From the LRB Blog
This is the true meaning of Hurricane Sandy: the repo girl is at the door. Climate change adaptation is a synonym for a multi-trillion-dollar reconstruction of urban coastal infrastructure and land-use patterns. Imitate the Dutch or live in Waterworld.
How long will it take for this realisation to percolate through the tumoured brain of American politics? Until 2006, American public opinion was broadly in step with European concerns about global warming. Following Climategate, however, the energy-industry-subsidised right went on the offensive and polls recorded a dramatic decline in public perception of climate change as a scientific fact.
Even more surprisingly, opinion surveys tracking public reactions to extreme climate events, like the recent epic drought in the Great Plains, have failed to detect significant change in opinion. The presidential race, meanwhile, has largely been a contest about which candidate stoops lowest to administer oral sex to fossil fuel producers.
The business press exults in the brilliant future of shale gas and non-traditional oil. The USA, for the first time in 63 years, is a net exporter of oil products. And we are locked into fossil fuel dependence for another generation or two.
Alternatives are dissolving. Creating green jobs, the major industrial strategy of the Obama administration, has been a complete bust thanks to the shale gas revolution and China’s dumping of cheap solar energy cells on the world market. The meltdown of Europe’s carbon trading system, moreover, has hardly bolstered the credibility of ‘cap and trade’ in an American recession.
Hard rains and rising tides on the Jersey shore, alas, do not automatically translate into enthusiasm about renewable energy or an urgency to build dykes. Eventually, however, the change must come and Washington will start to pay the compound interest for failing to mitigate warming or reform land use.
But this isn’t the truly bad news. The grimmest reckoning is the inverse relationship between the costs of climate change adaptation in rich countries and the amount of aid available to poorer countries. The tropical and semi-tropical poor countries that are least responsible for creating a greenhouse planet will bear the greatest burden of coastal inundation, extreme weather, and agricultural water shortages. Not that it was ever likely that the emitters would ride to the rescue of the poor people downstream, but Sandy is the beginning of the race for the lifeboats on the Titanic