A View from Our Dystopian Future

Let me apologize first of all for late start of blogging. But there is a pretty good story behind it.

Yesterday, after a day of intense heat that hit 104 F, shattering the DC record for hottest June day by two degrees, and humidity so thick you could have cut it into bricks and dropped it on the Colorado wildfires, a sudden storm came in from the west at high speed.

I was having some beers in downtown with a couple friends, and when we left for home everything was hot and dead still, with no sign of a storm. Five stops on the Metro later, it was raining buckets and blowing like a mad thing, gusting up to 80 mph according to later reports. Power failed all across the DC metro region, with 1.5 million homes affected, including mine. Thus I’ve spent the last several hours scrambling around Silver Spring, trying to find a cafe that wasn’t swarming with half of Maryland’s IT professional population.

Anyway, to make a policy observation, this is particularly vivid example of what we’ll be dealing with in the future as climate change gets worse and worse, and of the utter stupidity of failing to deal with it. Environmentalism is typically portrayed, especially by Republicans, as being somehow in tension with long-term economic growth, as if “the environment” is a kind of luxury good that we can only afford when times are good. That might be sort of true when it comes to things like national parks. But steaming hot temperatures, sudden, spectacularly violent storms, and rapid swings from drought to flooding are not just inconvenient, they’re terrifically expensive.

We have two choices. Make some fairly expensive but easily within our grasp investment now, or pay dramatically more as storms like last night’s rip apart our infrastructure, and rising seas drown many of our cities:

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Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper is Washington correspondent for The Week.