Year 4, Month 4, Day 8: Thar She Blows!

Newsweek revisits the New Jersey coastline months after Sandy’s landfall:

Months after Hurricane Sandy, the Jersey Shore is full of talk of rebuilding, but still struggles to accept the march of global warming’s angry waters. Will we be able to keep living where nature doesn’t want us?

The sand was the thing we noticed first. Mostly because it hadn’t been there yesterday, or any day before yesterday, and now it was absolutely everywhere.

For the first 23 hours after the storm, we hadn’t been able to see much of anything at all. On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy had made landfall just south of Long Beach Island, New Jersey, the narrow strip of coastline where I spent my childhood summers and where my parents have lived, full time, for the past eight years. Now a day had passed, and information was hard to come by. My parents were fine; they had evacuated earlier that week to friend’s place 45 miles inland. But the power was out, and the 18-mile-long barrier island, which is home to 20,000 year-round residents, was basically abandoned, so we still didn’t know how much damage our house in North Beach had sustained, or if there were even any houses left in North Beach to sustain damage. Also, the rumors were starting to spread. The Ferris wheel at Fantasy Island has collapsed. A shark is swimming around Surf City. The waves breached the dunes. The ocean met the bay. Whole towns have been washed out. The rumors were not helping.

And still they deny it. March 26:

“Will we be able to keep living where nature doesn’t want us?” Actually, it seems all too evident that nature has a point. Human industrial civilization has introduced hundreds of millions of years’ worth of fossilized carbon into the atmosphere in a geological instant, essentially breaking the Arctic and triggering consequences that are going to reverberate for centuries to come.

A post climate-change future will bring extreme environmental unpredictability. Optimistic forecasts include the destruction of billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure and the likelihood of increased geopolitical instability (a polite euphemism for wars). The damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy is just a preview of coming attractions. The pessimistic forecasts suggest that our carelessness has condemned our descendants to a losing battle against implacable environmental forces.

If we are to secure happiness and prosperity for our posterity, we can no longer afford to irresponsibly ignore the frightening factuality of climate change.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 11, Day 5: Turn Off Your Mind, Relax And Float Downstream…

The San Jose Mercury News wonders:

The debate over global warming has often turned at key points after major weather events. After a presidential campaign in which neither candidate said much on the issue, could Hurricane Sandy put it back in the spotlight?

Sure. News at 11. Sent October 30:

Hurricane Sandy could well do for climate-change awareness what a major celebrity death did for AIDS or Alzheimer’s disease. That is, make the accelerating greenhouse effect and its consequences a focus of the kind of media attention normally reserved for celebrity scandals or TV season premieres.

That’s good news and bad news. It’s good news because climate change is overwhelmingly the single most significant issue affecting our country’s future and the lives of our descendants. Our collective lack of attention has set us back several decades when it comes to addressing the threat — so any coverage is better than none.

It’s bad news because what we need from the media is an intelligent discussion of a complex subject. If climate change is treated with the breathless superficiality that characterizes contemporary news coverage, our citizenry, and our politicians, will never fully understand why action is essential. Let’s get serious. Now.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 9, Day 1: Variations On A Theme II

The August 28 Boston Herald addresses Irene with an AP article listing the people who’ve been killed so far along the storm’s path.

Too bad the planetary environment isn’t a missing white woman. So I sent them this version of the same concept on August 28:

If our media handled hurricanes as they’ve handled climate change over the past few decades, we’d be deafened by choruses of “hoax,” gratuitous mockery of storm warnings, and bland assertions that “scientists disagree” on the existence of tropical storms.

And if we discussed climate change the way we’re discussing Irene, our media would regularly update current threat levels, we’d disseminate advice on preparation, and plans for handling the future’s extreme weather events would be on everybody’s lips.

Extreme weather is short-term, fitting the needs of our 24-hour news cycle; climate is long-term and won’t adjust to our national case of ADD. But if we don’t substantially address climate change, the coming centuries’ news will be all weather, all the time.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 8, Day 31: Variation On A Theme I

The Worcester Telegram for August 28 has a routine AP article on my state’s preparation for Hurricane Irene:

BOSTON —  Massachusetts prepared yesterday to get belted by Hurricane Irene as the weakened but still powerful storm spun up the East Coast, threatening to shut down bridges onto Cape Cod and dump a foot of water to the west.

Two thousand Massachusetts National Guard troops were activated Saturday, joining the 500 already deployed Friday. Meanwhile, President Obama declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts late Friday, meaning state and local storm response will be bolstered by federal aid.

I tossed off another version of my comparison for them and sent it along mid-afternoon on August 28:

If our nation talked about Irene like it’s talked about climate change, our print and broadcast media would be filled with pundits calling hurricanes a liberal hoax, sober voices agreeing that “scientific opinion is divided” on whether tropical storms actually exist, and cheerful assertions that gale-force winds and heavy flooding are actually good for us.

On the other hand, if we talked about global climate change like we’re talking about hurricane Irene, our news outlets would treat it as a legitimate emergency, updating threat levels regularly, helping people prepare for the worst, and offering perspectives on planning and preparedness for the coming centuries of extreme weather.

We can’t dismiss weather, since it happens to us every day. Climate, on the other hand, moves in years, decades, centuries and millennia, so it’s easier to ignore. Nevertheless, the threat is very real, and there is no more time to waste.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 8, Day 30: Pay No Attention To The Cyclone Behind The Curtain

The August 26 New Jersey Star-Ledger opines about the advent of Hurricane Irene:

We can now add Hurricane Irene among the symptoms that scientists warned we’d experience as global warming occurs.

Wind of up to 100 mph, predicted to lash the East Coast. Ocean waves as high as 12 feet. That’s in line with what scientists have said, that hurricanes would become more severe as ocean temperatures rise.

The comments section is a wellspring of stupid.

Sent on August 28, just before going out to check the windows and yard for wind-susceptible debris. The storm will hit later today.

If America responded to Irene in the same way it has dealt with climate change over the past decades, our television, newspapers and talk radio would be filled with voices asserting that hurricanes are a liberal plot, dueling pundits agreeing that the “science isn’t settled” on the existence of tropical storms, and blithe platitudes about how 100 mph winds and massive tidal surges are actually good for us.

Now imagine that we responded to climate change the way we’re dealing with Irene. We’d hear about current threat levels regularly in the media. Advice on preparation would be widely disseminated; strategies for mitigating the storms of the coming centuries would be part of our national conversation.

And that’s the difference: weather can’t be ignored, while climate moves on too grand a scale for us to notice. But climate change will bring weather the likes of which we cannot imagine. Let’s get ready.

Warren Senders

28 Aug 2011, 11:14am
Gardening Personal:

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  • Catching up…

    …we are waiting for Hurricane Irene to hit. Lots of rain.

    Yesterday I spent the whole day outside battening down the hatches, which mostly meant securing the garden. Wire screens, tarpaulins, rope, string, wire, weights. Later on I’ll put up some photos. The whole thing looks flimsy and rickety, but I suspect it’s more robust than it seems.

    I’m going to go out into the gathering storm and do some cleanup before the winds get too heavy.

    There may be power outages. Good thing I’m a couple of days ahead on letters. I’ll get to pictures later in the next couple of days if we have electricity.