Texts on the project Flooding NYC Claims, by Paolo Cirio. 2023
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- Website: Flooding-NYC-Claims.net
- Website: ClimateClassAction.com

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- Climate Mismatch, Venice, 2023
- Natural Sovereignty, Capri, 2021

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Related texts
- Climate Tribunal artist's book, 2024
- Climate Aesthetics, artist's essay, 2023
- Climate Mismatch, artist's text, 2023
- Climate Class Action, artist's text, 2023
- Flooding NYC Claims, artist's text, 2023
- Climate Tribunal, artist's text, 2021
- Natural Sovereignty, artist's text, 2021
- Extinction Claims, artist's text, 2021
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In an era where flooding occurrences in New York City are growing more frequent and intense due to climate change driven by fossil fuel emissions, this project speculates that fossil fuel companies can be held accountable for the property damage inflicted by these floods. This website is a tool to simulate and calculate compensation. It helps determine what fossil fuel companies might owe in terms of compensation for flood-related damages and explores feasibility of pursuing legal avenues to financially aid New Yorkers who've borne the brunt of these floods. The algorithm used, merges flood data points with greenhouse gas emission data and economic damage estimates to provide a simulation of claims for reparations encompassing housing, personal belongings, health, and the various individual hardships inflicted by the flooding.

Flooding NYC Claims proposes that all New Yorkers who have been affected by a flood event should be compensated. It uses FEMA estimates for property owners and applies to everyone, in order to democratize a just compensation for all.
The project Flooding-NYC-Claims.net makes use of FloodNet data that is collected by sensors installed throughout New York City neighborhoods and streets for measuring the timing and depth of floods in critical locations. The FloodNet project is a multiyear partnership between New York University, the City University of New York, and various agencies within the City of New York for developing and installing a flood sensor network across the city, and using the resulting flood data in a series of projects and services. More about FloodNet: The FloodNet Project Website, The FloodNet Data Dashboard, The FloodNet Lab, The Deluge Symposium.

Flooding NYC Claims is a project by the activist and artist Paolo Cirio to raise awareness about the role of fossil fuel firms in causing destructive and deadly floods in New York City. As FloodNet Artist in Residence, in 2023 Paolo Cirio developed the project Flooding NYC Claims to calculate compensation for New Yorkers based on flood data computed with data regarding greenhouse gas emissions by fossil fuel firms. This project integrates "attribution science”, climate change litigation, and global climate treaties. Central to Cirio’s concept is the historical study “Carbon Majors Database” by the Climate Accountability Institute, the first that established specific responsibilities for each international fossil fuel firm, and deduced that the 100 major oil, gas, and coal producers have generated over 70% of greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2023, Cirio also launched Climate Class Action, a campaign for promoting legal class suits against fossil fuel companies. Earlier in 2021, Cirio introduced a utopian Climate Tribunal with a series of artworks that envision how to put major fossil fuel firms on trial using evidence consisting of data, graphs, testimonies, and documents. This project continues a longstanding engagement with climate activism and flooding in NYC, in 2010, two years before Hurricane Sandy, Cirio created the Drowning-NYC.net project to raise awareness about how the rising sea level impacts residents of New York City, informing citizens living in vulnerable neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan on climate change issues, as well as engaging high-school kids and adults in preparing for the future gentrification that would come with urban climate adaptation.

Fossil Fuel Firms Must Pay You for Climate Damage Caused by Floods in NYC

A list of accusations, evidence, legal case studies, and news articles has been compiled for the Flooding NYC Claims project.

In 2021, The City of New York sued Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, and the American Petroleum Institute to hold the major carbon companies accountable for the consequence of climate change. Already in 2015, the State of New York sued Exxon Mobil Corporation for mismanaging their responsibility on emissions causing extreme climate events. In the United States, several other cities, counties, and states have sued Carbon Majors to hold them accountable for the extreme climate events damaging infrastructures, citizens’ properties and health.

Currently, there are more than twenty legal cases underway in the United States to make fossil fuel companies pay for climate disasters, find the complete list of lawsuits in the database created by Columbia Law School, or follow the recent news on climate litigation on Twitter.

About the Economics and Science of Flooding in New York City

The Mayor's Office of Climate and Environmental Justice (MOCEJ) of New York City warns that climate change is causing more frequent and intense flooding due to heavy precipitation, coastal storms, and sea level rise.

These floods inflict major damage to city infrastructure, personal property and belongings of citizens, disrupting their jobs and businesses, as well as affecting their health and safety. For instance, in 2021 Hurricane Ida killed 13 people in New York City alone, and 61,696 people in New York City claimed recovery funds from FEMA due to the floods. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused 44 deaths in New York City, inundated more than 88,000 buildings, and produced an estimated $19 billion in damages. Due to climate change, more powerful and destructive coastal storms are on the horizon. It is estimated that by the 2050s, a Sandy-like storm could cause nearly five times the impact – $90 billion in damage and economic loss in New York City.

As the climate heats up, researchers expect that there will be an increase of more extreme precipitation events, with flash floods getting “flashier,” meaning that the duration of the floods will become shorter and floods will be of a bigger magnitude. These flashier floods will be more dangerous and destructive, as New York City is already experiencing.

In fact, when Hurricane Henri hit, on August 21, 2021, Central Park recorded the heaviest one-hour rainfall ever of 1.94 inches in an hour, the most rain-per-hour in record-keeping history. However, Hurricane Ida, on the night of September 1, saw 3.15 inches fall in one hour, breaking all imaginable records, with two extreme weather events just 10 days apart. Weeks before Henri, the storm Elsa had also brought intense precipitation, with more than 4 inches in 24 hours. Consequently, the former mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, established the Climate Driven Rain Response, stating “It’s a different reality, a speed and intensity of rainfall that we now have to understand will be normal.” According to the federal government’s National Climate Assessment, in the Northeast, the strongest 1 percent of storms now produce 55 percent more rainfall than they did in the mid-20th century. By the end of the current century, the city could experience as much as 25 percent more annual rainfall than today, and 1.5 times as many days with more than one inch of rain.

Also, floods from ocean tides will increase, and sections of the city’s coastline will be subject to daily tidal flooding by the 2050s. Some low-lying neighborhoods are already experiencing chronic tidal flooding due to bigger high tides. Since 1900, the sea level in New York City has risen by about 12 inches, and is expected to continue to increase by as much as 6.25 feet by 2100, leading to increased frequency and intensity of coastal flooding.

Extreme rainfalls, coastal storms, and high tides severely damage New Yorkers’ homes and personal belongings. Repairing damages to a home or replacing possessions can be costly, and place financial strain on homeowners, renters, and businesses, especially on low-income households that may already be struggling. New Yorkers directly threatened by flooding could more than double from about 207,000 in 2020 to 468,000 in 2080. In particular, floods will hit low-income New Yorkers' apartments, exacerbating an ongoing affordable housing crisis. It has been predicted that a Sandy-like storm could flood more than 50 NYCHA social housing developments by 2080.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that 1 inch of water from floods can cause as much as $11,000 in damages, based on a 1,000 square foot, single-story home. For 3 inches of water, FEMA estimates about $12,000. For 6 inches of water, loss jumps to an estimated cost of $21,000. For a home of 2,500 square feet, just 1 inch of water can cost $27,000 to repair, 6 inches of water causes damage worth $52,000. That total cost reaches $72,000 for 12 inches, $87,000 for 24 inches and $94,500 for 36 inches. Certantely, the deeper the floodwater, the more it will likely cost. However, these are overly conservative estimates that do not consider population density in New York City, nor the social-economic context of those being affected by climate change. Furthermore these home reparation costs don’t consider the damages to belongings or to the jobs, health, and lives of those impacted.

Ultimately, New Yorkers’ damages from flooding will not be covered by insurance, the cost will be too high. FEMA, which is funded through tax payers money, underestimates the exposure, and private insurance companies won’t have enough funds to distribute. Already, homeowners’ insurance is becoming unaffordable, and firms refuse to insure businesses, properties, and belongings that could be affected by climate change. Across the United States, premiums jumped 12 percent from 2021 to 2022, after paying out claims for about 20 disasters a year with damages of over $1 billion in recent years. In many cases, insurers are pulling back in areas considered high-risk for climate disaster, leaving citizens to state-backed insurance plans. Yet, both private and government-backed insurers are undercapitalized for dealing with the potentially massive disasters of the coming years.

In contrast, fossil fuel companies staked record profits for decades, knowing the consequences of their products, dismissing projections of the damages they would bring, and axing any alternative renewable energy source.

Therefore, fossil fuel companies must compensate New Yorkers for the increasing floods in New York City.

Research text composed by Paolo Cirio.

How the Claims Are Calculated

The calculation for the compensations is based on a proposal to compensate everyone living near a flood event. Starting from the rough FEMA estimate of $11,000 for one inch of flooding in a 1,000 square foot home, the equation computes the depth of water with the estimates for damages and reparation costs by the square foot. It then adds it to the amount claimed, and ultimately computes the sum using the percentage of greenhouse emissions from each fossil fuel firm. The final estimates reflect amounts that ideally all New Yorkers affected by a flood should receive, even if they don’t own properties. Other parameters to take into account would include the income and assets of claimants, while claims for health and death are not considered based on the depth of the floods.

The following breakdown details estimates by FEMA for the reparation costs from floods by inches of water in a single-story home; these estimates nearly double for two-story homes. Therefore, the values listed are multiplied by the number of floors included in the form for calculating compensation.

For a home of 1,000 square foot:
1 inch about $11,000 > $11 for each square foot
3 inches about $12,000 > $12 for each square foot
6 inches about $21,000 > $21 for each square foot

For a home of 2,500 square feet:
1 inch about $27,000 > $10.8 for each square foot
6 inches about $52,000 > $20.8 for each square foot
12 inches about $72,000 > $28.8 for each square foot
24 inches about $87,000 > $34.8 for each square foot
36 inches about $94,500 > $37.8 for each square foot

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