(A fictional but provocative news story)
BY S. HAIL AUG. 30, 2017
HOUSTON — As nations around the world have continuously experienced, studied and analyzed the devastating effects of climate change in recent decades, especially from the relentless sea level rise, most governments slowly but surely fall in line, do the right thing and mobilize enormous resources to aggressively address climate challenges head-on. Those remedial climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience efforts have finally borne fruit today and proven to be money well spent, avoiding billions of dollars from Hurricane Harvey-related economic costs.
In the U.S., most coastal and flood-prone towns and cities (defined by the annually updated FEMA flood maps) are in different stages of drafting, reviewing and implementing the AOC (Act On Climate) infrastructure plan in accordance to the Obama-era Federal Flood Risk Management Standard that mandates infrastructure projects to be designed to survive rising sea levels and other consequences of climate change. Luckily for Houston, a climate-proof evacuation route was complete last year and is put to timely use as intended while half of the city’s roads are currently flooded.
In addition, since the U.S. has signed the Paris climate agreement in 2015, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has commissioned a permanent 15-member interagency Act On Climate (AOC) Council, headed by the Pentagon and with representatives from DHS, NOAA, EPA, FEMA, etc., to draft, put into place and annually update a comprehensive strategic plan of protecting American lives and properties from extreme climate risks. As a result, the AOC disaster relief plan was already in action before Hurricane Harvey made landfall Friday night on August 25, between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, Texas, as a Category 4 storm with winds of 130 mph.
One of the AOC adaptation strategies is to transition our fixed critical structures into mobile structures. The two potent ammunitions up their sleeves apparently are called FCB (Floating City Block) and MRU (Mobile Residential Unit). With the latest climate friendly technology including solar or renewable energy source, backup battery, grey water filtration system, energy and water efficient appliances, etc. on board, the FCBs and MRUs are meant to showcase and field-test the sustainable, self-sufficient and resilient (SSR) aspects of the criteria necessary for a successful transition into our climate uncertain future, based on the AOC Council’s last Climate Survival Report.
The FCB is a custom-retrofitted supersize 200,000-gross-registered-ton cruise ship with 4,000 beds, capable to expand to 8,000 beds, and the equivalent facilities, services and amenities to support a regular functioning town, including schools and clinics. It is designed to be a fully sustainable, self-sufficient and resilient (SSR) human settlement model for relocating a certain displaced population for the long term or accommodating the general population in the future. The advantages of FCB being mobile and buoyant are obvious and numerous. The most self-evident one is the fact that the ocean currently occupies about 70% of the Earth’s surface area and will continue to increase. Without knowing the eventual coastline and how frequently similar floods will occur, it is a safer bet to abandon the badly damaged areas sooner rather than later, and reallocate the reconstruction budget towards more climate adaptation in other less vulnerable areas.
The MRU is an updated and high-tech version of the traditional FEMA trailer, except that it is also designed for mobility (similar to a Recreational Vehicle), expandability and long-term or permanent residency. As a matter of fact, the MRU program is also the replacement of the bankrupt and defunct National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as a key component of the AOC Council’s efforts to limit the financial costs of floods on homeowners and the government. A similar NFIP premium will guarantee the insured homeowner a one-time MRU for the appropriate family size in case of a claim. Instead of encouraging rebuilding on flood-prone areas and repeated insurance claims which bankrupted the original NFIP, the insured homeowners can continue to live in their MRU on their properties and evacuate in their MRU as needed, with no further premium payments, property damages and insurance claims. Furthermore, the MRU status will also guarantee them first priority in future evacuations. Such arrangement additionally alleviates a drastic and disruptive displacement and abandonment of flood-prone communities and buys the government extra time to plan for eventual and permanent retreats.
The last AOC Council’s press release has stressed that no disaster relief plan can be effective without the full cooperation and collaboration of all citizens and personnel involved at the local, state and federal levels. To that, the Houston officials were credited with the controlled staggered evacuation process by the newly assigned priority order based on the flood risk of each residential address and the efficient setup of designated strategic command posts and staging areas with adequate emergency supplies and services in place and secured escape and re-supply routes, so that the relief process can proceed and scale up smoothly, safely and continuously out of the danger zones.
While greeting the arriving evacuees on board the FCB1, the first of its kind, Ms. Sky Howard, its Chief Operational Officer, made the following statement:
“The investments made by the U.S. government in mitigating and adapting to climate change as an insurance policy pay off today. Thanks to the prescient and meticulous AOC disaster relief plan and the up-to-date scientific modeling and prediction for such extreme climate events exacerbated by climate change, we are able to save and relocate hundreds if not thousands of people today in a timely manner and prevent billions of dollars of economic costs.
Climate change is a colossal and pervasive phenomenon that can adversely affect anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world. Our government has the responsibility and duty to provide public safety and to protect the collective interest of all citizens from calamitous harm, especially in dire situations like extreme climate disasters. Only the government is in a unique position to assemble ample human, material and financial resources, dedicated to discover and develop the best plan and technology that can tackle the climate change problems and deal with the resulting climate disasters efficiently, effectively, safely, speedily, fundamentally, ubiquitously and hopefully, permanently. We are all here today to bear witness to our government at its best.
We, as individuals, may not be able to escape the wrath of and win every battle against natural disasters, climate change related or not. But collective strength is mightier than individual strength and our government has risen to the global climate change challenge by leading this fight. Realizing that we, as a nation, are better prepared now than ever, let us all hope for the best and that Sun Tzu is correct in saying, ‘Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.’”