Klaus Jacob is a true Cassandra. In the fall of 2011, the Columbia University scientist led a research team that drafted a case study estimating the effects of a 100-year storm surge on New York’s multi-billion dollar transportation infrastructure. Jacob told anyone who would listen that the combination of rising seas and a particularly powerful storm could wreck the city’s trains and subways, flooding tunnels and submerging above ground equipment. As it turns out, that’s exactly what happened when Superstorm Sandy hit New York at the end of October. The subways were out of commission for days, and it took weeks before a system that serves millions of commuters was fully back online. The good news is that, thanks in part to Jacob’s warnings, New York officials shut down the subway system more than a day before Sandy made landfall, limiting the worst of the damage. But if we really want to listen to Jacob, we need to invest in what it takes to climate proof New York’s rails and roads—and fight back against the climate change that will only make those storms worse.
Next E.L. James