Russel L. Honoré, the retired Army lieutenant general whom President George W. Bush placed in charge of Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts after initial stumbles, has more blunt advice in the title of his new book: “Don’t Get Stuck on Stupid.”
“If you live on a street named River Road,” he said in an interview, your home “is going to flood.” But the problems stem not only from personal choices but also from a lack of national will to make things better, he said.
Far from fighting, mitigating or adapting to global warming, the federal government is rolling back Obama-era climate policies. President Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, the world’s biggest climate pact. He says that regulations designed to combat climate change are a drag on the economy.
When governments do act, it is often after disaster has already struck. New Orleans got $20 billion in new hurricane protection from federal, state and local sources, but only after damage from Katrina cost the region some $135 billion.
This year, voters in Harris County, Tex., which includes Houston, passed a $2.5 billion bond measure after Harvey to better protect the area from future storms and to buy out homes in some of the riskiest areas.
Humans have a hard time planning ahead
Jim Blackburn, a professor of environmental law at Rice University in Houston, said that the bond measure was a start, but that attitudes had not changed enough after years of sprawling development and inadequate flood planning.
He recalled that after Hurricane Ike struck the Texas coast in 2008, FEMA paid for signs in the community of Clear Lake, near Houston, that were intended to tell homeowners how high surge waters from a major storm would rise there. Local officials, besieged with complaints from residents and real estate agents, took the signs down.