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Homeless in New Jersey

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Yves here. This article points out what others have noted: that Hurricane Sandy has given much more visibility to the dangers of climate change. It’s an environmental version of the old economists’ joke: A recession occurs when your neighbor loses his job. A depression takes place you lose your job. The media and policymakers in large measure live in a bubble centered on New York and Washington DC, and it has taken an event that hit their sheltered world hard to get them to wake up and take notice.

What I find interesting is that this piece is running in a venue that would seem unlikely for this sort of thing: an oil and gas oriented website that covers green tech largely for their commercial potential rather than from an environmentalist point of view. The zeitgeist in the US really does look to have made a meaningful shift on this issue.

By Dave Zgodzinski is the editor of the Green Miner newsletter and thegreenminer.com web site. Cross posted from OilPrice

Up here you get to a time in late November when you want winter to start. You know it’s coming. It’s dark and barren outside. The ground is frozen. Let it start. Let the snow come. Something down inside you wants to feel the sting of cold air on your face so you know that winter’s here. The sooner it starts, the sooner it’s over. But it’s not here, yet.

It’s like the old joke about the Sadist and the Masochist.

The Masochist cries out to the Sadist . .

“Beat me . . . please beat me.”

The Sadist replies . . .

“No.”

In Alberta and on the Prairies, winter started early this year. It has already made its mark with snow and cold. But here in the east, we are getting tropical storms instead. Around here, record high temperatures followed the hurricane.

You can prepare for winter. Change the tires, buy a new coat, make sure the utility bills are paid up. You do the normal things to prepare for the cold. But hurricanes on the eastern seaboard in November aren’t normal. People in New Jersey could not have expected what they got, and prepared for that.

The new normal is storm surges in Manhattan that will turn everything south of Times Square into an aquarium. The new normal is barrier islands that took thousands of years to build up being ripped apart in one day.

There is no way to prove that Hurricane Sandy was the direct result of global warming caused by greenhouse gases. There are only statistics. The sea level around New York is now a foot higher than it was 50 years ago. If the rate of ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica increases, sea levels will rise further and coastal cities around the world will face the possibility of becoming Venice. And Venice could become Atlantis.

It’s easy to dismiss global warming, if it doesn’t affect you directly. But a couple of days prior to the election, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City took some time away from hurricane repair duties to endorse Barak Obama for President. It appeared that his decision to endorse was precipitated by Sandy and Irene. In his estimation it was a bit too much of a coincidence to have two late autumn hurricanes in the Northeast in consecutive years. Bloomberg stated that to deny that climate change was a serious problem was to be “on the wrong side of history.”

He felt that Mitt Romney was missing the boat on climate change.

Mayor Bloomberg isn’t the only one who sees climate change as a personal threat. Farmers watching their crops wither in the draught this past summer are worried about it. Another year or two of screwed up weather and farmers around the US and Canada will be demanding that something be done. It doesn’t matter what their politics are.

The families of firefighters who were killed fighting the record number of forest fires last summer are no doubt still grieving. They understand too well that extreme heat is dangerous.

And now they are hurting in New Jersey. The fury of Mother Nature brings everyone back to basics. The dispossessed need food and shelter. Everything else is secondary. All other problems pale in comparison.

Later there will be the clean-up and the rebuilding. The cost of Sandy will be enormous in money and in grief. The storm affected millions of people. At some point the insurance companies will begin to demand that something be done.

Winter will get here soon enough. We’ll have too cold weather, too much snow and ice and whiteouts. We’ll make jokes about global warming when it’s freaking cold outside. We know how to prepare for that kind of bad weather. We’re used to it.

But what’s happening these days in the atmosphere isn’t the old normal. And we are just one or two more freak-out weather events away from many more people in North America, no matter what their politics are, coming to the same conclusion.

When the majority fully realize that the cost of not doing anything to curtail global warming will be so much more expensive than the cost of wholehearted adoption of renewable energy– then something will get done.

Follow the money.

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53 comments

  1. Brian

    The claims of Sandy being some kind of man made storm is getting beyond bad science (if there was any involved). Certainly there is climate change taking place….um….the history of the Earth is filled with climate change — anybody here even both correlating climate change with solar activity?

    Pollution is certainly a concern, irregardless of whether it’s solely responsible for climate change, but this is still doesn’t excuse bad science.

    I would like to know how one knows Sandy was a man made storm?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I forwarded the video to somebody who regularly reads weather maps. He thought the presentation was ludicrous. So please treat it as the work of a crank who is getting traction thanks to YouTube.

      1. LeeAnne

        One debunked video does not an argument make.

        Here’s a good place to begin researching chemtrails Extensive list of U.S. Patents for Weather modification, aka CHEMTRAILS.wmv plus an extensive list of videos on chemtrails down the side of the page.

        China promised clear skies for the Olympics using their weather modificatsion technology; weather modification was used in Vietnam to successfully drown strategic bridge and road targets. That was 60 years ago. So, why was there no attempt in the US, our weather modification genuises, to steer the latest storm off the coast out to the Atlantic rather than contain it on land within the predicted area? POW! on target.

        As for global warming; there are a couple of unanswered big questions beginning with; is it cyclical or man made. Given corruption and science censorship, I’d be leary of accepting official propaganda on anything let alone something BANKERS are lined up for fun and profit; controlling populations and charging us for the air we breathe.

        Another question, easier to answer: One of the first things Reagan did when he came into office?
        ANSWER: In one bold stroke, President Ronald Reagan, that paragon of neocon leaderhips, removed the solar panels from the White House.

        1. Jim S

          I thought there was some pretty good evidence of chemtrail seeding ahead of the storm, too, and I saw one commentator point out that the pressure readings at the eye indicated a Cat III rather than the I/II that it was. On the other hand, HAARP guy (are you out there?) was entertainingly outrageous…

          Jury’s still out on global warming/climate change for me as well. Comments below are dismissive of solar inputs, but NASA only “discovered” the Earth-Sun magnetic link less than ten years ago. This energy-transfer path wasn’t discussed during the hole-in-the-ozone-layer crisis twenty years ago because they didn’t know about it. Now that they know about it, has there been any public discourse on its role in climate change? How about Earth’s weakening magnetic field? When it comes to the Sun and other stars, science is rigidly orthodox. Maybe we shouldn’t assume that the experts are adequately factoring in the Sun’s role in climate change.

          1. Paul P

            You double what you eat, you put on weight
            You double the amount of heat trapping gases in the atmosphere, you get warming.

            And, we are doubling the amount of heat traping gases, gases that have been sequestered in the earth over eons of geolgic time, within a few hundred years of human time.

            The scientic debate is not about whether the earth is warming due to greenhouse gases, but how the different variables are interacting, eg, areosls, to slow or speed the the warming.

            The oil, coal, and natural gas industries must be shut down, now. And, there are no mechanisms within capitalism to do the job. Capitalism suffers from an institutional deficit and, thus, we will suffer.

            Chemtrails and HARP are nice distractions. But, the full force of global energy use is the issue.

      2. Brian

        The problem with bad science and hasty conclusions is that they tend to cause more damage to the cause than help it.

        An example would be Christian creationists arguing against evolution; after awhile the bad reputation spills into Christianity itself as.

        Preventing pollution is always a good thing; but blaming every environmental disaster on climate change or man made pollution without more evidence runs the risk of becoming a laughing stalk.

        I agree that dumping pollution into the Earth doesnt help the situation, though.

        1. Janal

          Name one “bad” climate scientist and explain, in detail, using scientific principles, what is “bad” about the findings of that person.

          1. Brian

            Um, the way it works is that the burden of proof is one the one making a claim.

            OK. Counter factual: Sandy wasnt caused by human pollution.

            Further, you bolster my point: you associate your political position as being somehow scientific. You might find this surprising but there is no consensus on the causation of climate change within the scientific community, yet you imply that there is consensus and that you and that consensus are in agreement.

            Even the above post claims that there is NO direct evidence that Sandy was caused solely by human pollution or that human pollution was a significant cause. It may be proven that human pollution was a significant cause, but it hasnt yet.

            I’m only voicing a skepticism towards those that are claiming certainty.

    2. Wat Tyler

      “Climate change” is a political term promoted to confuse the issue like “pro-life” (rather than criminalization) or “death tax” (rather than estate tax). The proper term is global warming and we should all discipline ourselves to use global warming rather than “climate change” and correct others who have been influenced by the propaganda.

      Jim

      1. alex

        On the contrary, “climate change” is a more accurate term because warming is not uniform. While the global mean surface temperature is rising, there are regions that both measurements and models show are cooling.

        If you want to talk polemics instead of science, calling it global warming means somebody will point to a cooling region and say there is no global warming.

        Back to science, on the extreme side the nightmare scenario is a shutdown or big reduction in the Atlantic thermohaline circulation that could lead to _extreme_ cold in Europe. The Younger Dryas period (about 10,000 BC) is thought to have been an example of this. Wikipedia has good articles on both “thermohaline circulation” and “Younger Dryas”.

    3. alex

      “anybody here even both[er] correlating climate change with solar activity”

      Find me some serious climate researchers who haven’t, and we can talk. Debate is one thing, but you’re throwing spaghetti at the wall. Occasionally fanatical scientists use something called “numbers” to quantify various effects and see whether they add up.

      1. Brian

        Of course science isnt filled with politics, money and dogma: never.

        Arthur Eddington with Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar;

        Einstein and Schrodinger with quantum mechanics;

        Hendrik Lorentz with the debunking of the aether;

        Maxwell with the absolute speed of light;

        Even calculus was considered mathematical trickery amongst mathematicians until Karl Weierstrass (even with Cauchy’s work).

        However, I dont recall in my post taking cause with researchers but with the political advocates. The point is, even alternative causes have not been ruled out and the political conclusions have out run the scientific evidence. Unless you care to present a “proof” that also rules out other alternative causes?

    4. TK421

      Brian, are you saying the Earth is too big for humans to change its temperature, but the Sun is small enough to change temperature spontaneously?

      1. Brian

        I’m not saying anything other than the conclusions being drawn seem to be out running the evidence. It very well may be the case that human pollution is solely responsible for climate change (but then how did the climate change before humans, since it changed quite often?).

        1. Janal

          Brian, climate change is about chemistry and physics, not politics. It is basic chemistry that carbon dioxide and methane have heat insulative properties. The unknowns have been buffer capacity of the oceans and impact of heat distribution by air flows. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the air is measurable and increasing. The heat insulative properties of carbon dioxide at any range of concentration is quantifiable.

          I was a sceptic of climate change in the 80′s and 90′s because there was too much noise in the models. Not anymore. If anything, the models are too conservative.

          1. Brian

            You might then find this surprising then that we currently have no working and viable model of the Earth’s atmosphere, so it’s hard to know what’s happening.

            Also, then, explain to me a few things. During the Medieval period the Thames river in London used to freeze over, but it doesnt now. During the Roman time the Germanic tribes would invade during winter because the Danube would freeze and allow them to cross, but it doesnt now. The Delaware river During George Washington’s time would come close to freezing over, but doesn’t now.

            How do you explain climate change prior to all this mass human pollution? or do you just ignore it?

    5. Janal

      Science is neither good nor bad. Thus, your assertion that there are “bad” climate scientists puts the burden of proof on you. Name one climate scientist and explain why that person’s science is “bad.”

      You are assuming that climate scientists assume that all climate change in the history of the earth is due to carbon dioxide, which is patently ridiculous. Your view reflects a profound lack of knowledge regarding any and all scientific endeavors.

      Of course climatologists have looked at other perturbations, such as sunspots. They have a negligible contribution on the rapid warming being observed.

      Take a chemistry class. Learn about mathematical modeling. Read some papers on the subject by scientists, not political commentators.

  2. Lyle

    Actually Sandy’s effects were predicted before Katrina as the NYC area was listed as #2 or #3 in terms of risk in the US. In addition since so much of the housing stock on the barrier islands was pre flood rules i.e. not built on stilts damage was worse. Of course folks on the Gulf Coast knew this and of course the surges are potentially higher there 20 foot versus 10 foot in New Jersey. But geologists have known since at least 1948 that barrier islands are poor places to live (actually probably since 1900 and the Great Galveston Disaster). Barrier Islands want to move as the sea level changes, in this case wanting to move the barrier island towards the main shore. Now one could fix it by elevating the town 15 feet and installing a seawall as Galveston did after 1900. Unfortunately our record in this area goes back about 400 years which for a 500 year storm is probably not enough.

  3. steve from virginia

    Don’t follow the money!

    Get rid of the cars, all of them.

    They are going anyway. What started in Greece is coming to a town-city-suburb-nation near you. Greece is broke because it couldn’t pay its fuel bill … it’s multi-hundred billion euro fuel bill.

    Greece borrowed to buy the fuel, now it needs to borrow in order to retire maturing loans as well as service the rest. It cannot borrow anymore to buy fuel. There is no borrowing capacity in Greece: it is insolvent because it cannot borrow. It cannot borrow because it is insolvent.

    The choice a few years ago was to drive a car or have a luxury job. Last year the choice was to drive a car or have a job at all. Now the choices are getting harder: drive a car or live in a fully-functional country. Next choices are harder still: drive a car of have something to eat, drive a car or get killed by paramilitaries, drive a car or die in a epidemic … or a nuclear war.

    It is clear from watching Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Libya and other places that people will kill and die to get their hands on cars, to live like Americans.

    Are YOU ready to die for you car?

    1. Susan the other

      Retool every car factory on the planet to make public transportation vehicles and trains; cycles, bikes and segways. I’d like to order a nice big tricycle with a padded seat, please. And maybe some kinda umbrella, or maybe some sorta rickshaw. With a small backup battery. I’m totally serious here.

    2. nonclassical

      ..disinformation on Naked Capitalism?? Greece was allowed into European Union, by concealing, with aide from Goldman-Sachs, their official “debt level”:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/feb/18/greece-goldman-sachs-debt-derivatives

      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-06/goldman-secret-greece-loan-shows-two-sinners-as-client-unravels.html

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/7318877/Goldman-Sachs-faces-Fed-inquiry-over-Greek-debt.html

      let’s work to tell one another truth…truth, after all, does exist..and I can prove it..

  4. Deloss Brown

    Brian, read again where it says about farmers.

    Two years ago my yield was 200 bu/acre, and this was pretty much average. I farm the best land in Illinois.

    Last year I was lucky and beat my neighbors and got 170 bu/acre, despite the terrible drought.

    This past harvest was 50 bu/acre.

    GLOBAL WARMING is coming to a supermarket near you! But food isn’t.

    1. psychohistorian

      I am sorry to hear about your reduced farming productivity.

      Where is the data being gathered and reported on about the global variations in farming output? Any reliable sources of extrapolation?

      The imprudence that we see with Fukushima, financial strategies like derivatives, deprecation of social safety nets and such are just like the imprudence of denying the accumulation of data related to climate change. It seems other commenters are saying that like cancer and cigarettes, we need to study the subject further instead of taking prudent actions. This strategy has worked for the cigarette industry for decades and now has a scientific name for it, AGNOTOLOGY….the manufacturing of ignorance.

      1. Jagger

        AGNOTOLOGY?? Great word. Fox news would make a fine case study. I listened a few minutes this morning to Fox News coverage of the Israeli attacks on Gaza. I swear I felt I had entered the twilight zone.

    2. Susan the other

      Does Illinois have a permaculture movement? I thought about retiring in Illinois on maybe 5 acres and doing permaculture. The big thing to worry about besides industrial pollution, is tornadoes.

    3. Brian

      I’m sorry to hear about your farming capacities being reduced, but, um, I don’t recall making any denials in regards to climate change — please read before responding. I’m not even denying that climate change is caused by man made pollution, or that even Sandy was a “man made” storm; what I am skeptical about are the conclusions being drawn in relation to the evidence.

      If we desire to counter the effect of climate change then it might behoove us to get the causation correct.

  5. Marianne J.

    Using Sandy to promote “climate change” as a thing-to-be-worried-about is so unfortunate. New York has known massive storms before. Read up on the history of the Hog Islands. New Yorkers used to go to the Hog Islands for a little R&R until a large storm washed them away. I look at documented history, and Sandy seems within documented parameters of storm severity. Last count NY had the same number of islands… Somewhat tired of the hysteria.

      1. LeeAnne

        Hamptons’ Dune Road billion hair asses are trucking in sand to replace beach for their water front manses. No PROBlem

  6. Ormond Otvos

    If there’s anything more likely than global anthropogenic warming, it’s human stubbornness and denial.

    Just keep recycling the solar output lies.

    It makes you oh so human!

    The farmers can just sell their farms, like they did in the Dust Bowl.

  7. diptherio

    “The dispossessed need food and shelter. Everything else is secondary. All other problems pale in comparison.”

    Can we have this line printed up real big and permanently hung in the halls Congress? Strangely, some of those folks still need reminding.

    So it looks like Marx was half-right. Capitalism will sow the seeds of its own destruction, but the rising temperature may well get to it before the falling rates of profit do.

    On the bright side, so to speak, according to James Lovelock (of Gaia Hypothesis fame), the Earth will have become unlivable by current standards in about 100,000 years, thanks to increasing solar output. So even if we don’t succeed in roasting everything to death immediately (and dagnabit, we’re gonna try!) the sun will take care of it eventually.

    See, no need to worry.

  8. Eric Patton

    The zeitgeist in the US really does look to have made a meaningful shift on this issue.

    For now. It will change back though eventually (unless more hurricanes hit New York).

  9. Brooklin Bridge

    “He [Bloomberg] felt that Mitt Romney was missing the boat on climate change.”

    So he endorses Obama? Huh??? That’s like taking your business to Lucky Luciano because Al Capone plays dirty.

  10. Brooklin Bridge

    Bloomberg is a business man. He took his business to Obama because by that time it was obvious to any idiot, including Bloomberg, that 1) The fix was in 2) He would get more relief money and more “down-the-road” money by endorsing the winner. The notion that “Democrats” do anything substantially differently due to Global Warming than Republicans, such as restrain high risk oil exploitation or move hard resources into “renewables”, is fantasy. Democrats do what the owners tell them to do and the owners are telling them; more fracking, more shale extraction, more drilling, more coal, more wars in the Mid-East, more cheaply, more profitably and less of the obnoxious, irresponsible, youthful daydreaming about solar or wind.

  11. Brooklin Bridge

    As to the zeitgeist in the US making a shift in it’s recognition of climate change, it remains to be seen. In a country where presidents assassinating their own citizens with no judicial review inspires a grand collective yawn as the sum total of the people’s constitutional outrage, it’s just as likely that this is the same sort of zeitgeist that we saw take place with regards to gun control when Gabrielle Giffords was shot point blank.

    1. TK421

      At least climate change is affecting Americans right now, unlike Obama’s kill list. I can see people like Tbogg caring about something that might inconvenience them right here, where they don’t care about something that kills people far away.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        More aware of issues here vs. those out of sight?

        Not if it involves Obama, at least not for those bogged down in the equally red and blue spheres of Obama’s derrière as TBog is. With Bloomberg, you may have a point, but then I suspect Sandy will recede in importance just as quickly as the importance of gun control after Giffords got shot in the face (which, incidentally, was close to as here-and-now as Sandy). The most obvious reason? The carbon fuel industry is considerably more powerful than even the gun lobby.

  12. Antifa

    Climate change is a euphemism for wild weather. Absurd weather extremes from season to season, and within the same season.

    Farming (still a mainstay of everyone’s breakfast, lunch and dinner), is damn near a waste of time if you get a year of rain in one week, followed by no rain the rest of the year. You can’t put the south forty up on stilts, and you can’t fill a river with snow that never fell on the mountain tops.

    Food will be the first real world effect of wild weather. When there is no rice, no hay, no bread to be had, there will be revolution.

  13. Gil Gamesh

    We are a capitalist system. Period. Though greenhouse gasses pollution may be the worst market failure in history (failure to price carbon properly, as the costs of fossil fuel production and consumption are externalized. There is no other way for Exxon to declare a profit.), our policy makers will, when push comes to shove, unveil some god-awful cap and trade system (designed by GS) that will do….nothing to remediate the effects of AGW-caused climate change, and virtually nothing to stop emissions.
    It’s gonna take a revolution, people. And while you are chortling in your imitation leather chair, sipping a stupid coffee drink, think again. The Millenials, our kids, are screwed. They know it, and they will get even before its all over.

  14. MarcoPolo

    I just don’t know why global warming has any place in a discussion of storm Sandy. Global warming or not, islands are ephemeral. If you live on one you should be prepared for storms. If you live on one where too much infrastructure is buried underground you should have considered how long it might take to be resupplied should that infrastructure become submerged.

    Bjorn Lomborg – not to be considered a troll – said it well HERE.

    We came through this storm just fine. In our valley we got 16” of the most destructive snow since 1950 (I hardly remember that one). On the ridges there was 36”. Everybody with a chainsaw – most of us – was out clearing roads. The utility work had to be left to professionals. The power company brought those people in from all over the place. That’s the plan. It’s not cost effective to plan for every contingency yourself. But you have to be prepared to support yourself until you can bring those outside resources to bear. I have a generator. I can run it until the professionals get things back up. And we were checking on neighbors.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      1. More violent and frequent storms have been predicted as an outcome of global warming

      2. For a hurricane to continue at hurricane strength requires ocean temps of 80 degrees (I am quoting a weather expert who was on Bloomberg). Said weather expert said that you’d not have seen warm enough ocean temps to have a hurricane this far north this late in the year in the past.

  15. Phil

    I can’t claim any special scientific training or knowledge, but I have been keeping abreast of climate science ever since Hansen’s Congressional testimony in the late 80′s. He predicted such wild swings in the weather.

    Here in the middle of the country, we have had two successive years of drought. That in itself is nothing too remarkable, But we have had extremes of record-breaking heat during the summers, very mild and dry winters, and a rising number of tornados. Our growing season has expanded by at least three week in the spring. Never before have I had to mow grass in mid-March, but I’m glad I did, because there was no making hay in July or August, as everything just stopped growing. This is what Hansen predicted, and I believe in global warming now. By the way, so does my crop insurance guy, the US military, and Monsanto.

    I’m really surprised at some of the comments here. Quite short-sighted. Deny global warming if you want; deny rising food prices; deny solid science; but for goodness sake’s, we have to scale back these carbon-based emissions! The smart guys out here are going solar as much as they can (if there were electric tractors of sufficient power, I’m sure we’d give them a good looking over). Gas generators are only good if you have gas.

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