Hurricane Sandy changes the trajectory of green design
The profession of design is about to drastically change. If you're an architect, engineer, planner or builder, the way you build is about to undergo some radical new transformations.
2012 is on track to become the warmest year on record, with some 40,000 temperature records broken in the United States this year alone. In addition, Arctic sea ice melted to a record low this year, further adding to a grim list of milestones and warning signs that most people are ignoring.
Both candidates running for President failed to once mention climate change during the 4-1/2 hours of debates. This is the first time since 1984 that has happened, and a sign that the carnival that has become our election process is unable to focus on what is truly important.
In short, President Obama admits climate change is real and raised minimum fuel efficiency standards in August 2012. Governor Romney isn't sure if climate change is manmade or not, and changes his views on whether it exists at all. His energy policy advisor is oil baron Harold Hamm, so he wants to eliminate foreign oil, pushing for "North American" sources of oil. Romney stated, "there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue – on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk – and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community."
[For the record, you can view President Obama's stance on Climate Change here; and Governor Romney's stance here.]
In spite of this silence, most environmentalists have been waiting for a tragedy to occur to wake up our policy makers. I tend to think it follows Winston Churchill's famous indictment of Americans: "I always count on Americans to do the right thing, but only after they have exhausted every other possible option."
Hurricane Sandy, the storm that has crippled New York and Philadelphia, (and leveled Atlantic City), has left our largest cities without power, transportation and most fundamental services. Some in the media have called it a "Frankenstorm" which may be appropriate both because it hit during Halloween week and given how unprecedented and powerful it is. But more importantly, it is a sign of storms to come and a brutal introduction to what is now the "new normal."
Hurricane Sandy highlights the extreme vulnerability of our transportation and electricity infrastructure. To millions, climate change suddenly just became very real and very expensive.The Atlantic has a wonderful map showing the (still) flooded areas of New York as a grim predictor of things to come.
With economic losses of up to $20 billion, Hurricane Sandy is the disaster that could finally wake everyone up from their stupor. This would make it the costliest hurricane to ever hit the Northeast, and perhaps what is needed to change our policies to address our climate. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, power outages in New Jersey and Pennsylvania have "shattered records" with over 3 million without power.