04 December 2012

An Alternative View on Sandy's Lessons: A Guest Post

Editor's note: This is a guest post by Stéphane Hallegatte, Senior Economist, Sustainable Development Network, Office of the Chief Economist, The World Bank, offering a response to my recent WSJ op-ed on "Hurricane" Sandy. Comment welcomed -- Thanks Stéphane!

The storm Sandy is not unprecedented. Similar events occurred in the past, and this storm is not a consequence of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stresses that it is impossible to make a causal link between one event and climate change (1). Roger Jr. Pielke, in an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal (2), pushes the argument further and claims that Sandy should not influence the discussion on climate change.

His argument is convincing: he has shown that population and economic growth and migrations toward risky areas explain the trend in disaster losses in the US (3). Because current land regulations allow new developments in flood prone areas that lead to the recent increase in damages, he concludes that we should focus on them, not on climate change.

The facts are correct, but I would like to discuss the policy conclusion. In the US, the first death risk factor is smoking, with more than 400,000 annual deaths attributed to it (4). But does it mean that nothing should be done about other factors, such as unbalanced diets? Of course not. It is not because you do one thing wrong (land regulations or smoking), that you absolutely need to do everything wrong (energy policy or food habits).
First, risk factors plays through different channels. Smoking and eating too much have different effects and increase death probabilities in different ways, exactly like climate change and inappropriate land regulations increase disaster losses through different channels. The former increases the likelihood of high water levels; the latter increases the consequences of these high water levels.

Second, risk factors do not overlap completely. Smoking does not only increase death probability, it also reduces physical performance. In the same way, climate change does not only increase disaster risk, but also threatens biodiversity, food production, and the landscapes we know. Inappropriate land regulations do not only increase damages from hurricanes, they also increase dependency to cars and foreign oil, and increase the cost of providing infrastructure services. There are thus good reasons to improve both climate change policies and land regulations.

And finally, risk factors are not independent. Smoking may be more dangerous for an overweight person. In the same way, bad land regulations are more costly if climate change is not mitigated, and climate change will be much more dangerous is land regulations are not fixed. So, the different drivers interact closely, and need to be considered together in policy design.

In the same way a healthy lifestyle includes a balanced diet and to stop smoking, the best policy to reduce disaster losses will use land regulation (and hard defenses) and climate policies. There is moreover no reason to search for the dominant driver of future disaster losses (climate change or bad land regulation?). Indeed, the balance between the actions on the two drivers will not depend on which one is responsible for most of the increase in damages, but on their relative cost-effectiveness to reduce future losses.

The timescales of these two options are different: emission reductions need a few decades to influence disaster risk, but then the effect lasts for centuries. Hard protection and land regulation can be quicker, but there is only so much they can do, and they require maintenance forever. In the absence of additional emission reductions to limit global warming, the most intense hurricanes are likely to become more frequent, and sea level will keep rising over the 21st century, possibly reaching more than one meter over the 22nd and 23rd century (1). What kind of land regulations and coastal defenses will New York City need by then?

There are limits to what coastal defenses and land regulations can achieve. Some like the idea that we build in risky areas because of “wrong incentives”, namely flood insurance subsidies through the National Flood Insurance Program. According to them, removing these incentives would solve the problem.

“Wrong incentives” exist and play a role – this is obvious – but unfortunately they cannot explain the current trend in risk exposure alone. Flood losses are on the rise in almost all countries, including those that have no flood insurance system (5). And if insurance claims help pay for rebuilding, they cannot compensate for all the losses. Getting flooded is a tragedy, with or without insurance.
People move toward risky areas because this is where better jobs and higher incomes are. And they are there because growing sectors are in coastal areas – driven by harbors and global trade – and in cities – that are usually located next to rivers and coasts and thus in flood prone areas. Would financial sector professionals quit their high-wage jobs in Manhattan in the absence of flood insurance? Would their employers move their headquarters to the Great Plains? Would the beach club owner in New Jersey move her business two miles inside the country?

Better land regulations may be able to decrease flood exposure, but they cannot do so in a significant manner – in the absence of a large-scale buys-out and house destruction program that appears extremely unlikely (6).

Flood exposure will not disappear anytime soon, even if land regulations are improved and bad incentives are removed. So even if climate change is not the dominant driver of hurricane and flood losses in the future, it may well be an efficient lever to reduce future damages, especially over the long term. Better risk management is badly needed in most of the world. But it would be absurd to use only one tool when we can use two.


(1) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX), 2011.
(2) Roger Pielke: Hurricanes and Human Choice. The Wall Street Journal. October 31, 2012.
(3) Vranes, K. and Pielke, R. (2009). ”Normalized Earthquake Damage and Fatalities in the United States: 1900–2005.” Nat. Hazards Rev., 10(3), 84–101. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)1527-6988(2009)10:3(84) (PDF)
(4) Danaei G, Ding EL, Mozaffarian D, Taylor B, Rehm J, et al. (2009) The Preventable Causes of Death in the United States: Comparative Risk Assessment of Dietary, Lifestyle, and Metabolic Risk Factors. PLoS Med 6(4): e1000058. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000058.
(5) Hallegatte, S., 2011. How economic growth and rational decisions can make disaster losses grow faster than wealth, Policy Research Working Paper 5617, The World Bank; and the Vox-Eu column,
(6) The French experience after the storm Xynthia on its Atlantic coast is not encouraging – the retreat strategy (more than 700 houses were supposed not to be rebuilt) was largely disrupted by political issues. If you read French, see Przyluski and Hallegatte (2012), Gestion des risques naturels, Quae Editions.


  1. "….the best policy to reduce disaster losses will use land regulation (and hard defenses) and climate policies.”

    “There are limits to what coastal defenses and land regulations can achieve.”

    “Better land regulations may be able to decrease flood exposure, but they cannot do so in a significant manner – in the absence of a large-scale buys-out and house destruction program that appears extremely unlikely.”

    “Better risk management is badly needed in most of the world. But it would be absurd to use only one tool when we can use two.” - Stephane Hallegatte, Senior Economist, Sustainable Development Network, Office of the Chief Economist, The World Bank

    Setting aside the really goofy discussion of smoking and further setting aside the failure to discuss incremental risk management vs. categorical risk management, Ms. Hallegatte is merely suffering from the dreams of central planners.

    Mr. Hallegatte thinks society is government and government is society. Stated alternatively, society is abstract, yet the term "society", in the main, is discussed in two very differing ways: (a) in the context of the summation of all individual actions, (b) the view of society as a living, breathing being that should have certain attributes. Hence Hallegatte’s implicit assumption in her essay merely substitutes government for society and government becomes a third party decision maker that dictates certain attributes of all individual actions.

    Oh, please spare us.

    The other item worthy of note is Hallegatte’s attempt to portray the problem as complex and hence needing complex rules. It’s the fallacious world of the complex meeting the complex. When the complex is political framed as needing complex rules the regulatory cost skyrocket, central planning fails and each increment of regulation causes a rent-seeking opportunity that drive costs ever higher. Hence the cost/benefit of simple rules outperform complex rules in most cases BUT preclude the need for central planners surely to the dismay of a heady group known as “Sustainable Development Network at the World Bank”.

    Ms. Hallegatte needs to consider the difference between “beclowned” and “benighted”.

    To conclude:

    “The thousand profound scholars may have failed, first, because they were scholars, secondly, because they were profound, and thirdly, because they were a thousand.”
    —Edgar Allan Poe, “The Rationale of Verse”

  2. So, should the US spend (that is, go deeper into debt) by a few billion dollars to sort out "climate change" or put that few billion dollars helping people rebuild their houses and businesses reopen their doors? Personally, I wouldn't spend a dime on climate change. Build seawalls? Sure. More $$$ into weather prediction technologies? Yup. Money to help out a region experiencing a longish drought? You bet. But climate change? What is that other than weather not living up to our fondest expectations?

  3. Global warming is virtually indistinguishable from the madness of other end time prophecies. There are legions of fanatics devising myriads of hopelessly unprovable hypotheses on how the world will end, one of which is global warming. Each with their own signs of imminent disaster.

    Eschatology is the study of the return of Christ to earth. The man himself revealed that wars, rumours of wars, famine, pestilence and earthquakes would be the signs.

    Newspapers are full of signs, insurance companies are employing armies of prophets and psychologists. However Roger Pike has published an article claiming none of these plagues are getting worse. He says he's got numbers.

    It is now Mood Change. The planet is flooded with articles claiming that people are getting angrier, sadder, crazier etc. Insanity isn't the real issue, even small changes in mood are signs and endanger us all.

    The final countdown

    Time is fast running out to stop irreversible mood change, a group of eschatology experts warns today. We have only 100 months to avoid disaster.


  4. In other news

    120 year old maiden aunt swears for the first time in her entire life. Cold cup of tea to blame. The tipping point is here.

    Mayan refuse to discuss their prophecies except to remind us that they are copyright.

    Jesus' spokesman said he would be back, but wouldn't like to set a firm timetable at this time. The last tour had left him a bit rattled, he felt he had deserved a better reception and now he had lost his voice.

    Aliens have made contact with Fidel Castro. They came here on holiday to witness the birth of Jesus and meet the Mayans, but locked themselves out of their ultra titanium space ship. They are scared. They have converted to Christianity, but really just want to go home.

    The global mood conference in Doh!, Qatar is going well. Homer Simpson has pledged to keep his temper, even amongst the searing heat and stench from the the world's richest oil state. "Jesus would love this" said Homer, sipping champagne from the Jacuzzi of his air conditioned, twelve star hotel.

  5. "even if climate change is not the dominant driver of hurricane and flood losses in the future, it may well be an efficient lever to reduce future damages..."

    No. The climate consensus is wrong, and even worse, wrong-headed, in making people like the author of this article think man knows enough about climate to change it for the better (or keep it from getting worse, for man's endeavors). This article incompetently takes for granted that climate change is having SOME effect on storm strengths and storm effects like coastal flooding. Climate change is not contributing to an observable increase in storm strength or storm frequency, nor would any competent physicist think otherwise, given the small (about 1 degree) global temperature change being claimed by climate scientists:


    Sandy's devastation was ENTIRELY -- not just mostly -- about man's poor foresight, in building, without proper safeguards, down to the very edge of the "stormy Atlantic" (as it has been known, long before the Americas were discovered). Current climate science is wrong, wrong-headed, and a mere fad -- a CRAZY fad -- of our times. There is, for example, no "greenhouse effect", of increasing temperature with increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide; the atmosphere is structured, by its very weight, not to allow such an effect. You will get nowhere by pretending otherwise, or by unquestioningly accepting the current "consensus" thinking. Such incompetent science has been disproved by now, whether academics like it or not.

  6. The link I gave, to "wuwt", in my earlier comment, should have read "Hurricane/Tropical Storm Strengths, 1851 to 2010", as that (my own short article) is where the link takes one to. I had earlier submitted a similar comment to wattsupwiththat.com (wuwt).

  7. "In the absence of additional emission reductions to limit global warming, the most intense hurricanes are likely to become more frequent". His whole argument is based on this. Does everybody agree?

  8. I actually find this guest column persuasive, once one accepts her initial premises. As I believe that climate change is real, a problem and worth addressing, I find a lot to like in this.

    What I would also bet is that this blog's author would agree with much of it as well. Professor Pielke, it seems to me that you've spent so much time fighting against egregious errors promulgated by Munich Re and various individual alarmists that it gets lost in the shuffle that your views may not vary much from what is written by Ms. Hallegatte.

  9. -8-Tom

    Thanks ...

    FYI, it is Mr. (or Dr.) Hallegatte ;-)

    Also, I might split a few hairs with Stéphane on a few fine points that we academics like to debate, but overall I find the post very well argued. Stéphane is smart and always worth listening to ... thanks!

  10. It strikes me we're talking about two very different kinds of policy here, and I'm not sure one merits the name 'policy' at all.

    Clearly it is entirely in the power of the US or the states to enact legislation discouraging development on flood-prone areas, funding the erection of flood barriers, etc.. Those things can and should be done.

    On the other hand, I'm not sure what legislation the US could enact that would have more than a minimal effect on sea-level rise. We could certainly tax carbon fairly heavily; that would possibly reduce our own direct carbon dioxide emissions. It would not change the rate of carbon emission elsewhere; in fact, by depressing the market price for fossil fuels, it might well lead to increased consumption elsewhere.

    That isn't policy. That's simply meaningless and rather expensive symbolism.

  11. Once it was:
    "No matter if the science of global warming is all phony...
    climate change provides the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world."
    - Christine Stewart,
    (former Canadian Minister of the Environment)

    - So we have to offer up scary scenarios,
    make simplified, dramatic statements
    and make little mention of any doubts...
    Each of us has to decide what the right balance
    is between being effective and being honest."
    - Prof. Stephen Schneider

    Then it was: "It is a matter of personal moral judgement whether that public good justifies Gleick’s sting operation to obtain those revelations." -Stephen Lewandowsky Ph.D. (Disgraced psychologist)

    Today: "So even if climate change is not the dominant driver of hurricane and flood losses in the future, it may well be an efficient lever to reduce future damages, especially over the long term." Stephane Hellegatte

    Beware of the dangers of noble cause corruption Dr./Mr. Hellegatte.

    This article seems to be asking, “Who cares if professionals lie or blur the truth when we can still take advantage of it?”

  12. Thanks all for your comments !

    On the last comments (dear Right Wing Professor), climate change is a typical problems of the commons: each individual action is meaningless unless everybody does something. And solving this type of problem is what we call policy !

    Consider waster management: in countries where most people throw their garbage in the street, there is little point as an individual in taking the pain of using a waste collection system. But you will agree that most people like clean streets...

    This is why we have policies organizing garbage collection, and laws to punish people when they throw their waste in the street...

    I agree that climate change is more difficult because it needs to be dealt with at the international level. But what's needed is a policy, based on a global agreement.

  13. Here is a graphic showing the effect of the 90 ppm co2 emissions we have added to the atmosphere since hurricane reconnaissance aircraft were first used.

    I think the good Dr. is talking through his hat when he says storms will become stronger if we don't try to reduce emissions.

  14. The difference of course is that the state can police the commons, and does. International bodies, on the other hand, have shown themselves again and again unable to act on matters as simple and sensible as preventing genocide.

    Biut I'm glad we've at least agreed that unilateral US action on climate change is pointless.

  15. As I understand, the central point we are discussing is whether climate change is/was relevant to the dear departed Hurricane Sandy. IT has been argued that the mere existence of Sandy 'proved' something about the dangers of climate change. In his WSJ column, Dr Pielke responded in the negative. Hurricanes happen, and they affect us. To the degree that we prepare for them, they affect us less. And to whatever degree climate change increases hurricanes/hurricane severity in the future, we would benefit from preparing for hurricanes regardless.

    Dr Hallegatte cannot deny these facts, but seems unwilling to give up the propaganda value of a fortunate disaster. Nothing Dr Peilke said in his column discounted concerns over climate change, and nothing he said argued against enacting policies to prevent climate change. Yet somehow, Dr Hallegatte argues as if he did. Why is this? It seems that Dr Hallegatte sees this matter more as a contest to be won - by any means necessary - than as an issue to be rationally judged on the evidence. In other words, he speaks as an advocate, rather than as an open-minded citizen. And for the advocate, the ends justify the means.

  16. In Hallegatte's defense, he did specifically mention sea-level rise, which is undoubtedly happening, is a relatively uncontroversial as a forseeable consequence of climate change (the sign, if not the magnitude), and which will affect the severity of coastal flooding.

    Of course, one might question how far we should go to prevent a 1 m rise in sea-level, if that were the only predictable consequence of climate change in the US.

  17. I have lived in NJ all my life. The horse left the barn a long time ago. No politician here would dare suggest not rebuilding. Not even the rise in insurance rates will be a deterrent. Even simple remedies are resisted. It's well known that building a breakwater/reef parallel to the coast would cause wave energy to be dissipated further out. No shore community will accept this since waves would no longer break on the beach.

  18. I would be interested to discuss the last point: "it [assuming this is mitigation of GHG emissions] may well be an efficient lever to reduce future damages".

    Now if we assume anthropogenic climate change is changing the future baseline risk of hazards, then mitigation potentially is a way to limit future *increases* in risk, but not necessarily reduce *current* risk, which is what Sandy is about, and also what final paragraph seems to suggest.

    For reducing current risk there is only one effective approach: defences and sensible development planning.

  19. Thank you Dr. Hallegatte for posting here.

    My first somewhat petty quarrel with your argument is the use of climate change instead of global warming. I guess the international organizations got a memo or something. The issues will be very different if (dare I say when) the planet starts to cool.

    Smoking analogy is stretched because there are tremendous disagreements on climate attribution that no longer exist for smoking.

    Finally, as someone who spends a fair amount of my time and treasure addressing international poverty, it saddens me that a sustainable development economist would focus on mitigation rather than adaptation. The primary focus of adaptation should be poverty alleviation so that the poorest are able to adapt to whichever direction climate change takes.

  20. Perhaps Dr. Hallegatte would like to comment on this. I'm sure it has nothing to do with him, but it would be interesting to hear his opinion.


    At the latest round of climate change talks in Doha, Qatar, the UK pledged almost £2bn over the next two years to help poor countries cope with climate change.

    But the World Development Movement said the money is going to large companies rather than helping poor people likely to suffer from climate change.

    A recent example was £385m, channelled through a World Bank project to promote clean energy in poor countries. WDM say that most of the money went to private companies to build wind turbines or solar panels for profit.

    Some £10m ended up going towards a 27-turbine farm in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico, operated by the French energy giant EDF, to be paid back in 15 years.

  21. Of course, some people will choose to accept risk of living in coastal zones. Better risk sharing policies can help them and the rest of us. I see little reason for tax payers to subsidize insurance against wind and wave for those who wish to risk them. But I do see utility in making sure that people do have access to insurance.

    There are of course many ways in which climate change influences what we must regard as the probability of hurricanes (and other extreme events) and the damage that they cause. In the case of Sandy, it seems likely that increased sea surface temperature had an influence and perhaps Arctic ice melts.

    The concept of causality should include both multiple causes as Dr. Hallegatte indicates, and statistical causality -- conditions which make events more or less likely.

    We may not be able to model the causal relations of climate change to adverse weather events very accurately, but modelling may well improve somewhat with more work and better tools. Such improvements would seem helpful to future policy makers.

  22. From Mark Bahner, eaten by Blogger, recovered by me:

    "Build seawalls? Sure."

    No, no, no! :-) That's last century's mentality!

    This is the 21st century. We need to ask ourselves: "Suppose I might be moving in the next couple of decades. Do I buy a moving van now? Or do I *rent* a moving van when I need one?"

    That's a hypothetical question. ;-)

    You *rent* a moving van when you need it. By the exact same principle, cities should *rent* storm surge protection when then need it, via a *portable* storm surge system that can be deployed to protect the city a few days before a storm.

    Such a system might consist of large tubes filled with water, and tubes filled with air inside the water tubes. That way, the tubes filled with air float above the water, and block the surge coming from the sea. The water-filled tubes are gradually pushed towards the shore, but they are moving so slowly that the storm passes over them and onto shore before the tubes get to shore. In that way, the storm surge drains back out to sea before ever getting to shore. The tubes are deployed and filled with water by pulling them behind ships, like fishing nets.

    What would such a system cost? Let's say it's several billion dollars. Well, it would have paid for itself many times over by protecting New Orleans from flooding during Hurricane Katrina, and protecting New Jersey and New York city from flooding during Superstorm Sandy.

    Moreover, the water-and-air-filled tube method will continue to improve as storm track storm surge predictions improve. And they will continue to improve as the materials that the tubes are made of improve.

    I could go on. (And on.) :-)


  23. Hi Roger,

    "From Mark Bahner, eaten by Blogger, recovered by me:..."

    Thanks so much! I was really kicking myself for not copying before I tried to publish.


  24. Dr. Hallegatte,

    The direction of your comments regarding mitigation of climate change is reasonable, but the substance to date has not been.

    I personally don't have any issue with considering whether to mitigate climate change as a social good. I do, however, have many many issues with the actuality of the cost/benefit matrix.

    To date, none of the agreements made internationally have or will have any impact on future climate change effects to any material degree.

    Similarly to date alternative energy policies, policies which have promoted the expansion of otherwise completely uncompetitive (from a productivity as well as cost perspective) energy sources, have proven completely ineffective both in terms of promoting substantive switchover to alternative energy as well as proven ineffective with regards to reducing CO2 emissions.

    Thus on the face of it, both diplomacy and subsidy of alternative energy has been a dismal failure. Why then should these policies continue to be pursued?

  25. I've been examining the impacts of climate change on natural hazards in Australia on my blog, including both current trends and future projections (www.casuscalamitas.wordpress.com). I agree with Roger, that for the most part once you peel back the headlines the impact of climate change on natural hazards have been largely over-reported. Unlike slower moving (yet far more threatening) hazards like decline in long term rainfall (and its impact on agriculture), ocean acidification (and its impact on fisheries) and biodiversity decline (and its impact on tourism and ecosystem services) natural hazards are far more 'sexier' making for great TV and newspaper headlines. Research has shown that those who have experienced natural disasters are far more likely to accept the evidence on human-caused climate change.

    The reason why climate change is a problem for natural disasters is that natural disasters are already a problem.

    I also agree with Mr Hallegatte. We need to take a systems approach to policy in this modern interconnected world, prioritising interventions that have multiple co-benefits and addressing intractable problems on multiple fronts (e.g. we need both adaptation and mitigation on climate change).

    And we can't be sure that the impact of climate change on all natural hazards will be small. Changes to heatwave conditions (the impacts of which are probably greater than all other natural hazards combined, but much less well understood) could be large, as could those to bush fire weather. The regional changes to certain natural hazards could likewise be extreme. Mitigation of climate change could help avoid these otherwise uncertain changes.

  26. Dr Hallegate offers us a frightening peek at the future.

    No, no, not the global warming/climate change/catastrophic weather/sustainability crisis hooplahs, but the minds of the new aparatchik technocrats who are lining up lifetime job baronies and fiefdoms for themselves and their offspring. We must quickly starve them of funds and discredit their emerging pseudoscintific proto-religion before they turn us into clod-busting, recyclables-gathering locavore serfs.

  27. "Changes to heatwave conditions (the impacts of which are probably greater than all other natural hazards combined, but much less well understood) could be large, as could those to bush fire weather."

    There will come a day, probably only a few decades into the future, when losing a house to a bushfire will be an extremely rare event. And deaths from bushfires will be even more rare.

    That's because fire-fighting robots will eliminate the need for humans to be anywhere near a bushfire. All humans (including firefighters) will be able to abondoned the area, with the knowledge that the robots will protect houses and buildings.


  28. Omigosh! Roger, I lost another comment. I sure hope you can retrieve it...I spent my whole lunchtime to compose it.

    Thanks (with fingers crossed),

    P.S. Note to self: always, always copy/save long comments before trying to publish! :-(

  29. -28-Mark Bahner

    Sorry, no sign of it here.

  30. Recalling comments lost at lunch. There are two major trends likely to affect bushfire and forestfire fighting in the next 2-3 decades:

    1) Artificial intelligence. Fully autonomous land and aerial vehicles (as well as remote-controlled land and aerial vehicles) are likely to become commonplace.

    2) Rental versus ownership. If vehicles are autonomous, it makes far less sense to own them, because there is no human expertise required in the piloting, and because renting really boost the usage factor for the vehicle.

    It's easy to imagine a fleet of a few hundred flying vehicles and a few thousand land vehicles and fire-fighting machines. Further, it would be quite possible to have this equipment in the U.S. during the U.S. fire season, and then being transported to Australia for the Australian fire season.

    What would all this cost? Well, suppose there are 1000 tanker trucks and 1000 pumper trucks. That would be about $600 million. And let's say there are another couple hundred million in aerial vehicles. The total cost might be $1 billion. But they could go anywhere and work constantly (no need for human operators to rest, eat, or sleep).

    According to Wikipedia the Australian Black Friday fires killed 173 people, with 113 being killed in homes. Many of those people were probably trying to defend their homes. There would be no need for that with several thousand robot fire-fighting vehicles on the ground. And 3500 structures were destroyed. This total would probably have been drastically reduced if there had been a robotic firefighting device on the roof of every structure at risk. It's likely that the savings from that one fire would exceed the cost of a $1 billion robotic fire-fighting system.

    If one is interested in stopping damage and deaths from bushfires and forestfires, the answer spend money to develop robotic firefighting equipment, not to spend money to reduce CO2 emissions.

  31. Hi,

    Sorry to comment again, but I've always been fascinated by fire. I wrote above that a robotic system could involve 1000 tanker trucks (that carry water to a fire) and 1000 pumper trucks. It turns out, according to various Internet sources, the cost of a single tanker truck and a single pumper truck are both about $300,000. Hence, 1000 of each would be $600 million, total.

    But the way to handle bush/forest fires might not be with such big equipment. A potentially better option would be to try to fight the fires before they get large enough to need tanker trucks and pumper trucks.

    Suppose instead, the squadron consisted of 500 tankers, and 500 pumpers ($300 million) with the other $300 million spent on other things. For example, one could have four $7500 robots (one for the roof, one for the attic, one for inside, and one for outside)...and that would cost $30,000 per house. So the remaining $300 million could be used to protect 10,000 at-risk houses. These smaller robots would maybe only have access to a couple hundred gallons of water...but the idea would be that they put out the fires before they become large enough to need the pumper and tanker trucks.

    In any case, it seems like $1 billion spent on some type of collection of fire-fighting robots would return much more in the way of reduced fire damage than $1 billion spent on CO2 reduction.