Blizzards in the time of Trump

It was just a little over a year ago that Connecticut was awarded tens of millions of federal dollars aimed at helping the state prepare for coastal flooding and climate change.

A big part of that money went to Bridgeport, where some coastal neighborhoods have experienced persistent serious flooding, especially during storms Sandy and Irene.

Stonington got a small slice, $150,000, for a comprehensive study of coastal resiliency.

Stonington groups concerned about climate change and town officials moved quickly then to secure that money, which was used to hire consultants who have begun to identify the highest local risks of rising sea levels and potential remediation.

First Selectman Rob Simmons has, to his credit, been a prominent and vocal advocate for this planning. That’s commendable, because the risks for the town are clear and sobering.

New flood maps for Stonington done by the consultants, illustrating the effects of rising sea waters, show major shoreline regions of the town, including much of Mystic and Stonington Borough, often under water in the decades to come this century.

You need only drive along the Mystic River during a high tide to see the reality of a flood-drenched future.

By 2050, the chance of extensive annual flooding in downtown Mystic reaches 50 percent. Yikes. It’s almost as bad even as soon as 2030, according to the flooding prediction maps.

I was curious, though, to hear the first selectman, in a recent news story about imagined improvements to the Stonington breakwater to protect the vulnerable and low-lying portions of Stonington Borough, including a wastewater treatment plant, say he was looking forward to more federal money to help.

Simmons, a Trump supporter, should know better than any of us that federal money to plan for and prepare for climate change and rising sea levels is a thing of the past, a quaint reminder of the Obama era. I don’t see a drop of federal money anytime soon to become available to “harden” the Stonington breakwater and help make it a better defense again rising sea levels. There might be a will to help at the state level, but no money.

Indeed, as we contemplate the horribles of the new Trump era, from the persecution of the undocumented to pulling the plug on health care for millions of Americans, the impact of climate change denial does seem less pressing.

But here in coastal Connecticut, the combination of abandoning efforts to reduce carbon emissions to rolling back efforts to prepare for rising sea levels, eventually will be devastating.

The strange March weather this week is certainly another harbinger of the dangers to come.

I know we dodged, especially in shoreline Connecticut, the worst of the blizzard predictions, with much more rain than snow driven in by those howling winds.

And I know there is not much use in repeating the warnings of scientists to climate change deniers in the Trump camp.

But there has indeed been ample warning from meteorologists and climatologists, for those of us who still believe in science, that global warming is likely to bring more blizzards rather than fewer, as much as that may be counterintuitive.

Winters may become shorter. But when it is cold enough to snow, it could snow more because increasing temperatures mean more moisture in the air.

That was the explanation for Connecticut’s big blizzard of 2016. It was reprised this week, as Connecticut prepared for a strange and unusual weather blow after a warm winter season.

These may be the most portentous storms for low-lying, vulnerable coastal Connecticut in the time of Trump.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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