Changing (Or Refusing to Change) with the Climate

(Matt Davies via (click link for full-sized version)
Good luck with that boulder, Messrs. Sisyphus & Co, Ltd. From the NYTImes:

Not a month after Hurricane Sandy there’s a rough consensus about how to respond. America is already looking to places like London, Rotterdam, Hamburg and Tokyo, where sea walls, levees and wetlands, flood plains and floating city blocks have been conceived.

New York clearly ought to have taken certain steps a while back, no-brainers after the fact. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority ought to have installed floodgates and louvers at vulnerable subway entrances and vents. Consolidated Edison should have gotten its transformers, and Verizon its switching stations, out of harm’s way, and Congress should have ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to study the impact of giant barriers to block parts of the city from the sea…

Hurricane Sandy was a toll paid for procrastination. The good news? We don’t need to send a bunch of Nobel laureates into the desert now, hoping they come up with some new gizmo to save the planet. Solutions are at hand. Money shouldn’t be a problem either, considering the hundreds of billions of dollars, and more lives, another Sandy or two will cost.

So the problem is not technological or, from a long-term cost-benefit perspective, financial.

Rather it is the existential challenge to the messy democracy we’ve devised. The hardest part of what lies ahead won’t be deciding whether to construct Eiffel Tower-size sea walls across the Verrazano Narrows and Hell Gate, or overhauling the city’s sewage and storm water system, which spews toxic waste into rivers whenever a couple of inches of rain fall because the sea levels have already risen so much. These are monumental tasks.

But more difficult still will be staring down the pain, dislocation and inequity that promise to upend lives, undo communities and shake assumptions about city life and society. More than requiring the untangling of colossal red tape, saving New York and the whole region for the centuries ahead will become a test of civic unity…

62 replies
  1. 1
    Sly says:

    But more difficult still will be staring down the pain, dislocation and inequity that promise to upend lives, undo communities and shake assumptions about city life and society.

    It is considerably less difficult for people who do not live in those communities and operate under the assumption that they are safe and sound. Hell, that’s the explicit sentiment behind the creation of the suburban class in the first place.

  2. 2
    Splitting Image says:

    Shorter NYT: It would be a major failure of liberalism if they failed to convince people like us that tackling climate change is more important than tax cuts.

    If they can’t get done everything that needs to get done in two to four years, we’ll just have to go ahead and endorse the tax-cutters.

  3. 3
    MonkeyBoy says:

    (click link for full-sized version)

    You don’t have permission to access /wp-content/uploads/2012/11/waterfront-reconstruction1.gif on this server.

    Additionally, a 403 Forbidden error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

    Working GoComics link.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    Sly says:

    @Splitting Image:
    Even Shorter NYT: What America needs is a somewhat less racist but still thoroughly authoritarian Robert Moses.

  6. 6
    PsiFighter37 says:

    @Sly: I was not alive when he was around, but the Wiki entry on Moses and the shaping of the NYC of today is a fascinating read. I do want to read the huge biography on him at some point, once I finish all the other books I owe to myself to finish.

  7. 7
    Maude says:

    Isn’t the NYT saying that those unfortunate sould gotta move, but of course, We don’t. NYT “Such a Pity”.

  8. 8
    quannlace says:

    Unfortunately, it’s human nature, not to put a huge amount of money and effort toward an event that might never happen.
    I grew up down at the Jersey Shore. From the 1970’s on, everybody always agreed that the Barrier islands were over due for the ‘big one.’ But every hurricane threat, did what they always did, veered to the East and out to sea. It was the nature of the geography of the east coast. It was always poor Long Island that got socked.
    But doesn’t look like we can count on that anymore.

  9. 9
    Kyle says:

    Congress should have ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to study the impact of giant barriers to block parts of the city from the sea…Money shouldn’t be a problem either, considering the hundreds of billions of dollars, and more lives, another Sandy or two will cost.

    The red states feel it’s OK to hate librul NYC again, so it won’t happen. And Repukes only spend hundreds of billions of dollars to bomb brown people and invade random countries.

  10. 10
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    …because the sea levels have already risen so much.

    Because “mistakes were made.” No sense even mentioning why sea levels have risen so much. Nice work, NYT.

  11. 11
    PurpleGirl says:

    @MonkeyBoy: I had no problem clicking the link or just clicking on the cartoon itself. Both methods brought me a full size image.

  12. 12
    RossinDetroit, Rational Subjectivist says:

    I’m in the back seat of a car traveling home from Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s. My dad is driving and on either side of me one of my sisters is sleeping off a turkey coma. Grandma’s 95 but she still roasts a damn fine bird. Life is good.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

  13. 13
    PurpleGirl says:

    And let’s not mention that lower Manhattan is a maze of underground streams and creeks. Water leaks in from the Hudson River and the East estuary (the East River not being a true river). All the landfill down there holds water like crazy, too.

  14. 14

    Going OT early (and often) my DH decided today that we should be making a monthly donation to a wounded warriors project, seeing as we are both veterans who have been through wars and managed to come out unharmed on the other side. I did some research and discovered that the Wounded Warriors Project does not have a really good rating (only 55% of the money raised goes to the projects, and they pay their CEO 300K salary). I did find this group however

    Based here in Jacksonville 90% of their funds raised goes to their programs and they pay their President a modest 49K salary. They have a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator and have glowing reviews. So, if any of you are thinking of donating to a vets organization I would recommend the above rather than the Wounded Warriors Foundation.

  15. 15
    Tonal Crow says:

    GOP-damn! All that, and no mention of the likely widespread starvation by drought that 3 degrees or more will do to us?

  16. 16
    Lurking Canadian says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate: Probably the best response is to reduce tax rates on job creators.

  17. 17
    General Stuck says:

    @RossinDetroit, Rational Subjectivist:

    Sounds ideal in an ordinary American way. Bout all my relatives are pushing daisies, or crazy, but my ailing wingnut father and I had some good conversation last night. Not much, but quite a lot considering our history together. We have finally reached the stage in life to where we have at least one thing in common to opine about. A variety of med conditions with associated aches and pains.

    Sincerely, BJ. Happy Holiday’s “-)

  18. 18
    PeakVT says:

    For better or worse I won’t be around when this question gets answered: up to what level of sea rise should low-lying areas be defended? 1 meter? 3 meters? 7 meters?

  19. 19
    Yutsano says:

    @PeakVT: I say if it’s good enough for the Dutch…

  20. 20
    PurpleGirl says:

    @PeakVT: That map is very interesting. In Queens, we’ll lose both airports and the northwest corner of the borough is where there are several power plants.

  21. 21
    the Conster says:

    $4 trillion dollars went into our great Iraq adventure instead of grid infrastructure – suck on that libtards!

  22. 22
    Ted & Hellen says:

    What’s great though is how the Obama administration made Global Warming and renewable energy such absolute, Manhattan project level priorities over the last four years; how it never stopped sounding the alarm, educating the public, and twisting arms and naming names to get some movement going; to establish just how great the danger is…

    …oh wait. Never mind…

  23. 23
    eclecticbrotha says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate: I was just gonna make note of that same thing.

  24. 24
    eclecticbrotha says:

    I have no idea why the NYT is bemoaning the lack of flood barriers in New York City when we still can’t get better protection for New Orleans.

  25. 25
    WereBear says:

    @PsiFighter37: The Robert Caro work is a most awesome book.

  26. 26
    Johnny Coelacanth says:

    @Hed & Tellen: Wow, you sound just like this concern troll that used to hang out here, before the election.

  27. 27
    1badbaba3 says:

    @Ted & Hellen: C’mon Spats, you know he was too busy building all those FEMA Detention/Re-education camps by hand (hey, if it was good enough for John Henry…) as well as building up the bureaucracy for all those job-killing regulatory agencies. Again, must I apprise you of the need for priorities, man? : )

  28. 28
    Steve Crickmore says:

    Nationally, fearful of the crazies, as on practically every other important issue, “ David Axelrod is the guy who shut down a lot of this talk about climate change. And even went up to the Hill and told the Dems not to message the climate science.”

    Constitutionally cautious and poll driven, Obama will only seriously lead an issue when he has a strong majority of the American public backing it. Of course, when that happens it may be too late to reverse the effects of climate change that Washington has been downplaying.

  29. 29
    PurpleGirl says:

    @WereBear: Yes, it is. The Industrial Areas Foundation (the community organizing training group founded by Saul Alinsky) uses the book in their trainings, or at least in the training I took back in the late 1970s in NY.

  30. 30
    scav says:

    word on the street is that we’re going to use aborted snowflakes as sandbags. Don’t you read the secret coded messages that are readily available if you run your arithmatic problems backwards?

  31. 31
    Johannes says:

    @General Stuck: Happy Thanksgiving, General! And to all Juicers a good night!

  32. 32
    Lol says:

    @Steve Crickmore:

    Gee and I thought the problem was the Senate killing the Cap and Trade bill the House passed.

    And obviously, the American public was deeply behind health care reform and the auto bailout which is why Obama spent so much time and energy passing them.

    I guess the talking is no longer that Obama spent too much of his political capital to pass the bill? So hard to keep track of the ever hanging rationales as to why Obama is History’s Greatest Monster and Worse Than Bush ™.

  33. 33
    Steve Crickmore says:

    Yes, the one major controversial issue, that Obama put ‘his head above the parapet’ was healthcare, even though, he gave up the public option without too much resistance and included the individual mandate, as a bait to the insurance industry. The auto bailout wasn’t a especially a tough decison considering the adminstration had already bailed out the bankers, through TARP, and he had a large measure of public opinion behind him, not to mention the entire auto and auto parts industry and the autoworkers.

  34. 34
    Joel says:

    @Ted & Hellen: if Ted isn’t a reference to Bundy, then I will be seriously disappointed.

  35. 35
    1badbaba3 says:

    @Steve Crickmore: Someday your Prince will come…

  36. 36
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Steve Crickmore: The bank bailout was started by the Bush administration.

  37. 37
    General Stuck says:


    Aren’t they precious. The bailout was made at the last minute as AIG was circling the drain. With the world economy attached at the hip. We’d all well likely be sending smoke signals to each other by now, instead of blog comments, sitting around burning tires roasting a little rat meat.

  38. 38
    Maude says:

    @General Stuck:
    Want some sauce on that rat.
    The Treasury has done well with AIG.

    Did you have that burger? Was it on a toasted bun?

  39. 39
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Johnny Coelacanth:

    Wow, you sound just like this concern troll that used to hang out here, before the election.

    Wow, so you consider pointing out Obama’s lack of focus on this issue “concern trolling.” Of course you do.

  40. 40
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Steve Crickmore:

    Obama will only seriously lead an issue when he has a strong majority of the American public backing it.

    Which means he is NOT leading, he is FOLLOWING.

    Pathetic. A weather vane president; just what we need in times such as these.

  41. 41
    Ted & Hellen says:


    if Ted isn’t a reference to Bundy, then I will be seriously disappointed.

    Ted and Hellen are my doggies. :)

    I HAVE however, been commissioned to do a four-piece set of portraits of serial killers, Ted among them. :P

  42. 42
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Maude: Actually I never went out — either to the movie or the restaurant. I didn’t get up the energy to move, so I stayed home.

  43. 43
    1badbaba3 says:

    @Ted & Hellen: QED, motherfuckers. Git some!

    Tweety vox: Ha! Fair enough!

  44. 44
    pagodat says:

    Yeah, those dummies at Verizon, they should have put the switching offices up in the mountains or something, rather than where the customers the switches have to be located near are. I can’t imagine why there’s a lot of telecom infrastructure in Lower Manhattan, it’s not like the New York Stock Exchange, Mercantile Exchange, and umpteen trading floors and related data centers are located there.

    I guess by “no brainers” they meant “we’ve put no thought into this at all”.

  45. 45
    Johnny Coelacanth says:

    @Hed & Tellen: Oh, yes I’m sure a strong daddy figure would make you feel better there, sparky, but elected leaders who move too far ahead of the electorate don’t stay elected for long. Your soul is likely too pure to comprehend political pragmatism so let’s just move on to this:

    The Obama Administration is set to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant — acting on a 2007 Supreme Court decision that the Bush Administration did everything in its power to avoid, obscure and ignore. Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency, in contrast, is set to declare carbon dioxide a pollutant and set rules for reducing its harm using the Clean Air Act



    Abroad, the Obama Administration can’t seem to stop talking about global warming — another welcome change for U.S. foreign relations. Last week, Obama sent a message to Canada that its Alberta oil sands development is a dangerous source of energy, since it’s such a prodigious producers of greenhouse gases. And then, in China, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton frankly called U.S.-style fossil fuel-based economic development a “mistake” that China and the world could not afford to repeat.

    Weathervane! Waaah!

  46. 46
    Steve Crickmore says:

    Yes, Romney would have been a catastrophe for the environment and Obama has done some lifting on the issue; tilted towards clean energy projects and pushed ahead new regulations to reduce global warming emissions. Actually, climate change is no longer an issue but a reality, except for the wingnut neanderthals. Obama and Alexlrod chose not to talk about the c word, in this election campaign, (unlike in 2008), a mistake, I believe since the Republicans would have looked so foolish. But let’s hope that Obama is able to carry through some more of his 2008 campaign pledges; we are still waiting for the new solar panels in the White House.

  47. 47
    Donut says:

    @Ted & Hellen:


  48. 48
    Luthe says:

    Le sigh. All this macro-level talk and not one word about the federal flood insurance program that gives idiots incentive to build on floodplains or how eminent domain laws can make it damn nigh impossible to stop people from building too close to the water.

  49. 49
    slightly_peeved says:

    @Steve Crickmore:

    He got national administration of the state exchanges in exchange for the public option.

    The public option on the table was an anemic thing that couldn’t charge at Medicare rates. The OPM-contracted plans that will be in the exchanges will be pretty similar.

    If he hadn’t got full federal control of what was offered on the exchanges, imagine what Texas’s exchange would look like. Or Mississippi’s. Instead they’ll look like everyone else’s.

    Obama got quite a lot for what was a pretty crap public option, if you go back and look at what was actually on the table.

  50. 50
    Lojasmo says:

    @Steve Crickmore:

    So, there was major support for repeal of DADT?

  51. 51
    1badbaba3 says:

    @Ted & Hellen: Lemme guess; one of the portraits is Obammy with his favorite drone. Huh, huh? Amirite?

    @Steve Crickmore: You could get the time machine that Obama uses to change his many birth certificates, to go back in time and stop Reagan from taking down the ones that Jimmy Carter put there.

  52. 52
    Bill D. says:


    It’s not the eminent domain laws, it’s the Fifth Amendment as interpreted by the courts.

    The whole thing is very frustrating because all too often people can’t be stopped from building in flood-prone areas, and of course they demand equal public services. That then means that when the inevitable floods (note the plural) happen the taxpayers are not only on the hook for emergency response, cleanup, and relief measures, but also for repair/replacement of public infrastructure and subsidized rebuilding of private improvements.

    What a racket- privatize the profits and socialize the risk.

    Of course, I should talk- I live in a earthquake zone, albeit deliberately as far from local faults as I could reasonably get, and in a wood-frame building which is more resistant. And I checked the local flood hazard maps before I started house shopping.

  53. 53
    Randy P says:

    @Johnny Coelacanth: Weathervane! Waaah!

    Only Obama has the power to be both a weathervane follower and a fascist authoritarian dictator making unconstitutional unilateral executive decisions. Who else could thread that needle?

  54. 54
    priscianusjr says:


    It is considerably less difficult for people who do not live in those communities and operate under the assumption that they are safe and sound. Hell, that’s the explicit sentiment behind the creation of the suburban class in the first place.

    I hope I’m not misunderstanding you. A lot of the places that got creamed were suburbs — Long Island and New Jersey are mostly suburbs. Yes, it’s always worse for lower-income people, but of my cousins who live in LI, one had his apartment destroyed, one had his basement totally flooded, and one had no serious damage but was without power for more than two weeks.

  55. 55
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Steve Crickmore: Sorry to say, John Q. American doesn’t give two shits about the environment when the economy is in a sorry state. He could, and should, but doesn’t, emphatically.

  56. 56
    Steve Crickmore says:

    @Lojasmo Dadt is good example, of how Obama operates, he waits and waits for the right political moment. Finally, in September 2011, when he almost had no other choice if was going to retain some credibility with social liberals, he (reluctantly) with the help of Congress, removed the appeal.
    From wikipedia, “On September 9, 2010, Judge Virginia A. Phillips ruled in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America that the ban on service by openly gay servicemembers was an unconstitutional violation of the First and Fifth Amendments. The Department of Justice appealed her decision and requested a stay of her injunction” The Supreme Court wouldn’t touch it but the repeal of DADT eventually was a no brainer..again, except for the wingnuts; the courts were consistently ruling aginst it and the polls were something like 80% in favor of repeal (and about the same in the armed forces) that the policy was illogical, discriminatory, unworkable and unconstitutional.

  57. 57
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @Johnny Coelacanth: I would really like a reference to pushback from Obama on Harper about the tar sands. Got link?

  58. 58
    Sly says:


    I hope I’m not misunderstanding you.

    You are.

    A) I live on Long Island.

    B) I know people who lost everything.

    C) It still doesn’t matter that suburban people were victimized. Oh sure, they’ll want the Federal government to take care of them, because they’re honest, hard-working taxpayers. But flood protection for the city where other people live?

  59. 59
    pluege says:

    typical of narrow minded, ignorant American dystopic thinking to:

    ** go after the symptoms instead of the cause

    ** fight the last war… oblivious to the fact that there are numerous other ways climate change can and will wreak destruction, e.g., flood walls won’t anything against ever more frequent and ever stronger tornadoes ripping through the area, insect infestations, and just wait for the fracking-induced earthquake that rips open a nuclear power plant.

  60. 60
    wrb says:

    Bah humbug

    Low-lying areas like much of NYC and the entire state of Florida are already doomed. They will face disaster after disaster and we’ll be asked to pay to rebuild them again and again. Best to make clear that we won’t so people start moving uphill.

  61. 61
    wrb says:


    Ocean acidification is worse than all of that and cooling the planet won’t help. The amount of carbon must be reduced.

  62. 62
    wrb says:


    Try 60 meters.

    That’s what we get with an almost complete melt-off of continental ice sheets.

    With the melting acceleration and exceeding expectations each year and methane feedback loops kicking in that very well may be where we are headed.

    I think I’d like a nice beachfront place near Chico at the foot of the wave-lapped Sierras, or at Asheville, or perhaps on the Gulf at Memphis.

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