Posted by | November 27, 2010 16:18 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

The New York Times has a fascinating story about rising tides in Norfolk, Virginia and the reaction of local residents.

Many Norfolk residents hope their problems will serve as a warning.

“We are the front lines of climate change,” said Jim Schultz, a science and technology writer who lives on Richmond Crescent…No one who has a house here is a skeptic.”

Now, I’m the first one to mock climate skeptics when they use a cold winter as evidence that climate change is not happening.  As the popular saying goes, “the plural of anecdote is not data.”  So why do rising tides in Virginia mean more than a cold winter?  The main reason is that it fits exactly with the predictions of the vast majority of climate scientists (much like their prediction of more extreme weather events).

The other reason that a story like this is important is that it highlights the irreversibility of climate change.  If the vast majority of scientists are wrong about climate change then there will be large economic consequences from acting on it.  Those are definitely significant and a reason we should be thoughtful about our response to the threat of climate change.  However if the vast majority of scientists are right, then the consequence of doing nothing is that Norfolk and many communities like it will disappear.

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Copyright 2010 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.