As Massachusetts picks up after another storm that created “historic” coastal flooding, we have to reflect on what’s in store.
[No, we don’t necessarily know that climate change “caused” any particular weather event; but let’s not be obtuse when a “historic” event like this squares precisely with predictions, even happening twice in a season. We’ve been warned this was coming. And here it is. Let’s refuse to engage in conversations that beggar common sense.]
We are not acting anywhere near fast enough — not even in “liberal Massachusetts”. We’ve been warned about the future effects of climate change — extreme weather, coastal flooding, etc — for decades now. We have plans galore; no, we are not led by troglodytes like in North Carolina or — horrifyingly — the Trump administration who rule out even considering the future effects of climate change.
Snapped this picture an hour before high tide. The sign says it all. Sure makes you think….. pic.twitter.com/xy6Jl13GLM
— Matt Beaton (@MattBeatonEEA) March 2, 2018
The Walsh administration has worked on climate readiness, producing reports like last October’s, on the very vulnerable East Boston and Charlestown:
Climate Ready Boston projections indicate that Boston’s sea levels will probably rise (from 2000 levels) by at least 9 inches by 2030, 21 inches by as soon as 2050, and 36 inches by as soon as 2070.
Nine inches may seem small, but it will make the current 1% annual chance ood in the East Boston and Charlestown study areas four to ve times more likely than it is today. And with sea levels 36 inches higher, the current 1% annual chance ood will occur during the highest tides of the month.
But plans are just that: The road to our climate hell is paved with “plans”. (And “combo platter” energy policy. And low-carbon transit disinvestment.)
Change will come; in fact, it’s here with a vengeance — about that we have no choice. The plans we need to execute seem radical: Either we re-shape ourselves and our lifestyles, with intent, forethought, and wisdom; or climate change will reshape our lives for us, chaotically and destructively.
Under this governor and Speaker of the House, we are still trapped in an austerity model of governing, where even the necessities, the investments that pay dividends for decades – or which simply protect what we’ve got – are regarded as “too expensive”. When you “start with the premise that taxpayers are taxed enough”, rather than the need to protect those constituents from foreseeable calamities, or care for their future in any meaningful respect … you’re stuck. It’s like owning a house that you know has a roof that needs to be replaced – and you do in fact have the funds to replace it, if you budget properly – and just refusing to do it. It’s expensive, you think – but only compared to a wished-for alternative that simply does not exist.
Another word for that is denial. There are several levels of climate denial:
- That it does not exist; or that we’re not causing it; or that we don’t know. This is utterly insane, brainwashed, and suicidal. It is also mainstream GOP opinion.
- That it is happening, but manageable, and of course needs to be balanced against other priorities. This is the Baker administration’s line; apparently the attitude of Speaker DeLeo and many if not most members of the House; and is actually shared by many liberals or liberal-ish outlets, like the Boston Globe editorial page. As we are now extremely likely to blow by the supposedly “safe” level of 1.5C warming, the notion that our future will be “manageable” recedes into comforting fantasy.
- That is is happening, it’s unmanageable, but we can’t do anything/don’t want to think about it. This is most of my friends family, and colleagues – and when I’m having a decent day, me.
(And if you just took out a 30-year mortgage in Scituate; of if you’re a corporate master-of-the-universe who just set up in the Seaport district … I don’t know what to tell you. Best of luck – you’re going to need it.)
Let’s not just fatalistically chalk up our political sloth to immutable human nature: People prepare for the future all the time, individually and collectively. We have Social Security, Medicare, war plans, all manner of retirement plans, bonds, mortgages, insurance, wills, burial plans — entire industries and large government programs based on planning ahead, even by many decades. Our failure to plan and budget for climate change is just an irrational set of choices we’re making, based on brittle, greedy, and wishful habits of mind. We’ve been told we can have something that’s impossible: That we can live the lives we’re leading, without sacrifice or significant adaptation, forever.
Again … the rent is due.
(PS: A major factor, under-covered in all infrastructure discussions, is how to bring contractors to heel; and bring large projects in on time and budget. Quite reasonably, the public has little confidence in state government managing large projects, because we have neither the requisite contracting nor project management expertise at the state level.)