Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Regulation, Unemployment, and Cost-Benefit Analysis

Abstract: Regulatory agencies take account of the potential unemployment effects of proposed regulations in an ad hoc, theoretically incorrect way. Current practice is to conduct feasibility analysis, under which the agency predicts the unemployment effects of a proposed regulation, and then declines to regulate (or weakens the proposed regulation) if the unemployment effects exceed an unarticulated threshold, that is, seem “too high.” Agencies do not reveal the threshold, do not explain why certain unemployment effects are excessive, and do not explain how they compare unemployment effects and the net benefits of the regulation. Many agencies also predict unemployment effects incorrectly. The proper approach is for agencies to incorporate unemployment effects into cost-benefit analysis by predicting the amount of unemployment that a regulation will cause and monetizing that amount. Recent economic studies suggest that monetized cost of unemployment is significant, possibly more than $100,000 per worker. If agencies used this figure, there could be significant consequences for a wide variety of regulations.
[A] paper, by Morgenstern, Pizer, and Shih (MPS), uses a structural model to estimate the effects of environmental regulation on employment across “four highly polluting, regulated industries”: pulp and paper,  plastics, petroleum refining, and steel.43 MPS find that spending on environmental protection actually creates jobs in the net, at a (statistically insignificant) rate of 1.55 new jobs per $1 million in cost increases.

EPA applied the MPS study directly to its boiler regulation. EPA estimated that the regulation would create approximately $2.4 billion in compliance costs.44 MPS measured costs in 1987 dollars, while EPA’s boiler regulation was priced in 2009 dollars, so EPA applied a .6 multiplier in order to discount the regulatory costs to their 1987 value. Accordingly, EPA concluded that its boiler regulation would create approximately 2,200 new jobs.
The most recent and comprehensive paper on what we will call “wage effects”—the lost earnings of workers who are laid off—is by von Wachter, Song, and Manchester (VSM). The authors focus on male, middle-aged workers who were stably employed in the late 1970s. The workers are divided into three groups: those who remained employed, those who lost their jobs in mass layoffs (where employment at a firm declined by at least 30 percent), and those who lost their jobs in non-mass layoffs....

The average worker earned approximately $50,000 (in year 2000 dollars) in 1979. Not surprisingly, the average wage declines dramatically for workers who are laid off. Those who lose their jobs suffer an immediate wage loss of up to 33 percent (that is, some are rehired and obtain comparable or lower wages, while others are not). What is surprising is that although these losses decline, they may remain as high as 21 to 27 percent twenty years after the job loss. VSM calculate that over 20 years the average loss for a worker in their dataset ranges from $110,000 to $140,000. This range must be considered a lower bound for the cost of unemployment for an individual worker because losses most likely persist beyond 20 years.

Other scholars have found similar results, although no other study we are aware of examines earnings losses over twenty years.108 Most studies go no farther than six years. The studies find first-year earnings losses from 17 to 66 percent, with most studies clustering around 30 to 40 percent. The six-year studies find  last-year earning losses ranging from 0 to 47 percent, with most around 10 to 20 percent.
These numbers are high, but it is possible that the actual harm is somewhat less. First, to the extent that workers lose rents (the portion of the wage that is above market), the loss is simply a transfer—those rents will be captured by consumers or shareholders—and not a social cost....
The full paper is available free of charge at : http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1920441  

by Jonathan Masur and Eric Posner both of University of Chicago Law School 
University of Chicago Law School http://www.law.uchicago.edu via SSRN Social Science Research Network www.SSRN.com 
Olin Working Paper No. 571, Public Law Working Paper No. 359; August 4, 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011

Some Inconvenient Truths About Climate Change Policy: The Distributional Impacts of Transportation Policies

Abstract: Instead of efficiently pricing greenhouse gases, policy makers have favored measures that implicitly or explicitly subsidize low carbon fuels. We simulate a transportation-sector cap & trade program (CAT) and three policies currently in use: ethanol subsidies, a renewable fuel standard (RFS), and a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS). Our simulations confirm that the alternatives to CAT are quite costly-2.5 to 4 times more expensive. We provide evidence that the persistence of these alternatives in spite of their higher costs lies in the political economy of carbon policy. The alternatives to CAT exhibit a feature that make them amenable to adoption-a right skewed distribution of gains and losses where many counties have small losses, but a smaller share of counties gain considerably-as much as $6,800 per capita, per year. We correlate our estimates of gains from CAT and the RFS with Congressional voting on the Waxman-Markey cap & trade bill, H.R. 2454. Because Waxman-Markey (WM) would weaken the RFS, House members likely viewed the two policies as competitors. Conditional on a district's CAT gains, increases in a district's RFS gains are associated with decreases in the likelihood of voting for WM. Furthermore, we show that campaign contributions are correlated with a district's gains under each policy and that these contributions are correlated with a Member's vote on WM.

by Stephen P. Holland, Jonathan E. Hughes, Christopher R. Knittel, Nathan C. Parker
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) www.NBER.org
NBER Working Paper No. 17386; Issued in September 2011

New Study Examines the Impact of 400 km Aberdare Fence: Improvements to Ecosystem Services Worth About US$630 Million Annually - Aberdare Fence Has Improved Livelihoods, Land Values and Biodiversity, says New Study

The now completed 400 km electrified fence enclosing the Aberdare Conservation Area (ACA) has improved the livelihoods of millions of people in central Kenya, according to an independent study launched on September 5, 2011 at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Nairobi.

The study, The Environmental, Social and Economic Assessment of the Fencing of the Aberdare Conservation Area, also attributes improved forest cover, safer living conditions for local communities and greater security for wildlife to the fence, which was completed in 2009 after 20 years of construction.

The study was requested by The Rhino Ark Trust, the Kenya conservation charity that has pioneered the fence project, with funding support from thousands of Kenyans and friends of Kenya overseas. The study was co-funded by UNEP, Rhino Ark and Kenya Forests Working Group and supported by the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Kenya Forest Service and the Greenbelt Movement.

Speaking at the launch, Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "The Aberdares conservation efforts underline the extraordinary and wide-ranging returns possible when a more creative, decisive and sustainable approach to managing nature is undertaken-they also offer a model for exemplary public-private partnerships".

"Indeed Kenya's new policies on renewable energy to conservation of its water towers including the Mau complex, Mt. Elgon, Mt. Kenya, the Cherangany, and the Aberdares, is demonstrating practically and politically that a transition to a Green Economy is as relevant to a country in Africa as it is to countries across the world," he added.
Key findings in the report confirm:
  • A 20.6% increase in forest cover between 2005 and 2010
  • A 54% decrease in open areas (grassland and cultivation inside the now fenced 2000 km² Aberdare Conservation Area)
  • A 47 % increase in exotic plantations outside the fenced area
The report attributes these improvements to the effects of the fence and associated fence management guidelines as well as more assertive policy interventions.

It emphasizes that there should be an integrated management plan for the Aberdares and by inference that future government policy should incorporate holistic approaches to the way high value mountain forest ecosystems are managed.

The study also recorded socio-economic effects, such as higher household incomes and land values (as high as 300% in some cases) due to improved farmland security, crop yields and safer living conditions. Wildlife crop destruction has been all but eliminated and children travelling to school face fewer risks from animals. The number of fence edge communities growing wood lots for farm fuel is increasing. In some areas, communities have initiated indigenous tree re-planting inside the fence where previously illegal logging, uncontrolled cattle grazing and indiscriminate cultivation were rampant.

Cattle rustling using the forest as an escape route has ceased and disease transmission between wildlife and livestock has greatly reduced.

The report confirms that wildlife populations have increased, though poaching remains a threat. It confirms that whilst the fence protects farmers' land, it is not, nor was designed, to be human proof. The report calls for stricter gate access policies to regulate access to the Aberdare Conservation Area and to tackle illegal activities inside the indigenous forest areas.

On water resources, the report says limited data indicates that the Aberdares rivers are "more stable than the Mount Kenya rivers" - a fact it attributes to better land cover in the ecosystem.

The report's economic analysis gives a breakdown of identifiable benefits provided by the Aberdares to many parts of Kenya. The value of providing domestic water supply to central Kenya, parts of the Rift Valley and the Tana River valley, for example, is estimated at KES 646 million (US$ 6.9 million) annually. For Nairobi, where almost all the water supply comes from above and below ground Aberdare sources, the value given is KES 1.46 billion (US$ 15.6 million) annually.

The Aberdares is a key contributor to hydropower, which represents 58% of the national total installed capacity. The mountain range is a core provider of water for the horticulture and floriculture production around Lake Naivasha and is also vital to the Ewaso Nyiro River, which flows into Laikipia and the arid northern rangelands.

On carbon sequestration and soil erosion control, the report assesses the annual value at just under KES 1.9 billion (US$ 20.3 million). Carbon credits account for KES 450 million (US$ 5 million) annually.

The report stresses important values to fence adjacent communities and key revenues from the Nyayo tea zones and tourism.

Total products and services values are put at KES 39.3 billion (US$ 420 million) and biodiversity at KES 20 billion (US$ 214 million) - an overall total of KES 59.3 billion (US$ 633 million).

The overall distribution of economic benefits from the Aberdares gives the central Kenya/Rift Valley area 71 %, whilst the total national benefit is logged at 12%. The fence adjacent communities receive 7.6% of the total cake. The global value from agricultural exports, tourism and biodiversity is just under 7%.

In per capita terms, the 40,000 families whose land borders the fence and gazetted forest line are receiving by far the largest value benefits at KES 14,580 (US$ 155) per capita compared to a regional figure of KES 4,661 (US$ 50) per capita.

However, despite these substantial positive changes, the study affirms that the fence is under-supplied in both human and capital needs.

It recommends that the Ministry of Finance be further sensitized as to the value of the Aberdare ecosystem and to provide appropriate budget allocations to its overall contribution to the economy and GDP of Kenya.

The report affirms that a public-private partnership using a trust mechanism should be formed, which would enable stronger 'participatory management' by communities with the relevant government agencies. It stresses that there is an urgent need to ensure a properly implemented gate management and access policy for gazetted (vis à vis national park) forest areas.

The report proposes that given adequate financial and human capital support through immediate Treasury funding, the long term financing could be derived from Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) mainly from water and electricity users. In addition to ensuring ecosystem stability, PES could then be re-directed to accelerate income generating and non-exploitive activities for fence adjacent farmers.

The study recognizes that the fence adjacent communities could place new exploitive pressures on the forests and so need greater long-term support to create income activities that are compatible with conservation.
It concludes by affirming that management of the buffer zone - the five kilometre area around the fence - should be clearly identified and every effort made to create "positive benefits by deliberate investment in support of local livelihoods."

The full study is available free of charge http://www.unep.org/PDF/PressReleases/Rhino_Ark_Main_Report.pdf.

United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) www.unep.org 
Press Release dated September 5, 2011

Fancy Batteries in Electric Cars Pose Recycling Challenges

With fleets of electric cars starting to hit the roads, the next big mother lode for salvage companies is expected to be the expensive, newfangled batteries powering them.

Yet even as automakers vaunt the ways these cars can benefit the environment, they are divided over how best to handle the refuse: recycle or repurpose.

That is worrying some companies involved in “urban mining” — a voguish term that refers to extracting valuable metals from all kinds of discarded electronics, from power tools to mobile phones. They have already begun spending money to build an infrastructure to handle the flood of partly depleted battery packs that are expected to enter the waste stream; Frost & Sullivan, a consulting firm, puts the number at about 500,000 a year by the early 2020s.
“There is no green car without green recycling,” said Ghislain Van Damme, a manager at Umicore, a company based here in Hoboken that is one of the world’s largest recyclers of precious and specialty metals from electronic waste.
Aswin Kumar, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan. [points out] “lithium still costs about five times more to recycle than to mine, so environmental laws will drive recycling for now.”

Shoebox-size, lead-acid batteries have powered ignition and lighting in gasoline- or diesel-powered cars for decades. They already are widely recycled, mainly because lead is such a health hazard.  The batteries for hybrid and all-electric cars are far more powerful and much larger, with some weighing up to around 250 kilograms, or 550 pounds. They also can be the car’s most expensive component, mostly because of the complexity in making them, rather than the value of the materials.  Complicating the question of disposal, a large amount of energy remains stored even in partially discharged batteries. These could deliver harmful shocks and pose a serious fire hazard if mishandled.

For now, automakers are going their individual ways.Toyota Motor, whose experience goes back to 1998, shortly after the introduction of the RAV4 all-electric vehicle, has established partnerships in Europe and the United States to recycle batteries, including from the hybrid Prius. This year, it began shipping some batteries from Prius models sold in the United States to Japan to take advantage of a more-efficient recycling process at home.... General Motors and Nissan Motor, whose Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf are newer to the market ... have agreements with power companies to develop ways of reusing old batteries, perhaps for storing wind or solar energy during peak generating times for later use.
In the United States, the Department of Energy has granted $9.5 million to Toxco to build a specialized recycling plant in Ohio for electric vehicle batteries. It is expected to begin operations next year, handling batteries from a variety of makes and models. Another pilot plant being built in the German state of Lower Saxony is expected to open at the end of September. The German government gave Chemetall, which is part of a consortium called LithoRec that includes Volkswagen and its Audi unit, €5.7 million, or $8.2 million, of the €14.3 million cost. The British government this year granted £500,000, or $813,000, for a similar project to a group of companies including Axeon.
In Belgium, Umicore plans to formally open a €25 million plant in September in Hoboken, just outside of Antwerp, that can recover nearly all of the elements packed inside electric and hybrid car batteries including cobalt, nickel, lithium and even rare earths like neodymium..... The intense heat — more than 1,300 degrees Celsius (2,370 Fahrenheit) — strips away plastic coatings and creates a plasma, or ultrahigh temperature gas, to separate metals and other materials.The process yields tree-trunk-size chunks of gnarled metal alloy, some weighing more than 2,000 kilograms. Umicore refines those chunks to create metals for resale to manufacturers of car batteries, wind turbines and other high-technology products.  It also recovers a gravelly substance, or slag, that Rhodia, a French chemical company, refines for rare earth elements like neodymium. Given the recent restrictions by China on exporting such materials, more companies are looking at doing the same. Mr. Van Damme said the Umicore plant’s design could be scaled up to handle more than a million car batteries each year from the current capacity of 150,000....  But, so far, the only car company that has announced a deal with Umicore is Tesla Motors, of Palo Alto, California, whose electric Roadsters start at more than $100,000. Tesla will pay to recycle its battery packs from models sold in Europe after seven to 10 years on the road. The final cost to Tesla would partly depend on the market value of the metals recovered by Umicore. 
Some manufacturers, like G.M. and Nissan, are focused on deferring recycling for as long as possible. They estimate that even at the end of their motoring life, the batteries should still be able to hold about 70 percent of the power of a new one.
Nissan has formed a joint venture called 4R Energy with Sumitomo, a Japanese conglomerate, aimed at using the old batteries for storing energy from renewable energy sources like wind and solar and for backup power supplies in emergencies.   It might be possible to “make recycling a profitable business in the future,” said Takashi Sakagami, the president of 4R Energy.
The New York Times www.NYTimes.com
August 30, 2011

Measuring regional environmental efficiency: A directional distance function approach

Abstract: This paper by applying a directional distance function approach measures the UK regions’ municipality waste performance. In addition the paper constructs conditional stochastic kernels trying to determine nonparametrically the association of regions’ GDP per capita levels with their calculated regional environmental efficiencies. There are evidences of regional environmental inefficiencies for the majority of UK regions regardless their regional GDP per capita levels.
The empirical results (Table1) indicate that Inner London and North Eastern Scotland appear to be environmental efficient regions. In addition the last five UK regions in terms of the lowest environmental efficiencies are reported to be Tees Valley and Durham, Cumbria, West Wales and The Valleys, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly and Highlands and Islands.
[It is higly probable that low-environmental efficiency regions result from] ... lower GDP per capita levels and high-environmental efficiency regions, by higher GDP per capita levels.
by George Halkos and Nickolaos Tzeremes
Munich Personal REPEC Archive via REPEC Research Papers in Economics www.REPEC.org http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de
Deposited on August 22, 2011
Keywords: Regional environmental performance; Directional distance function; Conditional stochastic kernel

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New report identifies how impacts of climate change to water supplies & waterways will affect U.S. cities - In record year for storms and drought, provides a resource for cities nationwide preparing for sea level rise, increased rain, flooding, drought and drinking water impacts

As the nation grapples with a record year for storms, drought and weather-related devastation, a new report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council reveals climate change is leaving American cities open to a range of water-related vulnerabilities – from drought to sea level rise and increased rainfall – regardless of region or size. The report looks at how communities facing these new extremes are trying to protect their water supplies and waterways.

“This report makes clear that some of the first, most profound and far-reaching impacts of climate change are water-related, affecting the water we drink, fish, and swim in,” said Michelle Mehta, an attorney for NRDC’s Water Program and a principal author of the report. “In the future, we can expect increased violent storms, drought and rising seas, so communities nationwide, regardless of size, should get plans up and running to reduce their unique vulnerabilities and prepare for impacts.”

The report, “Thirsty for Answers: Preparing for the Water-related Impacts of Climate Change in American Cities,” found that climate change will impact water supplies and waterways in communities across the country, with geography often determining the specific effects. For the first time, this peer-reviewed report has compiled the results of more than 75 scientific studies, data generated by government agencies, and information gathered by other nonprofit organizations to analyze how the impacts of climate change on water supplies and waterways could affect 12 target cities: Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Homer, Alaska; Los Angeles, California; Miami, Florida, and the Florida Keys; New Orleans, Louisiana; New York, New York; Norfolk, Virginia; Phoenix, Arizona; Wan Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington and St. Louis, Missouri.

The report provides a snapshot of projected climate change impacts in regions across the country: Rising sea levels threaten vital infrastructure and saltwater intrusion to freshwater supplies in cities on the East, West and Gulf Coasts. Severe storms in the Midwest and East Coast are likely to become more intense and more frequent, causing floods and erosion, and threatening drinking water quality. In the West, a combination of increased temperatures, decreased precipitation and less snowpack contributes to a future shortage of water supply for people and aquatic life. More specifically scientific studies reveal a range of possible impacts under various carbon emission scenarios:
  • Rising Seas: Coastal cities examined in the report, such as Miami, Norfolk, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle are threatened by flooding and storm surges due to rising sea levels. For example, data show the very existence of the Florida Keys is at stake, with 38 percent at risk of inundation in the most optimistic scenario. Conservative projections also suggests the California coast could see a 12- to 18-inch rise in sea levels and the coastline of Seattle a 3-to 22-inch rise relative to levels recorded in 2000.

    Saltwater intrusion also could become more common in coastal communities as a result of this sea level rise, threatening freshwater supplies, according to data compiled. In New York City, for example, saltwater is expected to journey farther up the Hudson and Delaware Rivers during high tides, two of the region’s major sources for freshwater supply. Also, the salinity problem already facing California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is likely to increase, threatening the quality and reliability of the freshwater supply used by millions of Californians for drinking water as well as the region’s heavy agriculture industry.

  •  Increased Storms and Flooding: Research finds the Midwest is expected to experience more frequent and intense storms, contributing to the type of recent heavy flooding along the Mississippi River. The frequency of very heavy rainfall in Chicago, for example, is expected to increase by 50 percent in the next 30 years, which without infrastructural improvements is likely to increase the number of combined sewer overflows (CSO) that send untreated sewage and storm water into the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.

    Increased rainfall along the Atlantic is predicted to cause significant flooding as a result of tropical storms and nor’easters. In New York City, 100-year floods could occur every 30 to 55 years by 2050. Such flooding increases the risk of damage to vital low-lying infrastructure in New York, as well as critical naval and civilian ports in Norfolk. Heavier rainfall in the Midwest is likely to cause increased stream flows due in part to saturated soils, threatening levees in cities like St. Louis.  
  • A Drier West: The report describes rising temperatures, less rainfall and decreased snowpack in the U.S. West. As a result, without proper management, water supplies could be seriously threatened in regions such as Los Angeles, Seattle and Phoenix. Slight temperature changes could cause irregular stream flow patterns and lead to unseasonal snowpack melt outside of the dry season when the runoff is most needed, the data revealed. For example, the loss of spring snowpack in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range is highly likely, and a worst case scenario estimates stream flows in Southern California decreasing by as much as 41 percent.

    Warmer air also could cause precipitation to fall as rain in areas where it traditionally has fallen as snow, such as in watersheds that supply the populations of Seattle and Phoenix, causing decreases and even disappearance of snowpack. Such a scenario would pose serious challenges for local water supply managers, particularly during the summer months, as they attempt to balance human demand for water with needs for water supplies for hydroelectricity and wildlife habitats.

  • Decreased Water Quality: Data cited in the report point to the many negative effects rising carbon dioxide concentrations are having on water quality. For example, higher dissolved carbon dioxide concentrations, warmer water, and increased runoff could cause increased occurrences of harmful algal blooms in the Chesapeake Bay and around Seattle. The blooms can result in fish kills and cause shellfish to become contaminated with potent natural toxins, causing illness in humans who consume them.
Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and warmer waters are detrimental to the health of the coral reefs off the coast of Miami and the Florida Keys, and acidification of the waters in Puget Sound near Seattle threatens shellfish, a vital contributor to the local economy.

The compiled local data are cause for concern, and the report describes various steps these cities are taking to become more resilient to the effects of climate change, providing examples of steps that communities across the country should consider.
The complete report is available online from NRDC at: http://www.nrdc.org/water/thirstyforanswers.asp.
More frequent flooding episodes associated with storm events, exacerbated by sea level rise, would adversely affect major transportation arteries, including highways and rail and air transportation, and the viability of waterfront structures.... Increased flooding would also affect streets, basements, sewer systems,  communications equipment, and electrical support facilities such as relays, wiring, and switches associated with fiber-optic cable. In total, by 2070 the greater New York City metro area is projected to have $1.7  trillion to $2.1 trillion in property at risk from coastal flooding due to storm surges and damage from high  winds.
If current growth and land use practices remain unchanged while relative sea levels rise 3.3 feet (1 meter) by the end of the century, a 100-year storm surge could cost the city of  Boston about $36 billion (in year 2000 dollars) in damages to residential, commercial, and industrial structures and in emergency response costs. Homes built in the area’s 100-and 500-year floodplains could see flood damage of $7,000 to $18,000 each. Over the course of the 21st century, river flooding could affect twice as many properties at twice the overall cost of past floods.
Miami is no stranger to severe weather, particularly hurricanes: Hurricane Andrew caused $26.5 billion in damage in 1992, and Hurricane Wilma caused more than $1 billion in damage in 2005.
To counter the impacts of beach erosion, sand renourishment may have to occur more frequently. However, this labor-intensive process comes at a price: Between 1976 and 1981, a beach renourishment project that  replenished a 10-mile stretch of beach to a width of about 100 feet cost $64 million.
Greater Miami currently has more than $400 billion in property value at risk from coastal flooding, and that value could rise to $3.5 trillion by 2070.
Sea level rise (estimates for the region are 3 to 5 feet, or 0.9 to 1.5 meters, by 21003) delivers a one-two punch to the Keys, owing to their low elevation (an average of 4 to 7 feet, or 1.2 to 2.1 meters, above current sea level) and their high water-to-land ratio (any point on land is within 4 miles of water). Estimates of the potential loss of land area in the Keys range from 38 percent (at a value of $11 billion) to 92 percent ($35 billion).
Rising seas will likely wipe out a significant portion of the coastal wetlands in the Mississippi River Deltaic  Plain, where wetland loss rates are already among the highest in the world. Mississippi River flood-protection levees, some in place since the 18th century, rob the surrounding wetlands of replenishing seasonal sediments that would help counteract natural and man-made subsidence and erosion. Additional human activities such as the dredging of ship channels, oil and gas production, and the siting of industrial facilities exacerbate wetland loss. Wetland vegetation thrives in shallow waters but cannot survive as water depth and salinity increase. Wetlands without vegetation lose their ability to damp the energy of storm surges and waves, thus increasing the likelihood of flooding further inland in places—like metropolitan New Orleans—that have historically depended on these wetlands for protection.

Without inputs of sediment, an additional 3,900 to 5,200 square miles of wetlands will be under water by the end of the 21st century. If the impacts of relative sea level rise on wetlands are not checked, metropolitan New Orleans could eventually sit on land almost completely surrounded by the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Loss of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands not only would be a loss of natural flood protection but would impact the vast array of plants and animals that they support, many of which are tied to economic activity including fishing, timber, agriculture, tourism, and recreation. The combined value of infrastructure and biological productivity associated with Louisiana’s wetlands exceeds $100 billion.
The Pacific Institute report also details facilities and property at risk from a 100-year flood with a 55-inch sea level rise in San Francisco.... The current replacement value of buildings and contents vulnerable to a 100-year flood in counties in the San Francisco Bay Area is $31 billion; with a 55-inch rise in sea level that figure more than doubles, to $64 billion.
In the Bay Area counties, a total of more than 640 miles of new levees, raised levees, or seawalls, at a cost of almost $5.3 billion (in 2000 dollars), would be needed to protect against flooding in the event of a 55-inch rise in sea level. Maintaining these additional structures would require annual expenses on the order of a tenth of the capital cost. While armoring the coastline would save lives and property, it disrupts natural processes that are also of value.
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) www.NRDC.org
Press Release dated July 26, 2011 (pre Irene)