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Letter: Immediate vulnerabilities

Pat Hynes recent column, “Facing the real threat,” presented many valid points in addressing the reduction of future impacts from climate change. Unfortunately, for us, the present-day threats will continue to amplify, even if we drastically reduce greenhouse gases today (Source: NOAA Coastal Conference, Wells, Maine, 2013). Her points unquestionably hold strongly supported and terrifying truths for our children’s future. The issue is further complicated by more imminent needs: our communities struggle to initiate local, more immediate responses from unpredictable dangers and a barrage of escalating threats. Summer 2012 drought, Irene, Sandy ...

Let’s add another perspective to Ms. Hynes long list of great ideas. How well do we understand our local vulnerabilities? Who will be in greatest need should the temperatures spike to above 90 degrees for three weeks or longer? What have communities done to address increased intensities of runoff like we’ve never witnessed before? Yes, it will cost money we do not have, but before we choose to take no action, we need to weigh the potential costs. For example, Long Beach, Long Island, N.Y., decided not to spent $13 million to make the necessary recommended adaptations along their beautiful, scenic beachfront. Residents in this tourist community felt that a the human-made sand dune would, “ruin the view,” while its two neighboring municipalities followed the recommended adaptations. When Sandy left, Long Beach’s damages conservatively totaled over $200 million, while its two neighboring towns experienced minimal destruction.

Despite which political party you ascribe or if you believe climate change is natural or human caused, it will continue to unpredictably intensify for the next few decades. We must deal with many new behaviors that address short- and long-term trends. Initiating mitigation strategies today, as suggested by Ms. Hynes, will help protect future generations. However, how will we adapt to the immediate vulnerabilities through cooperative assessments and actions?


Resilient Land Designer


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