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After Hurricane Sandy, What Can Manhattan Learn from the Maldives? After Hurricane Sandy, What Can Manhattan Learn from the Maldives?

After Hurricane Sandy, What Can Manhattan Learn from the Maldives?

by Dave Burdick
November 3, 2012

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has endorsed President Barack Obama, saying that Hurricane Sandy caused him to think more carefully about which candidate would more aggressively combat the effects of climate change (in a less-than-gushing endorsement column).

Folks have a lot to say about climate change and Hurricane Sandy—and are trying to do so in delicate ways so as to avoid the annoying sideshow stuff—but here's the quickest, dirtiest summary, via a quote in Bloomberg Businessweek (check out their cover, by the way): "Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is the storm stronger because of climate change? Yes."

Given his newfound reprioritization of issues, Mayor Mike might also want to check out "The Island President," the documentary about Mohammed Nasheed, the resigned (under threat of violence) president of the Maldives. That nation of more than 1,000 islands with an elevation no higher than eight feet above sea level, is in danger of being completely underwater due to rising sea levels within the next 100 years

The Maldives aren't the only islands in danger. We've known about the dangers to Manhattan for some time. Here are 2007 maps predicting what would happen in Sandy-like flooding. Here's a New York Times story from a month ago giving voice to people saying that New York was moving too slow in addressing environmental concerns that could cripple the city. And a story that kicks off with: "The warnings came, again and again."

That's mostly referring to disaster flooding, but it all serves to illustrate the point that, even knowing what's coming—even with real-life cases like the Maldives, slowly "sinking" into the ocean—we're having a hard time coming to grips with the idea of "Maldives today, Manhattan tomorrow."

It would be tough to relocate the nation of Maldives, but maybe tougher for Manhattan, which has some pretty serious development along that coastline:

There are 10 emergency service stations, 19 colleges, nearly 500 schools, 23 hospitals, 57 nursing homes, 17 power plants, and 13 wastewater treatment plants located along the coast of New York City.

Also on the Manhattan coast is the financial district where Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange are located, which means New York's extra hurricane vulnerability isn't just a problem for the Big Apple but for the world's financial community as well.

Bloomberg, the Island Mayor, would seem to have a lot more ability to do something about the effects of climate change than Nasheed, given that he's not likely to be violently deposed. He appears to have taken a step today. What steps will the president take? And Congress? And business?

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

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