It's the same with porous pavements. They are installed in 300 relatively small areas. What scale do we have to do with those interventions to have them be effective? That's a research question.
What is a city's role in combating climate change, given its global scale?
Cities are emerging as the first responders. It's of necessity. It's the right level of governance to deal with these superstorms and enhanced coastal flooding due to sea-level rise. They see their constituents every day, they don't just helicopter in and helicopter out.
One of the neglected aspects of Superstorm Sandy is the challenge to people as well as infrastructure. How do we improve the climate resilience of people?
There's a tremendous strain on everyone, and you can see the vulnerability. I spent the storm with my 97-year-old mom. We've raised those issues but we need to do much more. There's also the health aspect. Like in New Orleans, there's mold [after flooding].
We need to work on this social aspect. I was on a conference call yesterday with a colleague from Bangladesh. He offered to send help because they have a lot of experience dealing with this, especially the social aspects. They've created in Bangladesh an explicit social network around flooding. People know: this is the group of people I'm going to be caring for. People who [live at low elevation] are connected to people who are high. That leads into this mental health aspect. If people feel part of all that, it will help. That's why the volunteering has just been fantastic. New Yorkers are fantastic in terms of their community response. Let's study that more. How can we nurture and strengthen those community mechanisms?
Do you think Sandy will change the conversation about climate change?
Is this a tipping point? I think it is, in terms of response. I don't think in six months people are going to say "Hurricane Sandy, what was that?" Certainly not in the New York metropolitan region. Everybody now knows that storms are different. This one-in-a-multi-century storm [in terms of risk of occurrence] is a wake-up shout.