Well we’ve had quite a winter. Record cold. Record snow. And plenty of complaining about it. Well there is a quote by Mark Twain that seems appropriate to go along with all the shivering and digging that we have done throughout this winter. .Twain said that “People talk a lot about the weather, but no one does anything about it”. Well our League thought that if we are going to talk about it, let’s hear from someone who knows something about the subject.
On March 20, 2014 the League of Women Voters of Southwest Nassau held a public meeting on our changing climate. Our speaker was Daniel Bader, Climate Scientist at the Earth Institute of Columbia University. He was a fountain of information, explaining the practical realities of the effects of the impacts that we have been hit with today, and what are the scientific expectations of tomorrow. He recognized that there are those who don’t believe in “Global Warming” but he feels that whether you do or not there are things that have been happening that cannot be ignored.
First he defined the difference between weather and climate. Put simply weather is what you get on current short term changes, while climate is weather patterns over a longer term. It is understandable that we are more aware of what is happening with the weather when we wake up in the morning and prepare for our day. It is less likely that we are thinking about a month, a year or a decade down the road. Well, be it a cliché or not, our today is yesterday’s tomorrow, and it is the tomorrows that we can no longer ignore.
Mr. Bader gave us some scientific figures to prod our sense of reality. Between 1900 and 2001 temperatures have risen 4.4 degrees. Between 1900 and 1955 rain fall has risen 7.7 percent. Since 1900 sea level has risen 1.1. foot. In the last fifty (50) years there has been a 75 percent increase in the heaviest rain events in the Northeast, and a marked increase in hurricanes. For every record low temperature there are two record higher temperatures. I bet that isn’t something we think about when we get up in the morning and prepare for our day. Perhaps we don’t, but we really should. .
That’s today, and here comes tomorrow. In the working of seventy (70) different models the projections show that by the year 2080 the following is the expected scenario. Before you say well, 2080 is a way off, sixty six years to be exact. Looking at the time span realistically, children being born today won’t even be eligible for social security. That’s not even a lifetime away. So now let’s look at the projections… temperatures will be up 10.3F, rain-fall up by approximately 15 percent., sea level up 58 inches, the 1 in 100 ratio for flooding that we work with today will occur ten times more often, the number of most intense hurricanes in the Northeast Basin will increase, and there is still unknown as to the total number of cyclones in the Northeast Basin.
Good morning Long Island. We are looking out our window today and seeing tomorrow. Mr. Bader did not leave us hanging there. He said there are things that could be done to ameliorate the impact of what lies ahead. There are movable off shore-sea wall barriers that could be built, increase costal edge elevation, improve costal design, protect against storm surges, and develop government partnerships to improve costal protectors. He was not shy about telling us that these things will obviously be very expensive. But so is doing nothing.
He made reference that New York City was hit with an estimated $19 billion’s to repair the damage from “Sandy”. The estimate for the corrective measures mentioned above, is approximately one billion dollars more than that. There has to be a visceral reaction to spending that kind of money. If New York City knew Sandy was coming, it would certainly have been less expensive to have spent it up front. (By the way, New York State’s hit from Sandy was about $68 billion.)
Another reality is that it is very difficult for a politician to say let’s put that kind of money in the budget when the sun is shining and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Well experience has repeatedly shown us that if we opt not to pay now we will have to pay later. And later invariably costs more. More in repairs to the infrastructure. More in damage to the economy. More in individual and family hardships and recovery of personal losses. And it costs more in the change in the value of the dollar. And these events leave us with no alternative but to pay.
So let me repeat something I said earlier. Good morning everyone. We are looking out the window today and seeing tomorrow. As the song from the musical Annie says…”Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, is only a day away”.