The Here and Now

Global Warming: it’s an issue that many recognize as serious, but one that still resonates as affecting some indeterminate point in the future. Some people view it as something years down the line, while others see it as a more imminent threat, but a common theme in discussions about climate change has to do with acting now to prevent some future disaster.

In part, this future reality thinking is a good thing. If too many Americans felt that climate change was a done deal, then they would have even less impetus to do anything to help reduce their own carbon footprint. However, there is a new study from the Earth Institute at Columbia University that has started looking at what to do with the changes that have already occurred or are currently happening. They don’t suggest that we throw up our hands and stop working to limit carbon footprints:

“It's not that we are giving up on preventing additional damage, it is simply that some of the damage has already been done, and we need to learn to cope.”

The article is the start of an important line of thinking that I believe many eco-activists have missed: certain changes are already happening, and the consequences of ignoring that fact could be dire. Clearly, this article is a focus specifically on New York, but there are many places around the country, especially in major urban areas, that should begin thinking along these lines. The example that springs to mind is Katrina: the change has already begun to create storms and conditions unlike what our system is prepared to handle. (I don't mean to suggest here that what happened in Katrina is as linear as "new infrastructure = less problem," but a levy system with a new level of hurricanes in mind would certainly have helped.)

I don’t know of other non-profits that are focused on infrastructure or other projects like this, but given the stimulus bill and the new focus on “shovel-ready” projects to jump start the economy, infrastructure improvement along these lines makes a lot of sense to me.

This article has been cross-posted on

Alan Smith

Posted at 1:30 PM, Feb 23, 2009 in Environment | Permalink