I was happy this afternoon to see New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg choose what I consider very wise language on climate and catastrophic storms in his Bloomberg View piece endorsing President Obama:
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 may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.
In essence, he’s saying that debating whether humans caused this storm misses the point. Pursuing wise policies on curbing greenhouse gas emissions and on boosting resilience to extreme events both make sense, and President Obama is best suited to pursuing progress on both fronts. (For the record, and given that one comment contributor asked, I’ll be voting for President Obama.)
I’ve tried this week, as sporadic Internet access allowed, to foster some productive discourse amid a media environment that seems dead-set on creating polarization. The two most vivid examples on my mind at the moment are “It’s Global Warming, Stupid,” a much-shared essay in Bloomberg Businessweek, and an effort by Anthony Watts, inspired by a ridiculous U.S. News Sandy-warming poll, to list scientists and commentators for and against global warming as the storm’s cause.
As if it’s a yes or no question, and as if that’s the most important question…. This issue came up today in a discussion with Leonard Lopate on WNYC, which you can listen to here:
Here’s an excerpt from my comments (I think you’ll find the rest worth listening to, as well):
You can have this endless debate about, “Was this storm our fault?” But the thing I’ve been trying to write on Doth Earth the last few days is that the impacts of this storm are 100 percent our fault. In other words, we make decisions every day as human beings about where to live, what kind of building codes, what kinds of subsidies for coastal insurance, and that’s where there’s no debate about the anthropogenic influence. The fact that the tunnels filled showed that we in New york City, New York State and this country didn’t make it a high priority to gird ourselves against a superstorm.
I just tweeted a second ago at @revkin two stories from The New York Times after Katrina about how in the Netherlands — after they had a devastating storm in 1953 that killed 2,000 people — they built their barriers back to a 10,000-year standard…. So we have to examine how we make these decisions….
There’s plenty more on the Web right now that’s worth exploring.
On the issue of messaging, storms and warming, see a great post by Dan Kahan of Yale examining George Lakoff’s assertion that “global warming systemically caused Hurricane Sandy.”
On the science pointing to a greenhouse influence, read Michael Levi’s latest post, “How Likely Was Hurricane Sandy?”
On the media circus, see “Sandy’s climate context – Why generalizing about extreme weather helps no one,” Curtis Brainard’s piece for the Columbia Journalism Review.