How Badly Would A Disaster Affect You?

The oceans are rising, the climate is warming. Is your house - literally - in order?

No matter what we do, say scientists, the oceans are rising; anything we do to address climate change won't help until, at the earliest, 2100. And the effects of carbon emissions on the climate lag the emissions by at least 40 years and as many as hundreds of years. In a report that was ironically delayed because of Hurricane Sandy, national security experts say violent weather like Sandy could end up being more frequent, and flooding is bound to become more likely; storm activity is not likely to dissipate over the next decades. The report's lead author, John D. Steinbruner, told the New York Times, “You can debate the specific contribution of global warming to [Sandy]. But we're saying climate extremes are going to be more frequent, and this was an example of what they could mean. We're also saying it could get a whole lot worse than that.”

The best thing we can all do is prepare financially. While the worst outcomes predicted by that recent study would be impossible to protect ourselves against (global famine, failed states, wars erupting over remaining fertile land, and the like), there are things we can do in the short term to at least prepare ourselves to weather a few storms.

First: Where do you live?

If the twin punches of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy have taught us anything, it is that living below sea level within spitting distance of a coastline - especially the Atlantic and the Gulf Coast, for hurricane danger, but also the Pacific Coast for tsunami exposure - is highly dangerous. While I'm quite sure that many of the residents of Rockaway Beach and the 9th Ward are, and were, without a lot of financial resources, it's also the case that housing in most coastal areas is more expensive than the equivalent housing inland. Like it says in the Bible (and I'm paraphrasing heavily but the concept is sound), better to build your house on a rock than on the sand.