Media bigwigs that have ignored climate change throughout the presidential campaign, like NBC News’s Chuck Todd and Brian Williams, finally brought it up during their coverage of Sandy, even in simplistic, passing references. The New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof broke his silence, too, but delivered a more detailed, compelling article—with hardly a word of exaggeration. That’s progress.
But in New York City, at least, climate change as been part of the conversation since 2007, when Bloomberg released his longterm “green” development plan, PlanNYC. It set a goal of reducing citywide greenhouse-gas emissions, which cause global warming, by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and there has been slow, but steady progress toward meeting that target. Obviously, that’s not enough to ensure the city’s safety, however, and critics have been saying for years that in addition to carbon pollution, Bloomberg needs to address other bad habits as well.
“There are many reasons why the city is adaptation-averse, and, of course, they start with real-estate interests,” Wayne Barrett wrote in The Village Voice in 2007, pointing out that some of the city’s biggest development projects were located within the danger zone on the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s (FEMA) 100-year floodplain map.
It’s great to see climate change making inroads in the national conversation about extreme weather, and one hopes that the media will continue to emphasize its role with the same urgency that Businessweek did. But splashy covers, and the articles they tout, usually don’t paint a full picture. And our love of beachfront property is the type of important consideration that gets lost when we blame disasters like Sandy on global warming alone, and don’t pause to consider how we increase our vulnerability in other ways, too.
Clarification: A sentence in the second paragraph of this article that read, “Sandy was a reason to be concerned about global warming, not, as the magazine’s cover suggested, a manifestation of global warming itself,” was deleted and replaced with another for clarity. In addition, a reference to Munich Re’s report being the “first time” the company had presented evidence of a climate change signal in disaster losses was deleted.