Op-Ed: Dire Warning About Climate Change on Long Island

Long Island is ranked fourth for “highest chronic physical risk among the 100 most
populous areas” in the United States for the impacts of climate change in a just-issued report of
Moody’s Analytics. The Number One area threatened is San Francisco, then Cape Coral, Florida,
then New York City—and then Long Island.

“The most at-risk metro areas are predominantly coastal,” says the 14-page report. “The
New York City area and Florida are especially vulnerable, but too are other parts of the Eastern
Seaboard and California.”

A section titled “Housing” is a main issue in the report by Moody’s Analytics, a
subsidiary of the Moody’s Corporation, a business and financial services company. Moody’s
Analytics does economic research including about risks and describes itself as providing
“financial intelligence and analytical tools to help business leaders make better, faster decisions.”

“Rising temperatures mean more frequent and severe natural disasters that could destroy
homes and spark out-migration from some areas,” says the report. “Similarly, enough disasters
will eventually force insurers to abandon markets they deem too risky; this has already happened
in some parts of the country, including much of Florida, forcing the public sector to step in. That
practice, however, will be difficult to sustain and could eventually compel more people to move
out of areas that become classified as uninsurable. Similarly, while there is a strong tendency
today to rebuild after natural disasters, a lack of insurance and government funding could make
that far less palatable in the future.”

States the report: “The importance of accounting for climate change will only grow for
the banking system and corporate decision-makers.”

In an interview last week in Newsday, Adam Kamins, a Moody’s Analytics senior
director and author of the report, said: “With sea level rise, Long Island is a lot more exposed
than the rest of the country for obvious reasons.” He continued: “Combined with acute physical
risk associated with hurricanes, which are expected—especially if climate change goes largely
unmitigated—to grow stronger, most frequent and to make their way north,” this “puts Long
Island in a vulnerable position.”

“Retreat is not an option,” declares a Floridian in a voice-over at the end of a TV
documentary aired nationally in December titled “Brink of Disaster Miami Sinking.” A focus of
the program, broadcast on the Science Channel, is how Miami and most of South Florida have
been built on top of porous limestone. That’s a sponge for inundation and flooding, it says, and
thus climate change and ensuing sea-level rise and storm surge could be put the area under water.
The finest book I know about what all the vulnerable coastal areas face from climate
change is Retreat from a Rising Sea, Hard Decisions in an Age of Climate Change. It was
published by Columbia University Press in 2016. Its three authors are Dr. Orrin H. Pilkey, a
leading expert on coastal impacts of climate change—he’s been to Suffolk County to speak—and
is professor emeritus in the Division of Ocean Sciences at Duke University, and his daughter,
Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, a geologist, and son, Keith C. Pilkey, an attorney.

They state: “Our dependence on fossil fuels has in part brought us to this place, causing a
chain of events that warms the atmosphere, which in turn warms and expands the oceans, melts
glaciers and ice sheets, and consequently raises the seas.”

“The deniers of climate change and sea-level rise continue to have a voice that seems to
grow weaker with each superstorm. But a closer look shows that the deniers provide a façade of
credibility for a host of politicians who contrive to ignore the rising sea,” they say. “Deniers havevested interests most related to the fossil-fuel industries in confusing us and hereby delaying
regulatory action.”

“Greed and selfishness are often part of decisions to protect property at the price of beach
destruction. In Southampton, New York, several beachfront billionaires are building massive
walls to protect their individual homes, despite the community’s opposition,” they write.
“Why move back? Why retreat?” To these questions they say: “As the sea level rises, the
replenishment sand will become less stable, will erode faster, and will have to be replenished
more frequently, and the cost will rise exponentially. Seawalls built on eroding beaches will
eventually cause the loss of the beach…”

The 212-page book concludes: “There is not the slightest doubt that beachfront
development will retreat on a massive scale, although widespread recognition of this and serious
planning for it are lacking. In the meantime, until the problem becomes so obvious that even the
most dedicated denier must give in, more local actions can be taken. First and foremost, building
density should not increase, and large buildings (high-rises) must be prohibited. Good planning
could include preserving space on the mainland to which buildings could be moved. New roads
and other infrastructure should be placed as high and far away from the shoreline as feasible.
Disincentives to expand or stay in place must be applied….Neither time or tide is in our favor.”

Op-Ed: Climate Change Report Underscores Urgency to Act

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