Why New York's Fate Is Sealed

James Atlas: Global warming 'is our fate'

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 25, 2012 2:55 PM CST

(Newser) – Human beings are masters of two things—engineering and denial—which likely ensure that New York City will be underwater "in 50 or 100 or 200 years," writes James Atlas in the New York Times. Experts have already warned about the effect of global warming on the city—one panel "issued a prophetic report" in 2009 with mentions of droughts, floods, and rising sea levels. "But what good are warnings?" Intelligence experts knew that terrorists wanted to hijack commercial airliners before 9/11: "Who listened?"

The problem is partly that we think of Mother Nature as an occasional pest. In Venice, for example, engineers are designing impressive underwater gates to affect rising tides—but it's merely "a stay against the inevitable," sighs Atlas. The other problem is us: "It doesn’t occur to us that we, too," will one day be thought of as "metropolitans who ... traveled beneath the waves in metal-sheathed trains." This "willed ignorance" all but ensures that New York will succumb to history: "This is our fate. All the more reason to appreciate what we have while we have it." Click for Atlas' full piece.

In this Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 file photo, MTA Vice President Joseph Leader shines a flashlight on standing water in a train station in New York in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.   (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)
In this Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, file photo, a vehicle is submerged on 14th Street near the Consolidated Edison power plant, in New York.   (AP Photo/ John Minchillo, File)
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