Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Climate Change Is Real: 14 U.S. Cities That Could Disappear

New Orleans
A new report at Bloomberg focuses on the reality that people do not fear climate change as they should, thanks in large part to disinformation campaigns - can we call it what it is, lies - funded by the fossil fuel industry.  In addition, the problem is not being addressed as it should because of other factors too: inability of international governments to cooperate, the tendencies of humans to ignore what they don't want to hear, and reluctance of countries to act unilaterally, and the belief that the problem is "in the future" and not a current concern.   Another piece from Huffington Post looks at some of the U.S. cities that may perish if sea levels rises as some have predicted.   Among those largely lost are Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Virginia Beach (and Norfolk) and large parts of New York City.  First, highlights from Bloomberg:

With respect to the science of climate change, many experts regard the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as the world’s authoritative institution. A draft summary of its forthcoming report was leaked last week. It describes the panel’s growing confidence that climate change is real, that it is a result of human action, and that if the world continues on its current course, it will face exceedingly serious losses and threats (including a significant rise in sea levels by century’s end). 

While the draft report states these conclusions with unprecedented conviction, they are broadly consistent with the panel’s judgments from the past two decades, which raises an obvious question: Why have so many nations (including China and the U.S., the world’s leading greenhouse-gas emitters) not done more in response?

There are many answers. Skeptics say that the IPCC is biased and wrong. Companies whose economic interests are at stake continue to fight against regulatory controls. The leaders of some nations think that if they acted unilaterally to reduce their emissions, they would impose significant costs on their citizens without doing much to reduce climate change. 

[W]e should not disregard purely psychological factors. An understanding of what human beings fear -- and what they do not -- helps to explain why nations haven’t insisted on more significant emissions reductions. The first obstacle is that people tend to evaluate risks by way of “the availability heuristic,” which leads them to assess the probability of harm by asking whether a readily available example comes to mind.

[C]limate change is difficult to associate with any particular tragedy or disaster. To be sure, many scientists think that climate change makes extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy, substantially more likely. But it is hard to prove that climate change “caused” any particular event, and as a result, the association tends to be at best speculative in many people’s minds. Second, people tend to be especially focused on risks or hazards that have an identifiable perpetrator, and for that reason produce outrage. Warmer temperatures are a product not of any particular human being or group, but the interaction between nature and countless decisions by countless people. There are no obvious devils or demons  . . .

In a political context, citizens might demand protection against a risk that threatens them today, tomorrow or next month. But if they perceive climate change as mostly a threat to future generations -- if significant sea-level rises seem to be decades away -- they are unlikely to have a sense of urgency. 

Climate change lacks other characteristics that spur public concern about risks. It is gradual rather than sudden.

Despite all these reasons for doing nothing, the fact is that the consequences will be severe down the road.   Huffington Post looks at 14 U.S. cities at real risk in the long run.  Here are highlights:

There is really no way around it: Thanks to climate change, sea levels are rising. A huge question on the minds of many is, what does this mean for America? Will sea walls and city planning protect major metropolises, or are we bound to lose some national gems? Unfortunately, the latter is a significant possibility. Read on for 14 U.S. cities that could be devastated over the next century due to rising tides.

1. Miami, Florida.

2. Fort Lauderdale, Florida. . . . . Climate Central researcher Benjamin Strauss adds that "even if we could just stop global emissions tomorrow on a dime, Fort Lauderdale, Miami Gardens, Hoboken, New Jersey will be under sea level."

3. Boston, Mass.   If Hurricane Sandy struck Boston during high tide, 6.6 percent of the city would have been flooded. Water would have reached the steps of City Hall, according to a piece in The Atlantic. Within 100 years, that could become the new normal, twice a day.

7. New Orleans, La.   According to The Lens, a Louisiana non-profit news site, Louisiana might be facing the highest sea level rise worldwide. This does not bode well for the low-lying Big Easy, which could be immersed with 4.3 feet of water by the end of the century. Mardi Gras, the French Quarter and NOLA’s jazz scene may all be a thing of the past.

12. Virginia Beach, Va.  
Virginia Beach’s pristine coast could be obliterated in the next 50 years. In fact, NOAA says that it's the most threatened area for sea level rise of its size after New Orleans. According to Virginia Beach environmental administrator Clay Bernick, there are too many warning signs to ignore the science. "I wouldn’t put it in the category of fear," he told The Washington Post, but stressed, “You’ve got multiple factors with flashing lights saying, ‘Okay, guys, what are you going to do?'”

A word to the wise: If you haven’t made your way down to the Hampton Roads area, you might want to make the trip before it is too late.

Read the whole piece and see what other cities are at extreme risk.

Virginia Beach Oceanfront

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