The Oceans Are Coming

Hurricane Sandy in addition to billions of dollars of destruction, sent both campaign tough questions.  Would  both campaigns need to curtail the appearances of their standard bearers?  Were Romney’s views on FEMA as well as the whole role of the Federal Government versus the private sector wise?  What did the flooding of New York City’s subways and tunnels mean?

FEMA and the overall role Government are both ideological and pragmatic subjects.  The right sees little need for government services since they require taxes to fund them.  The left sees government provided services as necessary since so many Americans could not afford to fund those services themselves.

Pragmatically, there is always room for examining any government service and deciding it might be accomplished more efficiently in some other way.  FEMA during Hurricane Katrina is certainly not a model to be praised.  We shall see whether FEMA during Hurricane Sandy is better.  It is simply hard to comprehend how Pennsylvania FEMA, New Jersey FEMA, New York FEMA, and Connecticut FEMA could afford to have each the reserves necessary for an emergency such as a hurricane.

The sleeping dog is New York’s flooding situation.  Ocean water overflowed the banks and entered subways and a number of tunnels.  The City is busy now trying to empty this water and then assess the extent of damage.  It could be huge in terms of cost to repair.  That is only part of the issue.

The Atlantic Ocean still lies at the edge of New York City.  The Hudson River still empties into the Atlantic Ocean at the edge of New York City.  Manhattan still is an island surrounded by water.  So what happens if the oceans continue to rise?

The Netherlands have thrived for years with much of its land below sea level.  A system of  sea walls, dykes, and locks protect the Netherlands from the North Sea.  What will protect New York City?

Global warming, of course, is the elephant in the room.  The GOP (and Mitt Romney) have taken strong positions and oppose both the theory that man is causing global warming, and even the proposition that global warming is occurring.  Progressives have said the opposite and proposed “cap and trade” legislation as a method to control carbon emissions.  The right has opposed “cap and trade” and has fought against such legislation.  In the heat of this battle, no one has considered whether ocean levels were rising, or what might happen if they did.

The subject highlights the futility of the current divided ideologic political debate.  Whether rising sea levels are caused by  US carbon emissions or not, is a secondary matter.  Carbon emissions in India and China will result in rising sea levels in New York too.

Higher sea levels are going to flood cities like New York unless some counter measures are taken.  Would dykes and locks will be enough?  How much will these measures cost?

What is clear is that arguing about whether global warming is connected to fossil fuels misses important points.

Pragmatically, fossil fuels will be necessary for years.  How can the developed world continue to use them and ask China and India (2 1/2 billion people) to restrict their use of fossil fuels in order to reduce global warming?

With $16 trillion is debt already, where is the money going to come from to build up New York City’s shore line?

Both parties have inadequate answers.  Romney and the GOP deny global warming.  President Obama and Democrats say global warming is real and “cap and trade” is a path forward.  Neither position appears to deals sufficiently with global warming consequences.

Will Hurricane Sandy be the wake up call?

 

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