Playing chicken with the government on rising seas

A new report says developers have an incentive to build on the coast and hope they'll be bailed out - and points to an astounding US case study. The incentives to build will become even more perverse if we decide what communities to defend based mostly on the value of property at stake, she says. At the extreme: The rich will get seawalls while the poor get moved.

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The tiny town of Jean Lafitte, Louisiana, is engaged in an extraordinary game of chicken with United States authorities.

Despite being too small to require a traffic light, the town boasts a 1300-seat auditorium, a library, a wetlands museum, a civic centre and a baseball park, all built within a decade in a remarkable bid to make the town too valuable to flood.

The New York Times reports that Mayor Timothy P. Kerner embarked on the multi-million dollar investment programme after being told his town of 7000 people was too small to justify the US$1 billion it might cost to extend New Orleans’ fortress-like flood defences to cover Jean Lafitte’s residents.

By sinking millions into a flood zone, the mayor hopes to make his town unsinkable.

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