The cleanup is far from complete, but at the one year mark, it's a good time to think about this question: when you are looking at the issue of coastal flooding and storm disasters, when does "short term" become "long term" in your thinking.
First there was Katrina. Next there was Sandy. In the future, there will be "fill-in-the-blank"- because climate science is telling us to expect a sea level rise of two to four feet before 2100, and when you stack a storm surge on top of that, a medium disaster changes into a big disaster.
But while our science thinking on this has begun to go "long term", our financial and political thinking is still decidedly "short term." In other words, when a disaster happens, we look around for someone else to pay for it. Yes Governor Christie, you wanted what was best for your your constitutents, short term. But long term, all those coastal structures and sandbars that you are having rebuilt are just going to wash away some future day. Then we are gong to want to rebuild them again, of course. But ocean waves don't really care about that. Ocean waves do not get tired of knocking things down- so maybe we are going to need to get tired of building them back up again?
Of course this is really easy for me to say. I am a resident of the Fall Line area, the part of Virginia that is just above the tidal zone of our river system. Sure, a hurricane could drop a pine tree on my house, but flooding is not going to reach me. In this regard, there is a political dynamic that is being set up here. Does your State have a seacoast? Then your politicians are going to vote accordingly- no matter if they are tea party or not. Constituents trump politics every time. If on the other hand, you live in Nebraska, your Congressperson or Senator probably takes a dim view of spending billions piling up sand that is just going to wash away. Okay, you can build seawalls and tidal gates, but those cost way more- and at a certain point the water level reaches the top and then what do you do? It may be realistic to build a tidal gate to protect the port of New York City- because it might possibly be cost effective. But you can't build a seawall to protect a string of beach houses from Texas to Maine- that's not possible. You can't stop climate change by treating the symptoms of the disease- water rise- you can only stop it by stopping the rise of CO2 in the sky.
Unfortunately, the USA has a hell of a lot of seacoast. Let's see, there is Washington, Oregon, California, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, George, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Wow.
I don't think we are going to make that transition from short term to long term thinking anytime soon. We are probably going to have to rebuild every damn house, twice, before we get the point.