Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Morning Papers: Hurricane Irene

Sunday Morning Papers

Once again, weather dominates the Sunday Morning Papers. A hurricane formed, drifted across the Atlantic, and obviously, this is the first sign of global warming.


One data point does not make a trend. It doesn't even make a line. Freak occurrences have been known to happen (Donald Rumsfeld's unknown unknowns... which was a very valid point, and probably the only time I've agreed with the former Defense Secretary). However, this is just a hurricane. Hurricanes happen, they happen in the Atlantic, they happen in August, and they have hit New York City before. We just haven't had one for a while, but that does not make it prescient of future calamities. Between 1900 and 1996, 9 hurricanes hit New York State, or about once every decade. We were due.

This doesn't mean that I don't believe in climate change. I think the evidence for it is overwhelming, while the evidence against it pretty much doesn't exist in the scientific community. All I see is disagreement as to how rapidly the Earth is warming, not that it isn't. The EPA mentions that over the past century, sea levels have risen a minimum of 4.4 inches, and the rate of rise appears to be increasing. The EPA also mentions that if the seas rise 2 feet, 10,000 square miles of land will be lost, probably sinking New Orleans for good, and destroying existing coastal marshlands, making the new seashore more vulnerable to tropical systems than current seacoasts. Barrier islands will be gone, instead becoming sand bars until the next major storm.

There's a number of reports of what climate change could do to the New York area. (If you want to say goodbye to Giant Stadium, it's only going to take 1 meter of rise, 2 tops.) While we may lose Delaware before we lose Central Park, this weekend's hurricane should highlight some tangible problems that climate change will cause. With a rise in sea levels of ONE FOOT (the projected storm surge), New York City was forced to shut down the subway system. By noon today, the Holland Tunnel was closed for flooding. FDR Drive was flooded. If a two foot storm surge occurred (occurs? still?), then the bridges may be out of commission. One foot of flooding was enough to anticipate widespread failure of the electrical grid, causing most buildings to shut down their elevators.

So while we look at the Maldives succumbing to rising sea levels right now, and do not take action, think about what one foot of water in New York does to the infrastructure, and then wonder what's taking everyone so long to get on board with environmental legislation. South Carolina recently passed the Incandescent Light Bulb Freedom Act, which allows South Carolina to remove itself from Federal bans on wasteful light bulbs. Keep that in mind, because without doing simple steps to stop climate change, Charleston and Myrtle Beach will both be gone with a 1.5 meter rise in sea level. That can't be better for the state's economy than letting a pair of light bulb manufacturers do business in the state.

No comments:

Post a Comment