In the past 35 years, weather-related disasters in the United States have resulted in damages of more than $1 trillion. Hurricane Katrina alone resulted in over $80 billion in damage, claimed nearly 2000 lives, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. And globally, economic damages from natural disasters total approximately $200 billion per year. The intensity, frequency, and costs of natural disasters are likely to increase due to the impacts of climate change. But domestic and international frameworks for disaster risk reduction and response have not kept pace.
This seminar provides an introduction to the laws, policies, and decision-making processes related to various disasters in the United States and in the international context, highlighting disasters that are exacerbated by climate change. Through examination of international agreements, statutes, cases, administrative materials, and articles, we will explore a variety of frameworks to deal with catastrophic risks, including mitigation, emergency response, compensation and insurance, and rebuilding efforts. Particular focus will be placed on hurricanes, floods, fires, and droughts. Portions of the course will rely on case studies of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and we will conduct a flooding negotiation simulation that incorporates impacts of climate change. Some classes may involve guest lecturers. Grades will be based in part on participation and weekly reaction papers. In addition, students may choose to submit either three papers of 6-8 pages in length over the course of the semester, or one longer term paper that may be used to satisfy the Substantial Analytic Writing (SAW) requirement.