The dangers that climate change poses on coastal cities is an evolving threat as development of the cities and their use of land changes on a regular basis, especially considering the fact that costal development is often tied to commercial interests rather than functionality. Sea level rising and the effects of costal erosion change the ways in which a community can experience storm surge and present a new set of challenges for those who face a large storm. Inland cities and urban areas deal with effects of precipitation, but in large wetland areas the water level rising has presented new issues with flooding. 1 In Texas communities on the Gulf of Mexico sea level rise effects natural disasters by increasing the intensity of the storm. 2 The effects of climate change on coastal cities infrastructure throughout the United States highlights the problems with an already decaying system. Because of sea level rise and warmer water temperatures, the intensity of hurricanes and other tropical storm systems are projected to increase by 20-30% in the 21st century. 3 The increase in intensity means that the damage will be greater and communities not protected by governmental programs face different types of risk.
The damages caused by flooding and other issues present a unique challenge to cities in the continental U.S. because of their dependence on a service economy. The development of cities in high risk areas presents a unique situation in which the effects of stronger storm systems will put those who are working class in more risk as their access to housing and work. Historic precipitation caused flooding in Houston. In Figure 1.taken from a New York Times article exploring potential rebuilding in Houston, the red represents the areas with reported flood damage from Hurricane Harvey and the grey is the 100 year flood plan. 4 Those without flood insurance and other means to access capital experience the aftermath of the disasters like Harvey differentially.
State sponsored programs respond to disasters in ways that reinforce class boundaries making the recovery process political. If the lack of regulation allowed people to buy and rent homes in markets that were at risk then a comment must be made about what needs to be done to protect them. Fig. 2 shows the rates of poverty in Houston. The two maps side by side show that in areas in which flooding occurred effected communities with high rates of poverty. The effects of these natural disasters on communities that do not have the ability to move or have the protections in place when flooding and other natural disasters hit can be disastrous. The political side of global warming and the rising sea level is that communities throughout the United States are dependent on insurance programs that evaluate risk to one’s property. In a city like Houston where, according to the 2010 census, 47% of homes are owned by their occupant, 50% of those who live there are not entitled to the same protection. Because the intensity of storms is increasing and the damage continues to be one of the ways in which we evaluate a storm, then the response needs to be changed to include those impacted by the storm who do not have home ownership and other means of capital. The success rate of rebuilding cannot be analyzed by how a city rebuilds itself and their property costs but rather success in dealing with those who are internally displaced and become refugees.