After Typhoon, City Wonders: Rebuild Or Relocate?

By Yimei Li


“Why you don’t move?” I asked my uncle Mr. Li when I was thirteen. My uncle lives in Lishui City, Zhejiang province, China, where typhoon happens every year, strikes the same place. This year, typhoon “catfish”, landed in south of China and buried 30 houses on September 28, 2016, including his house.

Figure 1 : Typhoon “Catfish” in Lishui City, Sep 28, 2016. Source: Lishui government website.

After disasters, there are usually two choices for the community. Residents can either rebuild their houses or relocate to another place.



Figure 2: People are rebuilding there houses after typhoon. Source: Herman R. Lumanog/NurPhoto/ZUMA PRESS/Keystone Press.

In Lishui City, every year, the local government implements a protect and rebuild program for facilitating the houses in the town.

On the one hand, Lishui city should be rebuilt and restored as one of the most historically important cities in Zhejiang. It is also a valuable seaport that has a significant effect on the regional economy. Another reason is what my uncle told me, “This is where we’ve always lived, these are our homes, we will not bend to nature, where else will we go?”

On the other hand, nobody knows what will happen after returning to typhoon damaged town and whether more people will die next year. Insurance companies, as an important part for post-disaster reconstruction, are unable to assess and offer financial support. Taxpayers are also unwilling to pay for the town too many times. Incomprehension and anger from them may lead to social instability.


Figure 3: Willingness to relocate. Source: Mikael Damkier/Shutterstock

People can design and build their new house with the government support from human, financial, technical or organizational aspects. It may initially cost a lot, but it is a more sustainable way comparing with recovering in some situation. If Lishuiers relocated to another place in 1996, they would not spend money on rebuilding houses for ten times, which can even buy a new house with the government subsidies. For taxpayers, they can ending the cycle of recovering  and save money in the long run.

Nevertheless, relocating means move to a new site and establish home as well as business there according to Merriam Webster. Establishing a new business, working in a new place, fitting in for a new environment are not easy for human being, especially oil people. Sometime the relocation place can be too remote and infrastructure cannot be moved totally. People also have to consider factors like surrounding region, utilities, transportation, environment, weather and even crime rates.

Rebuild or Relocate?

There are pros and cons of rebuilding after the event versus relocating the population. People need a measurable way rather than qualitative way to determine the solution.

“Fifty percentage” rule can be a good way for determination. If the repairs exceed fifty percent of replacement, people should move to another place for living. The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 44, §206.226(f)(1) states: “A facility is considered repairable when disaster damages do not exceed 50 percent of the cost of replacing a facility to its pre-disaster condition and it is feasible to repair the facility so that it can perform the function for which it was being used immediately prior to the disaster.”  In 2005, China established the Emergency Management Office for emergency management system.  Until 2007, there were 35 laws and 37 regulations published, including abundant aspects from economical, environmental, safety, health to security. Thus, both victims and taxpayers can be persuaded easily when rules and numbers come out.



Resilience: Addressing Vulnerability

The definition of resilience in this blog the capacity for a community to maintain function when facing natural disaster like Typhoon. To address vulnerability, I think the local government needs to 1) design sustainable transportation systems, 2) improve science and technology for forecasting the disasters, 3) improve construction techniques and build stronger infrastructures, 4) develop emergency system and respond at the first time, 5) make sure that the policies are implemented, 6) invest the research centers and institutions to deepen the knowledge of natural hazards, 7) educate the residents about surviving disasters.





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Will the Paris Agreement Make a Difference ? Opportunities and Challenges

By Yimei Li

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French President Francois Hollande (C, 1st row), United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (4th, 1st row) and Christiana Figures (3rdL, 1st row), Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, pose for a photo with head of states and government during the opening day.REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen.

On Oct 5 2016, Paris Agreement entered into force.

Personally speaking, I think COP21 will shape our world to be a non-fossil fuel era. Communicated NDCs support for Paris Agreement are expected to give a strong signal for public as well as private sectors that they should prepare and approach for an end of fossil fuel age. Although the provisions involving essential part on transparency stay imprecise, the Paris Agreement provides the starting point of reform with expectation for future quasi-constant negotiations in the next decades. From Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), time frames and periods for implementation scope and coverage, planning processes, assumptions and methodological approaches are well designed (UNFCCC, 2014). Since the Paris Agreement has come into force  (United Nations, 2015), “well below 2°C” becomes possible to a large extend because of the governments’ endeavor of developing renewable energy.


However, unfortunately, there are still huge dissonance between diplomatic understatement and targets of 2 degrees rather than absolute achievements. We can see from page two of the agreement:

“Emphasizing with serious concern the urgent need to address the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels.”



“The Paris Agreement is nothing but a diplomatic victory for world powers, as they can now mobilise the deal to work towards alternative pathways to energy production.” Picture shows people drawing attention to populations threatened by rising seas and increasing droughts and floods, during COP21 in Paris. Photo by AP


There are at least two difficulties to break the Paris Agreement. On the one hand, although developed countries guaranteed in 2009 to give $100 billion each year until 2020 to support developing counties constraint GHG emissions, developing nations still ask for more beyond 2020 (Adoption of the Paris Agreement, 2015). Nevertheless, U.S. and other European countries refused to promise higher figures. On the other hand, the long-term goals are understated and vague in some nations like China and India, deeply reliant on coal. They are reluctant to arrange clear plans for eliminate emissions.



There are still opportunities when we alter an established but disempowered scientific consensus into a joint worldwide political consensus. It is the first time of having a truly global agreement on climate change, one of the most vital environmental issues today. The United States and China are trying to cooperate, as two countries formally join the Paris Agreement and sign INDC (White House, 2016). It is the time for energy market to show a strong preference for renewable and clean energy solutions that will stimulate innovation, enlarge non-fossil fuel markets, and benefit from a zero carbon energy era, a giant leap forward.

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U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande (C) and Bill Gates (R) take part in the launch of Mission Innovation, a landmark commitment to dramatically accelerate public and private global clean energy innovation.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

From Paris Agreement to Philadelphia

On December 1 2015, Philadelphia Releases First Climate Adaptation Report. The change for Philadelphia to leverage advantage in advanced production, vehicles of consumption, diversity in manufacturing and engineering. According to the United Nations’ request that all developed countries and major cities reduce GHG emissions, Philadelphia would have to decrease emissions by 66% to meet the requirement (Drexel University for The Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, 2015). The Paris agreement should be good news for Philadelphia since there will be more green architectures, well-designed electricity generation and transportation when adopting the Paris Agreement. Cities can make a difference by adopting large scale decarbonization strategies.

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Philadelphia Cityscape. –by Sam LeVan

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