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Former NY Army Corps Commander On Post-Sandy Reality: ‘Climate Change Is Real,’ ‘We’ve Got To Stop Ignoring It’

By Brad Johnson, Guest Contributor  

"Former NY Army Corps Commander On Post-Sandy Reality: ‘Climate Change Is Real,’ ‘We’ve Got To Stop Ignoring It’"

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At a May 16 televised forum on the recovery from Superstorm Sandy, a former top military infrastructure official called on Americans to “stop ignoring” climate change and “realize it’s the new reality.”

At the Sandy town hall organized by public television stations NJTV and WNET, John Boulé, the former commander of the New York District, Army Corps of Engineers, warned New Yorkers to stop ignoring climate change and start preparing for higher sea level rise and more frequent and more powerful storms:

First of all, we’ve got to realize it’s the new reality. Climate change is real. It’s more than sea level rise that’s going to happen over the course of the next 100 years. It’s greater storm intensities, it’s greater storm frequencies. We’ve got to stop ignoring it and start planning and building to reduce the risk to the public. That’s where we are.

Watch it:

Like Boulé, other panelists, including PSE&G president Ralph LaRossa, recognized the “new reality” of rising seas and extreme weather. Although these words are welcome, the most important element of facing the reality of climate change is understanding that it’s caused by human activities — something no-one at the forum did. In fact, Richard Ravitch, the real-estate scion and former Democratic lieutenant governor of New York, blamed “forces of nature” on sea level rise.

At no point during the two-hour forum did any panelist or reporter discuss the manmade causes of climate change or recommend opposing the threat to civilization posed by the fossil-fuel industry. The words “fossil fuels,” “carbon”, “greenhouse,” “pollution,” and “oil” were never mentioned. Also not mentioned was David Koch, the carbon pollution billionaire and richest man in New York, who was on the board of WNET from 2006 until the day of the forum. At the WNET board meeting on the morning of May 16, Koch’s resignation was accepted.

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14 Responses to Former NY Army Corps Commander On Post-Sandy Reality: ‘Climate Change Is Real,’ ‘We’ve Got To Stop Ignoring It’

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    They can’t quite bring themselves to slam the fossil fuel boys, and assign blame where it’s due. What are they afraid of? Their money? Maybe it should be sequestered for criminal penalties.

    • David Lewis says:

      I remember when the chief public health officer for British Columbia (where I lived at the time) said the words “anal intercourse” for what he said was the first time in an interview with the media. The AIDS epidemic had been raging for years already – it was 1983 – yet transfusion blood was not tested for disordered immune cells (there was no AIDS antibody specific test at the time) by the Red Cross.

      This public health official couldn’t talk about basic facts, such as that unprotected anal intercourse between members of any sex appeared to favor the transmission of what was obviously a new infectious disease. He knew he had to start. So near the end of the interview, he just blurted out “anal intercourse. There! I’ve said it.” It had nothing to do with what he was talking about prior or after during that interview. But it was, apparently, a necessary thing for him to do so in subsequent interviews he could do his job which was to bring to public attention matters important to their health.

      A comparable thing is going on now over climate change.

      Thousands had to die before this civilization could come to terms with AIDS sufficiently to start protecting individuals. Unfortunately, there is only the one planet.

      Listen to this episode of This American Life. (I.e. google “Hot in My Backyard” which is its title, and listen to the .mp3 file). There is a section of the show where Colorado State Climatologist Nolan Doesken finally (he thinks) says he believes human caused climate change will make the very unusual weather Colorado has been experiencing lately merely average in a few decades. The interviewer Julia Drapkin discusses the issue with him before his speech and after. It is an interesting piece, illustrating the same thing I saw in the BC public health official in 1983 over AIDS only now over climate change in Colorado.

      Obviously, we’re toast. If we had a few hundred planets, after we killed the first few dozen by moving all the carbon in the fossil fuel into the atmosphere in a geological instant, we’d, obviously, wake up and stop doing it on the ones we had left.

      On the bright side, because what we’re doing to the planetary life support system somewhat resembles what the asteroid that did in the age of life that supported the dinosaurs 65m years ago did, we can expect, if Hansen is incorrect for once and all life on the planet is not extinguished, that as we wipe the slate clean of almost all species, we are paving the way for a new and glorious age of life many millions of years from now.

      Great, eh?

      • Raul M. says:

        Every once in a while ther is a new story about a body of water discovered that has maintained some life deep below the surface for millions of years. It seems therefore that some life will remain within pockets of water deep within the Earth’s surface.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        The AIDS epidemic was left unmentioned and unaddressed for years simply because the Rightwing powers-that-be (did Raygun EVER mention it?)had no human empathy with the IV drug-using, poor, gay, African and Haitian victims. Perhaps ACTUP could be a model for climate activism.

  2. BillD says:

    If they say that climate change is real and will continue to get worse, this is an implicit recognition of the green house gas model. If I write a scientific paper and say that temperatures are expected to increase by 2 oC in so many years under business as usual, that it also an implicit recognition of the scientific consensus. The key point is recognizing and predicting a continuation and worsening, not (random) forces of nature. Of course, it does not hurt to point out that CO2 emissions are largely to blame.

  3. Art Richardson says:

    Too bad what you think, Commander John. The billionaires & special interests who have bought and paid for the congress says there isn’t.

  4. M Tucker says:

    “John Boulé, the former commander of the New York District, Army Corps of Engineers, warned New Yorkers to stop ignoring climate change and start preparing for higher sea level rise and more frequent and more powerful storms”

    The folks on that panel are not interested in prevention or solution they are interested in adaptation. This is the talk of the adapters. Well, let’s see you adapt your way out of 5 degrees of warming, water and food insecurity, and power failures. It’s not just the loss of utilities and infrastructure to sea level rise and more powerful storms that is a danger to New York.

  5. BobbyL says:

    I don’t understand why anyone is saying that New Yorkers should stop ignoring climate change. Are New Yorkers ignoring it? Certainly the people in government aren’t. A few years ago a sea level rise task force prepared a report on that issue and lo and behold found that if a major hurricane hit NYC the type of damage that occurred with Sandy would take place. And the state prepared a climate action plan that included both mitigation and adaptation. And NYC prepared a climate action plan for mitigation and an adaptation plan. And dozens of towns and cities around the state have been involved in doing greenhouse gas inventories. And towns in the suburbs have joined together to promote energy efficiency measures, particularly retrofitting houses. New York state is also a member of the northeast RGGI cap and trade program to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. So it hard to see how climate change is being ignored in NY.

    • prokaryotes says:

      The Story Of The Electric Car Challenge In New York City

      The Path Forward

      If Bloomberg is serious about shifting New York City’s driving public from polluting combustion engine autos to electric vehicles, enablers need to be front and center. Smart strategies will embrace both NYC residents and the city’s robust commuter base, and involve intelligently sited charging stations and parking spaces (including streetside and in garages), increased vehicle access through car-sharing programs, and demonstration that the Big Apple is prepared to walk the walk by continuing the electrification of its city and taxi fleets. http://www.earthtechling.com/2013/04/the-story-of-the-electric-car-challenge-in-new-york-city/

    • Brad Johnson, Guest Blogger says:

      The same can’t be said for New Jersey. And NYC is deliberately ignoring its biggest climate problem — Wall Street’s investment in fossil fuel production. Unless the financial carbon bubble is deflated, no amount of local energy-use or adaptation planning will amount to anything of meaning.

      • BobbyL says:

        Electing Chris Christie has put NJ into reverse. He pulled NJ out of the cap and trade program. It is the only state to leave the program which still survives despite efforts of the Koch brothers to end it. He cancelled what would have been an important rail link between NJ and NYC which would have served NJ and NYS commuters. Unless NJ voters elect a governor who is going to take be aggressive against global warming it is hard to see how NJ reverses its slide.

      • About 13% of the stock market’s value is fossil fuel companies. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many companies exist to support them. Many other companies could not exist at their present scale without them.

        When we pass the law that limits how much oil, coal, and gas can be withdrawn from the earth, the value of all these companies will plummet, even if we phase it in over 10 or 30 years. The stock market is an anticipatory mechanism, and everyone’s retirement account will take a big hit. Stranded investment is a big impediment. We’ll all be poorer, at least in the short run. That’s one big reason nobody’s eager to do what needs to be done any sooner than they perceive they must.

        Of course, we’re already ten years too late to avoid at least some permanent alteration (that is to say, damage) to the climate.

        If we don’t pass that law soon, then I agree that adaptation will probably be futile. Adaptation without concurrent, massive reductions in GHG emissions is a sophisticated form of denial. Agriculture can’t adapt to a fundamental shift and extreme volatility in rainfall and seasonality.

        So we have to find some way to convince enough people that we have to be poor to survive. That we have to embrace the Great Depression as the norm, for at least a generation. It will take sacrifice to transition to a low-carbon economy in just a decade or two.

  6. Merrelyn Emery says:

    So Koch did not want any discussion although the cause was not even mentioned, ME