Monday, May 29, 2017

Controversy over Plan 2014 is a Climate Change adaptation issue

(This essay is a continuation of my essay “Climate Change and the Butterfly Effect”)

This brave and comprehensive article from Rochester City Newspaper (see below) demonstrates the complexity of addressing Climate Change now—before things get impossible to solve.

The water will win A very wet spring means that bodies of water across Upstate New York are spilling over their banks. Wetlands and swamps are full. And so is Lake Ontario, which is what the other water would normally drain into. For the home and business owners on Lake Ontario's southern shore, the flooding has been a slow-moving nightmare. Water – pushed some days by high winds – has been clawing into beachfronts and lawns, shifting sand, flooding buildings, closing roads. Docks at marinas are under water. Businesses have been closed. Homeowners have been piling up sandbags, trying to stave off the lake. And many of the lakefront landowners and the elected officials who represent them are furious, blaming the loss of property and revenue on new regulations that control the flow of water out of Lake Ontario into the St. Lawrence River. (May 25, 2017) Rochester City Newspaper [more on Climate Change and Water Quality and Great lakes in our area]

On the face of it, this lake level controversy is an easy one for politicians to take advantage of, the public (who haven’t been directly affected by the damaging waters) to ignore, and the media to leverage for sensationalism.

Town of Greece wants the county to pursue possible legal action over Lake Ontario flooding The Greece Town Board on Wednesday passed a resolution to ask Monroe County to explore possible legal action regarding the high levels in Lake Ontario. Property owners in Greece are among those along the lakeshore who have been hit by flooding in recent weeks, and the resolution passed by the town board makes reference to changes brought about by Plan 2014. That’s a plan that changes the way water levels are regulated on Lake Ontario. However the International Joint Commission, which approved the plan, has maintained that the plan is not responsible for the flooding, saying it was the very wet Spring that lead to this year’s high levels on Lake Ontario. (May 24. 2017) WXXI News [more on Climate Change

Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Plan 2014 (Plan 2014) is an attempt to contain the larger climate crisis but it is falling victim to our complacency towards science and its implications. For quite some time now, the National Climate Assessment has verified that heavy downpours are increasing for our Northeast region -- by 71% since 1958. This means that it is more likely homes and our infrastructures are going to be affected in just the way we are seeing now. Until Climate Change is dealt with and planned for on the scale and time frame that will matter, we will continue to blame the messenger and squander our resources until they are no more.

It’s instructive to note that trying to re-adjust the Lake Ontario water levels is an adaptation issue. The efforts to reduce fossil fuels emission by increasing renewable energy is a Climate Change mitigation issue. We should mitigate Climate Change because it’s the moral thing to do (saving our future), but we absolutely must adapt quickly to increased warming in order to survive right now. See my 2014 essay: “Climate Change mitigation (People’s Climate March ==> Paris 2015) & adaptation: what’s the diff?

Because Climate Change has become very divisive, many are disinclined to speak about Climate Change when discussing local environmental concerns. While this tactic might quell many family feuds and make for calmer political campaigns, climate silence is a disastrous strategy for future survival. You cannot cure a cancer without addressing the cancer, nor can you address Great Lakes problems (including invasive species, harmful algae outbreaks, and water quality) without addressing Climate Change. In fact, if we don’t understand the priority of Climate Change in our present environmental issues, if we don’t view our present and future environmental issue through the lens of Climate Change, we are very unlikely to address them. This quick warming is amplifying and accelerating all environmental issues and trying to solve all of them without talking about Climate Change is unscientific--undoable.  

The key reason Climate Change is so divisive is because addressing Climate Change is very inconvenient to many powerful people. For those not willing to see the bigger picture, that we are fundamentally disrupting our climate, it means higher taxes, bigger government, more environmental regulations, political and economic intransigence. But even if these repercussions are more likely to be felt if we start seriously addressing Climate Change, that doesn’t make the science behind Climate Change any less true. It is as irrational and depraved as saying “I don’t need to feed my family because to do so would cost too much money”. Further, the scenarios people fear most are more likely to occur the longer we drag our feet. (See my 2013 essay: “Why Climate Change means big, really big government”.

With the heavy flooding around Lake Ontario, the Rochester region is now experiencing one dramatic impact of Climate Change. Shoreline property owners are understandably upset. But the answer to their plight is ultimately contained in addressing the Climate Change crisis at large, not in attacking the Plan 2014 that was designed to make our Great Lakes basin habitable to all.

Time passes. 

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