Holland is protected by a sophisticated system of sea walls. London is too. And now New Orleans benefits from billions invested in modern, well-engineered levees. By contrast, New York City has nothing standing between it, rising seas, and storm surges.
As for New Jersey, its storm defense consists of sand. Literally sand dunes and beaches serve the twin purpose of tourist attraction and storm defense.
With sea levels projected to rise at least 3 feet in this century, holding back rising, warming seas is going to take more than sand. And its going to get more and more expensive in the coming decades to just replenish beaches and rebuild sand dunes.
Though the major costs of storms is the damage done to property, and Sandy's total cost could be approximately $60 billion, the bill for just rebuilding beaches was into 9 figures each year, even before Sandy.
Each year the federal government spends about $100 million rebuilding beaches across America and about a quarter of that is spent in New Jersey. The Philly Inquirer reports "$700 million has gone into pumping, dumping, and otherwise replacing sand on nearly 54 developed miles of the Jersey Shore since 1986." www.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/20121104_The_dunes_did_their_job__but_restoration_has_cost.html.
The Philadelphia Inquirer also states that $100 billion of development is on the Jersey coast alone, and a major protection of that investment is substantial dunes and beaches that buffer property from the ocean. Protecting that investment from rising, warming seas will take more than sand and will cost ten figures--billions--annually.
A much bigger bill is coming due.