Mark H. Bergen

From personal site at

I am a business reporter, delving into India. I blog on urban economics for Forbes and report on politics and policies for The Atlantic Cities, GOOD, and Next American City, among others. I've worked as an investigative reporter and policy researcher. And I co-founded City Ledes, an urban news aggregator. I aspire to make dry topics less dry.
I hold a BA in sociology from the College of Wooster and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Chicago.
I enjoy film.

Interaction with SML


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Conversation with @Forbes, @seeminglee and @mhbergen (with tweets) · seeminglee · Storify / 2012-10-31 / SML Screenshots


Awaiting a Superstorm Fate Far Worse Than Sandy Asian Megacities by @mhbergen @Forbes / 2012-10-31 / SML Screenshots


Awaiting a Superstorm Fate Far Worse Than Sandy: Asian Megacities

BANGKOK,THAILAND - OCTOBER 25: An aerial view of a flooded Bangkok suburb is seen on October 25, 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

The Bangkok Post* (via Quartz) rounds up research on the morbidly obvious: emerging market cities are deeply vulnerable to climate change disasters like Sandy. Even if future storms are lesser, their impact on coastal Asian cities would be greater. The combination of booming populations and inadequate infrastructure means sea-level rise alone could paralyze Shanghai, bankrupt Kolkata and make Mumbai virtually unlivable:

New York was able to draw on top-level civil engineering, good governance and the world’s richest economy as it faced a once-in-a-century event.

But that is not the case for many cities that have risen, often anarchically, on a coastal arc from China to the Arabian Sea, luring millions in search of a better life.

“These cities are undergoing very rapid expansion and they are not only exposed to sea-level rise, they are also exposed to tropical cyclones,” said Bob Ward, director of policy at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London.

“It is clear there isn’t any urban planning going on, and they have a lot of poor people living in very low-quality housing who are going to be especially vulnerable and exposed.”

One of these menacing tropical cyclones is above Chennai right now.

This abysmal news is not new. Asia’s urban population is growing at around 140,00 a day, many of them piling onto the coast. Storms that now strike once every 50 years are, by the World Bank’s count, expected to arrive every 15 in some four decades. By then, the lives affected (usually defined as flooded for 30 days or more) is staggering. The UN IPCC report projects the number in Mumbai, by 2070, at an unfathomable 14 million.

This mammoth World Bank report assesses the imminent costs of climate change in three east megacity ports: Bangkok, Manila and Ho Chi Minh City. In all three, warming projections suggest the total vulnerable land mass will steadily increase, almost doubling in Manila. Climate change could chip away as much as 6 percent of the megacities’ regional GDP as the costs escalate over time. A devastating flood in Bangkok now would seize $1 billion in damages; by 2050, it would be $4.5 billion.

Even for climate change skeptics there is sour news. Habits the cities already hold that suck up groundwater and diminish land—dumping solid waste in canals, eroding watershed soil, deforestation, etc—may be increasing future damages from floods more than global warming would. For Bangkok, projections of damage costs double from land use patterns alone.

But the trends can be reversed. Early adaptation infrastructure that adds dikes, improves pumping and canals and prevents erosion, the report concludes, would pay off.

Adapting the urban planning and governance to implement these, in those three and other Asian megacities, is something the report doesn’t parse. (Nor does it look at Bangkok’s messy flood-related politics.) It does ballpark an investment cost of the preventative infrastructure for Bangkok: $1.5 billion, around one percent of the city’s estimated GDP—and about its yearly budget outlays. Based on the crunched numbers, the benefit of such preparations, its net present value, would be $400 million in the face of a once-in-a-century event, those Sandys to come.

*Correction: This reporting is from AFP not the Post. Apologies.

“Instead of devoting resources in solving the crisis, @mhbergen @Forbes chose to use as oppo’ to trashtalk #asia #tech ”—@seeminglee / 2012-10-31 / SML Screenshots


“My general opinion regarding #journalism #media talking 5h17 about other #people: 五十歩笑百步 #cn #adages”—@seeminglee / 2012-10-31 / SML Screenshots



  • Occupation: Business Reporter
  • Location: Bengaluru, Karnataka, India Online Media
  • Employer
    • As of 2012-10-31
      • The Atlantic
    • Previous
      • Better Government Association
      • Tablet Magazine
      • TPM Media LLC
  • Education
    • Masters of Public Policy at University of Chicago
    • BA in sociology, College of Wooster

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