Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

East Coast Crippled By Snow Again? Get. Used. To It.

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Something that has been overlooked in all the discussion in the wake of the latest blizzard to hit the northeast U.S. is the likelihood that these kinds of events will become more common in the future, thanks to our refusal to do anything to mitigate global warming or pay for the services people seem to expect to receive.

It’s true that any single snowstorm cannot be directly attributed to global warming since the former is a singular weather event and the latter is a climate response, which by definition takes multiple years and preferably centuries into consideration.  It is also true, however, that the die are loaded thanks to our deadly pollution habits.  More of these storms will happen in the future until we stop polluting the climate system.

2010 is on pace to be the hottest calendar year on record for the globe.  There were far more severe weather events in 2010 than average.  Russia saw a heat wave in the summer of 2010 that surpassed anything in the area’s multi-thousand year history of being settled by man.  Pakistani floods (closely associated with the Russian heat wave) affected tens of millions of people.  Corals are dying across the globe’s oceans at rates that will take them to the brink of extinction within the near future.  And now an area the size of Texas (or France and Germany combined) is flooded in northeast Australia – the same area by the way that has suffered under a 10-year severe drought.  Those two phenomena alone are a perfect example of what climate scientists have been warning since the 1970’s: more areas will experience severe droughts, interspersed with devastating rain events that will cause flooding.

With respect to the last segment of my opening sentence: “pay for the services people seem to expect to receive”, the U.S.’s fringe right-wing movement has done a masterful job of making investing in our communities seem like a dirty act.  Good for them for conning enough Americans to buy into their snakeoil.  The effects are just starting to be seen, just as the effects of global warming are just starting to be seen.  When a majority of people vote for politicians who promise to cut taxes while making the rich even richer, what effect did you think that would really have?  Did a few extra bucks in every New Yorker’s pocket get their streets cleared from a moderate snowstorm?  You can bet the richest New Yorkers got their streets cleared quickest.

How many more times will services be cut before people finally figure out what the heck is actually going on around them?  Perhaps when the fire departments are scaled back and houses start burning down.  Perhaps when the police departments are scaled back and crime ramps up.  What happens the next time a terrorist attack happens in New York City?  Will services be cut back so far by then that the lack of response causes additional American deaths?  Will we finally have an honest discussion about community investment then?

What about global warming effects?  New York City is one of the places where planning is starting to take place to address some mitigation but also some adaptation to the coming crises.  Will Republican Teabaggers continue with a winning message?  If they do, who will pay for the more expensive of the two options: adaptation?  Not enough people want to pay for mitigation today.  Who will want to pay more for less results down the road?

Electing people like Michael Bloomberg and Chris Christie will have results that last for years.  While politics is a game people seem to like to play, global warming will eventually beat us all.  So get used to municipalities being unable and unwilling to respond to moderate weather events.  And certainly don’t start crying when they’re completely unable to respond to severe climate events.  After all, you reap what you sow.

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