Changing for Climate Change

By Thzaira Charles, P.E., Director, NSBE Environmental Special Interest Group

With public officials from the mayor of New York City to the president of the United States pointing to its ultimate cause, Superstorm Sandy is probably the most public reminder to date that climate change is real. However, as destructive as it was in the New York City and New Jersey areas, Sandy was only an introduction to a “new normal” of increasingly powerful weather events. Some of these, such as epic snowstorms, may be difficult for the average person to tie to “global warming.”

Storm preparedness at an unprecedented level is now essential and must go beyond stocking up on generators, flashlights, food and water. Governments must prepare public infrastructure: for inundation by saltwater that may cause corrosion, for example, or for flash flooding in areas previously unaffected by floods. Investments are now required that will make post-storm repairs possible in days or weeks as opposed to months or years. Budgets must be increased to harden our infrastructure, so it can be repaired rather than having to be replaced after a storm.

And our plans must go beyond storm preparedness. Nearly everyone now agrees that climate change can be traced to carbon emissions, most of which result from power generation. With Asian and South American countries either entering or well immersed in industrial revolutions, and many African nations also poised for rapid industrial growth, the demand for power is increasing worldwide. We need to consider what we can do to reduce climate change, through worldwide initiatives. We need to think about and develop greener alternatives in power generation and transmission. Rather than battling the effects of carbon emissions, which are fueling climate change, we need to work with sources of power that provide what people need without causing further harm to our environment.

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