Up | November 03, 2012
>>> all right. joining us at the table now is claus jacobs a research scientist at columbia university 's earth site and eric clinenberger returning to the table, a professor of sociology at new york university . claus, i wanted to have you here, because "new york times" ran a piece recently, and this is a headline, it says, climate change -- new york is lagging as seas and risks rise critics warn, it was about the fact that the city was exposed to increased risks as climate change brought sea level up. and it quotes you, a report that you did, in 2009 . and this is your prediction about what would happen if there was a storm with a sufficiently high storm surge just a foot higher, i believe, than irene, just about. and you said, if the surge had been just that much higher, subway tunnels would have flooded, segments of the fdr and roads along the hudson river would have turned into rivers and sections of the commuter rail system would have been impassable or bereft of power, the most vulnerable systems like the subway tunnels under the east rivers would have been unusable for nearly a month or longer at an economic loss of nearly $55 billion. this is i think eerily preshient. what are the circumstances under which you undertook this report talking about what the vulner vulnerabilities of new york city were?
>> well, in 2009 first mayor bloomberg and later the state through its agency charged a group of scientists to look at the consequences of climate change and how new york city on the one hand and new york state on the other hand should adapt to it. as part of that study, we in the certa study, we were making a case study in which we had 100-year flood or storm surge hitting new york city . and with a lot of help of the engineering department students at columbia university , we came up with a very detailed analysis analysis. and it showed that the subway tunnels would flood within 40 minutes and so on. it was eerily, incredibly true what happened four days ago. right down to the detail that the brooklyn battery tunnel would be entirely flooded, the queens midtown town only partly flooded. i mean, it's terrible to be right. the point is here that this is information that was available one to two years ago now. and it shows that just reducing scientific, technical result is not enough.
>> the political process has not taken notice of the information that we were charged to produce for them.
>> and this is the fundamental issue that we have up and down this -- this issue specifically on climate but also disaster, right, eric? you can go back and you can read reports, and i did, reports about what would happen if a storm hit new orleans and a storm surge pushed over the levees and the problems that would happen in the ninth ward and the evacuation problems and everything down, down, down, down the line written two to three years before katrina actually happened and the political infrastructure did not make the governing choices that would have prevented it.
>> we act as if we have a will not to know about these dangers, and when we're warned of them, we freak out. we don't know what to do. we get overwhelmed and scared. we've just gone through three presidential debates in which the concept of climate change never came up once. this was mother nature speaking back and saying, i will be heard. you have something to reckon with. unfortunately we now live in a moment where this debate will become inescapable. and the silver lining that could come out of this is that this could be the kind of event or historic experience that becomes a turning point, that makes a conversation about climate change a fundamental part about -- of conversations about security and governance.
>> one things we talk about with climate and climate mittation and carbon tax and one of the things that's highlighted in parallel to that we also have to take a hard look at how we are engineering our cities and creating a kind of resiliency in the massive population centers. i want to talk about how we need to be thinking about that right after we take this quick break.