Yeah, yeah, we know. Hurricane Sandy, like any other single storm or weather-related disaster, doesn’t prove climate change is happening, let alone that it’s man-made. But given the increasing frequency and severity of these events, it sure looks like something is happening — and that something isn’t good, especially for vulnerable coastal areas like New York City. Nor is the related budgetary picture, both short- and long-term.
It’s hard to understand conservatives’ vehemency in denying global warming in the face of so much scientific evidence. Much of it is ideological and anti-science. But part of it is economic, whether the issue is something as big and global as signing on to the Kyoto Treaty or as simple as a carbon tax. The concern is that taking steps to fight global warming would cost businesses and individuals money, limit economic growth and result in lost jobs.
So, little has been done. Politicians of all stripes have become reluctant to talk about climate change; it wasn’t even an issue in the presidential campaign.
But, of course, there are costs associated with non-action as well as action, as was evident last year with Hurricane Irene and even more now with Hurricane Sandy, which did an estimated $50 billion of damage to property and infrastructure in states along the Atlantic Coast. Much of that damage was in New York and New Jersey.
Now, at a time when cash is short everywhere, we must find the money to help the victims and to rebuild.
But only where it makes sense to rebuild and in a way that will mitigate or prevent future damage — ideas like artificially created wetlands, put forth by Schoharie Town Supervisor Gene Milone in a letter on this page, and seawalls or coral barriers to protect places such as New York City are not crazy. And, like it or not, the federal government is going to have to lead the effort and pay for most of it; only it has the kind of resources required.