levee breaches or problems with pumps in New Orleans.

The biggest failure was the electric grid. Eight transmission lines that serve the city went down and a grid imbalance caused a loss of power generation across the region, cutting off power to nearly one million Louisianans. Essential businesses like hospitals can run on backup generators, but it could take weeks to restore power in some neighborhoods.

That’s not the only debate, however.

As predictable as the sunrise, the climate lobby is blaming humanity’s fossil-fuel sins for Ida. But even the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report this month notes “there is low confidence in long-term (multi-decadal to centennial) trends in the frequency of all-category tropical cyclone” (i.e., hurricanes).

The report says that it is likely that the global proportion of Category 3 or higher tropical cyclones has increased over the past four decades, but that “data limitations inhibit clear detection of past trends on the global scale.” In short, we don’t really know whether global warming has caused or will cause more intense storms in the future.

That won’t stop the clamoring for “green” spending. But the truth, say the Journal’s editors, is simple: “No matter how much the world warms, more extreme weather will happen. Building more resilient infrastructure and better emergency alert systems will do far more good than all of the Biden Administration’s climate policies.”

Read the whole thing here.

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