Can Nature Make a Less Intense Hurricane Season a Less Risky One Too?

Satellite image of Hurrican Sandy approaching the east coast of the United States. Photo © NASA
Satellite image of Hurrican Sandy approaching the east coast of the United States. Photo © NASA

By Kathy McLeod, Director of Climate Risk & Resilience, The Nature Conservancy

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) predicted a below average hurricane season this year for the Atlantic. Hearing their projections, the immediate reaction is a sigh of relief.

But we know that it’s not just the intensity of storms, but also their location that can cause severe harm to people and damage to property. Hurricane Katrina, for example, was a category three storm when it made landfall in Louisiana.

Bottom line: a less intense hurricane season does not mean a less risky one.

And when it comes to protecting ourselves, more and more planners, insurers and communities are thinking about these three words: Nature. Reduces. Risk.

Last week, I has the pleasure of moderating a panel hosted by The Norwegian Consulate of New York to discuss the role nature can play to help reduce storm risk — through the lens of a post-Superstorm Sandy New York.

Joining the discussion were representatives from Mayor De Blasio’s office, EPA’s Clean Water Division, CUNY s Institute for Sustainable Cities and the Managing Director of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Program on Resilience. The conversation reaffirmed that strengthening resilience is multifaceted and complex. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. And the optimal blend of solutions will always be uniquely local.

That last point set up the big takeaway from the meeting: to increase a community’s resilience, the community must lead.

It’s about working with the people who might be initially skeptical of changing how they think about and live with risk, and inspiring them to be the agents of change.

It was an affirming takeaway. This is the model the Conservancy and the cross-sector partners we work with apply to our efforts — —> Read More