We are all living in the New Normal, but many of us have not yet absorbed it. America said goodbye to a hundred lives and 70 billion in property during the Sandy landfall, but we have not all noticed that we have a new future; one in which Hurricane Sandies are no longer unthinkable. No longer can we build roller coasters on beaches in the expectation that the structures will stay there. I just watched a rock concert last night, profits to benefit Sandy victims. That was good, but it does not mean that we can return to pre-Sandy times. Those times are now behind us.
The USA inhabits a restless ocean. Statistically, hurricanes strike from the Texas/Mexico border to New York City, with Florida the most likely target. Yes, we have always known that. But we have behaved as if we did not know it, building homes on most of those beaches. Now, in the aftermath of Sandy, the people of New York and New Jersey are clamoring for a re-build bigger and better and before, as if no more Sandies are on the horizon. But climate science is telling a different tale. Between now and the year 2100, sea levels around the world will be climbing due to melting ice on top of Greenland and other regions. One of the worst areas for this will be the mid-Atlantic Area. Here in coastal Virginia, There will be three to five more feet of water at the shoreline in another 90 years. This is hard to imagine, but is nevertheless a reality that will have to be dealt with. Oddly, sea level rise is not uniform, so some coastal areas will see less than three feet of sea rise- but even those areas, if populated, would experience much greater flooding in storm situations, with hurricane storm surges added to a higher ocean. And then- what about the NEXT century? Global warming is cumulative, and therefore so will sea level rise be. That seawall that you built in the year 2050- after the year 2150, there is another 5 feet of water, so the waves just went over the top of your sea wall. Are you going to build a taller seawall? Or are you going to give up and move inland?
Meanwhile, one of the most powerful arguments of the denial crew- that actually reducing the carbon dioxide emissions of the human race costs vastly more than it would cost to deal with the consequences of global warming- just evaporated. Let's talk about the costs of constructing a sea wall from Texas to NYC? No, let's not talk about that. For one thing, the US taxpayer does not have that kind of money. For another thing, it would not actually work, because you can't build a sea wall across the mouth of a river, and there are countless rivers scattered across that swath of land. Seawalls work with a regular shoreline, but with extremely irregular shorelines, like the ones we have in Virginia, you can't build a seawall that will protect everyone.Yes, we will share the expense of building seawalls where they serve a purpose. But in less densely populated areas, the solution is migration away from the tide line. Sure, you can stay until the water gets to your door, but after that, you need to move and the government does not need to accept the burden of your problem.
Here in Virginia, we have a Governor, Bob McDonnell, who really would rather pretend that the sea level rise problem does not exist. The next Republican Governor (assuming he can actually get elected, which is a real question) would be Ken Cuccinelli, a man who has often called global warming a hoax invented by scientists who just want a steady paycheck. So Ken, when the people of Hampton Roads, at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, come to you asking for a plan to deal with the sea level rise, your answer is obviously going to be negative. I mean, it is perfectly obvious that a politician can only realistically dedicate millions of taxpayer dollars to deal with a problem when the problem actually exists, and you have said repeatedly that this is a nonexistent problem.
It's going to be interesting to watch this.