Benjamin Strauss and Robert Kopp show us just a part of what we stand to lose if we ignore global warming.
As scientists who study sea level change and storm surge, we fear that Hurricane Sandy gave only a modest preview of the dangers to come, as we continue to power our global economy by burning fuels that pollute the air with heat-trapping gases. ... More than six million Americans live on land less than five feet above the local high tide. (Searchable maps and analyses are available at SurgingSeas.org for every low-lying coastal community in the contiguous United States.) Worse, rising seas raise the launching pad for storm surge, the thick wall of water that the wind can drive ahead of a storm. In a world with oceans that are five feet higher, our calculations show that New York City would average one flood as high as Hurricane Sandy’s about every 15 years, even without accounting for the stronger storms and bigger surges that are likely to result from warming.Right now, the oceans are up about eight inches, which is already enough to help double the number of massive storms and greatly increase storm damage. But it's only a shadow of what's on the way.
If we stay on our current path, the oceans could rise five feet by the first half of next century, then continue rising even faster. If instead we make moderate shifts in energy and industry — using the kinds of targets that nations have contemplated in international talks but have failed to pursue — sea level could still climb past 12 feet just after 2300. It is hard to imagine what measures might allow many of our great coastal cities to survive a 12-foot increase.The answer? Nothing will help our cities, our country, the world as we know it survive but cutting the emissions of green house gases. That means CO2, it also means methane. Most of all, it means now.
Want to see what areas might slip beneath storm-whipped seas? the New York Times shows how a few areas will change.
James Atlas says that for the Big Apple, Sandy isn't just a warning of storms to come. That half-sunken roller coaster now in the waves off New Jersey? That is the city's future.
There had been warnings. In 2009, the New York City Panel on Climate Change issued a prophetic report. “In the coming decades, our coastal city will most likely face more rapidly rising sea levels and warmer temperatures, as well as potentially more droughts and floods, which will all have impacts on New York City’s critical infrastructure,” said William Solecki, a geographer at Hunter College and a member of the panel. But what good are warnings? Intelligence agents received advance word that terrorists were hoping to hijack commercial jets. Who listened? (Not George W. Bush.) If we can’t imagine our own deaths, as Freud insisted, how can we be expected to imagine the death of a city?Atlas' article is a meditation on the transience of all things, but shouldn't be seen as a call to surrender. Just as individuals should rage against the "dying of the light", civil actions should not rush eagerly, or meekly, to their ends. Right now? We're going like blind sheep.
Maureen Dowd comes a week closer to never being mentioned in this space again.
Ross Douthat explains how FDR's "New Deal Machiavellianism" snuck Social Security in and how bipartisanship is stupid and evil. So basically... Douthat.
David Patterson looks at the prospects of Puerto Rico statehood and determines that what the recent vote demands is, another vote.
Zachary Goldfarb thinks he knows what's at the heart of President Obama's policies.
...beneath his tactical maneuvering lies a consistent and unifying principle: to use the powers of his office to shrink the growing gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else. ...
Obama’s actions as president provide a glimpse of how he views legislation as a means to his end. His health-care reform law, aimed at covering as many of the uninsured as possible, takes a shot at addressing income inequality by imposing new taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Beginning next year, upper-income earners will pay new surcharges that will result in an average additional tax bill of $20,000 for the top 1 percent. The money will help finance insurance subsidies and other coverage in 2014 for people in the lower middle class and below. A recent study by Cornell University’s Richard Burkhauser estimates that “Obamacare” will add $400 to $800 in disposable income annually for these Americans.