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October 30, 2012 4:03 PM “A New Reality, an Old Infrastructure”

By Andrew Sabl

Earlier today New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a press conference (no video or transcript yet, but I’ll be happy to provide it later if I can find it) again gave a version of the line I’ve been hearing from him since last night: “We have a new reality, in terms of weather patterns, but we have an old infrastructure…. I don’t think anyone can sit back any more and say, ‘well, I’m shocked by that weather pattern.’ ” As Cuomo has been pointing out, the storm has caused events that were never envisioned, and that utilities, city planners, and private entities can’t be faulted for not anticipating (most damaging, saltwater flooding throughout lower Manhattan’s subway tunnels)—but that we must plan on becoming routine from now on. Lower Manhattan, southern Brooklyn and Queens, any place near the East River—these were not regular flood zones in the past. But they are now, and must be redesigned as such.

The governor has said he’ll keep pushing this. I hope he does. Against my inclination, I’m starting to side with Matt on this: given how far climate change has already gone, and how many interests stand against quick action, we can’t assume a climate future that resembles the past. But the reward to acknowledging climate reality will be (where local politicians aren’t climate deniers, and only there) urban areas that are far better designed to accommodate the new reality than they have been up to now.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Andrew Sabl is a professor of public policy and political science at the University of California, Los Angeles.