Sunday, December 2, 2012

Invest in Dutch Engineering Firms

To protect the New York region from superstorms, the U.S. will need to commit to billions in long-term infrastructure investment.  Climate and flood risks are a major concern in our other "delta cities" across the globe - - Rotterdam, Jakarta, London, New Orleans, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Ho Chi Minh city.  Many coastal communities with climate change induced flood risk vulnerability need to be asking the New York question - - "Rather than sustain another $30 billion of damage, why don't we spend some money now to save money in the future."
Civil engineering will face a complex and predictable future of rising seas and vanishing coastlines.  More that six million Americans live on land less than five feet above the local tide.  Rising seas raise the launching pad for storm surge.  Surging Seas  maintains an excellent website to review the risk of coastal cities in the United States.  Given the current global warming trends, a five foot rise over present sea level in about 100 to 300 years would submerge most of Miami.
The New York Times had an excellent article on November 25, 2012 - - Rising Seas, Vanishing Coastlines.  From the article:
"Floods reaching five feet above the current high tide line will become increasingly common along the nation's coastlines well before the seas climb by five feet.  Over the last century, the nearly eight-inch rise of the world's seas has already doubled the chance of "once in a century" floods for many seaside communities."
Enter Dutch engineering.  They have a long history of engineering a very successful battle against the forces of mother nature.  The Dutch have the unique combination of  experience and biography in the context of rising seas.  This is from The Financial Page of the current issue of The New Yorker - - Disaster Economics:
"On February 1, 1953, a fierce, sustained storm created a huge surge in the North Sea off the coast of Holland.  Floodwaters overtopped the dikes, swallowing half a million acres of land and killing nearly two thousand people.  Within weeks of the storm, a government commission issued what came to be known as the Delta Plan, a set of recommendations for flood-control measures.  Over the next four decades, the Dutch invested billions of guilders in a vast set of dams and barriers, culminating in the construction of the Maeslant Barrier, an enormous movable seawall to protect the port of Rotterdam.  Since the Delta Plan went into effect, the Netherlands has not been flooded by the sea again."
I can almost guarantee that Dutch engineering firms have developed the engineering language that describes value for threatened coastal communities.  This is a great example of geography and history allowing a group of firms to carve out a niche and gain a reputation.  History and geography are still strong forces - - it has given Dutch firms an identity and a platform to distinguish themselves in a new world challenged by climate change and extreme weather events.
Invest in a Dutch engineering firm!!!!!

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