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NASA Nailed It

Six years ago, scientists at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York warned the city of the vulnerability to hurricane impacts in a changing climate.

It was calculated that with a 1.5 foot rise in sea levels, a worst-case-scenario Category 3 hurricane could submerge the vast majority of the city, including “the Rockaways, Coney Island, much of southern Brooklyn and Queens, portions of Long Island City, Astoria, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, lower Manhattan, and eastern Staten Island from Great Kills Harbor north to the Verrazano Bridge.”

These findings came on the heels of the release of the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, which while important and momentous, cashed in on the fear of American citizens and effectively used scare tactics to persuade viewers. As a result, the proverbial thunder was stolen from the NASA GISS study, and citizens felt as if they were well-enough-versed with the dangers of climate change to combat them. Unfortunately, as we know now, that was not the case, especially in the federal government.

The problem with issuing a statement in which future, looming dangers are the focus is the majority of citizens are short-sighted, and justifiably so: at the time, the country was facing a terrible economy, two foreign conflicts which resources were being funneled to, a housing crisis, a credit crisis, all on top of daily life activities. The future just wasn’t a priority for people—the present was difficult enough. Consequently, it was difficult for combating climate change to gain both social and political traction.

NASA GISS was proven correct when Hurricane Sandy made landfall, in what is certainly a bittersweet moment, likely more bitter than sweet. Southern Manhattan reportedly received a 13.88-foot storm surge, a record high and more than enough to flood the city, and the devastation of New York City has been shocking. It seems to be agreed upon that it is too late to fully combat climate change, but steps (likely federal policy) can be taken to prevent a 1.5 meter rise in sea levels surrounding New York City by 2100, and a future where the climate will cripple modern society.

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