Tracking Dissipation Reduction, Externalities, Stability and Sustainability for Environmental Management of New Orleans

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Dylan McNamara, UNC Wilmington, Wilmington, NC, United States and Bradley T Werner, University of California San Diego, Climate, Atmospheric Sciences and Physical Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States
Sustainability requires stability, but in promoting economic development, modern economies and political systems reduce stabilizing dissipation by facilitating use and management of the environment through engineered mitigation of disturbances, which externalizes dissipation over the short to medium term. To quantitatively investigate the relationship between a range of environmental management approaches and sustainability, and the implications for Earth's future, we track the impact of management strategies on dissipation within the system and its externalities in a numerical model for the coupled economic, political/management and flooding dynamics of New Orleans.

The model simulates river floods, hurricane storm-surge-induced floods, subsidence, and agent-based market interactions leading to development of port services, hotels, homes and labor relations. Flood protection decisions for levee construction based on the baseline case of cost-benefit analyses designed to prevent short-term economic loss from future floods qualitatively reproduce historical expansion of New Orleans and increases in levee height. Alternative management strategies explored include majority voting, consensus-based decision-making, and variations in discounting of costs and benefits.

Enhanced dissipation is measured relative to optimal economic development without floods. The focus of modern economies on commodification is exploited to track dissipation as a scalar representing value or power, but this approach might not be applicable to more complicated traditional/indigenous cultures or cultures of resistance.

For the baseline case, short-to-medium-term reductions in dissipation destabilize the coupled system, resulting in episodic bursts of externalized dissipation during flooding. Comparisons of results for a range of management options and generalizations of this approach for alternative cultural systems will be discussed.