Edward Glaeser, an economics professor at Harvard University, who studies urban centers teased out some of the implications of city vulnerability to rising seas in a Bloomberg View column.
I do not have the expertise to judge whether Glaeser's and Aerts' specific prescription is the right one, but that last bit points to a set of issues raised by climate disasters that all of us in this democracy need to get some grip on. Glaeser is right: "every hamlet on the Eastern seaboard" will try to demand protection and the costs will force choices to be made. And we make our choices through a complex political system that privileges wealth and inertia over scientific expertise and efficient use of scarce resources.
Because our system is organized around money influence and choke points, one of the patterns revealed by the recent election will greatly impact how we respond to climate change. Cities are Democratic Party turf, demographically and especially ideologically. The Republican's Veep candidate may have thought he was pointing out the otherness of the people who so viscerally rejected him, but he spoke a truth: Ryan Sees Urban Vote as Reason G.O.P. Lost.
Cities are ideologically Democratic; we urban folks know from experience that we need one another.
Insofar as there's been a tendency to conflate concern over climate change with historic conservation societies and back-to-the-land movements, we are looking in the wrong direction. Dealing with the threats of global warming is going to depend ideologically on urban experience and urban values. At present those are strongly clustered in the Democratic Party. We've got a huge distance to go before we actualize the force implicit in that observation, but it sure shows where we need to work. Educating urban populations about the dangers and opportunities involved in averting the worst and mitigating the rest of human-caused climate change makes good strategic sense. Are we doing it?
Despite every other legitimate concern, we cannot ignore that our economic and social system is rapidly making the planet less habitable. So I will be posting "Warming Wednesdays" -- unpleasant reminders of an inconvenient truth.