Featured Story

Suffolk Closeup: Time and tide

Long Island is ranked fourth for “highest chronic physical risk among the 100 most populous areas” in the United States for the impacts of climate change. So says a just-issued report of Moody’s Analytics.

The Number One area threatened is San Francisco, then Cape Coral, Fla., then New York City, and then Long Island.

“The most at-risk metro areas are predominantly coastal,” says the 14-page report. “The New York City area and Florida are especially vulnerable, but parts of the Eastern Seaboard and California are,too.”

A section titled “Housing” is a main issue in the report by Moody’s Analytics, a subsidiary of the Moody’s Corporation, a business and financial services company.

Moody’s Analytics does economic research including about risks, and describes itself as providing “financial intelligence and analytical tools to help business leaders make better, faster decisions.”

“Rising temperatures mean more frequent and severe natural disasters that could destroy homes and spark out-migration from some areas,” says the report. “Similarly, enough disasters will eventually force insurers to abandon markets they deem too risky; this has already happened in some parts of the country, including much of Florida, forcing the public sector to step in. That practice, however, will be difficult to sustain and could eventually compel more people to move out of areas that become classified as uninsurable. Similarly, while there is a strong tendency today to rebuild after natural disasters, a lack of insurance and government funding could make that far less palatable in the future.”

States the report: “The importance of accounting for climate change will only grow for the banking system and corporate decision-makers.”

A storm-driven high tide battering the bulkhead in front of The Pridwin. (Reporter file)

In an interview last week in Newsday, Adam Kamins, a Moody’s Analytics senior director and author of the report, said: “With sea level rise, Long Island is a lot more exposed than the rest of the country for obvious reasons.” He continued: “Combined with acute physical risk associated with hurricanes, which are expected — especially if climate change goes largely unmitigated — to grow stronger, most frequent and to make their way north,” this “puts Long Island in a vulnerable position.”

“Retreat is not an option,” declares a Floridian in a voice-over at the end of a TV documentary aired nationally in December titled, “Brink of Disaster Miami Sinking.”

A focus of the program, broadcast on the Science Channel, is how Miami and most of South Florida have been built on top of porous limestone. That’s a sponge for inundation and flooding, it says, and thus climate change and ensuing sea-level rise and storm surge could be put the area under water.

The finest book I know about what all the vulnerable coastal areas face from climate change is “Retreat from a Rising Sea: Hard Decisions in an Age of Climate Change.” It was published by Columbia University Press in 2016. Its three authors are Dr. Orrin H. Pilkey, a leading expert on coastal impacts of climate change, professor emeritus in the Division of Ocean Sciences at Duke University, and his daughter, Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, a geologist, and son, Keith C. Pilkey, an attorney.

They state: “Our dependence on fossil fuels has in part brought us to this place, causing a chain of events that warms the atmosphere, which in turn warms and expands the oceans, melts glaciers and ice sheets, and consequently raises the seas …

“The deniers of climate change and sea-level rise continue to have a voice that seems to grow weaker with each superstorm. But a closer look shows that the deniers provide a façade of credibility for a host of politicians who contrive to ignore the rising sea. Deniers have vested interests most related to the fossil-fuel industries in confusing us and hereby delaying regulatory action …

“Greed and selfishness are often part of decisions to protect property at the price of beach destruction. In Southampton, New York, several beachfront billionaires are building massive walls to protect their individual homes, despite the community’s opposition.”

Why move back? Why retreat? To these questions they say: “As the sea level rises, the replenishment sand will become less stable, will erode faster, and will have to be replenished more frequently, and the cost will rise exponentially. Seawalls built on eroding beaches will eventually cause the loss of the beach …” The 212-page book concludes: “There is not the slightest doubt that beachfront development will retreat on a massive scale, although widespread recognition of this and serious planning for it are lacking. In the meantime, until the problem becomes so obvious that even the most dedicated denier must give in, more local actions can be taken. First and foremost, building density should not increase, and large buildings (high-rises) must be prohibited. Good planning could include preserving space on the mainland to which buildings could be moved. New roads and other infrastructure should be placed as high and far away from the shoreline as feasible. Disincentives to expand or stay in place must be applied … Neither time or tide is in our favor.”