Sunday, November 4, 2012

In The Post "Sandy" Era, the Climate Change Debate Continues


Last week, the high winds, rains and tidal surges of super-storm Sandy affected millions of people living in the northeast coast of the U.S., as well as parts of Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica. As President Obama declared New Jersey and New York “major disaster” areas, climate change, a rarely discussed issue during this year’s political campaigns, became a high profile concern. Supporting commentary included: 
  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo - “We have a new reality when it comes to these weather patterns; we have an old infrastructure, we have old systems. That is not a good combination and that is one of the lessons I will take from this, personally”, 
  • U.S. Senator Charles Schumer - "There are a group of people in Washington right now who just deny the truth …about what's going on in the atmosphere” and 
  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg - “The floods and fires that swept through our city left a path of destruction that will require years of recovery and rebuilding work….In just 14 months, two hurricanes have forced us to evacuate neighborhoods -- something our city government had never done before. If this is a trend, it is simply not sustainable. Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be -- given this week’s devastation -- should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”
On Friday, the “Climate Security Report" published by the American Security Project (a nonpartisan think tank) said "The effects of climate change on infrastructure will not only be costly to our nation’s economy, they will also make us less secure as a nation," and Christine Todd Whitman, a board member, former New Jersey Governor and EPA Administrator said “Sandy is the second 100-year storm we've had in 14 months in this part of the country. … It tells you that something is changing.” Also note: last year the authors of the United Nations’ 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that global sea levels could increase by least six feet by 2100, causing problems for many coastal cities (Mumbai, New York City, etc.).

MY TAKE
  • The economic impact of this disaster will take months or longer to assess, but the "Post Sandy" era will require replacements and upgrades to a broad set of infrastructures (transportation, power grids, etc.). 
  • The rebuilding process has the potential to 1) drive economic growth, 2) reduce the polarized nature of political discourse and 3) increase the focus on the effectiveness of government rather than the size of government.  

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