The biggest immigration problem we face today is not the influx of Mexicans across our southern border. After all, many of these men, women, and children are coming to America for the same reason our parents or grandparents did – to provide a better life for the next generation.
The entry of Middle Eastern refugees is not our biggest immigration problem, either. Like my grandparents, and perhaps yours, they are looking for a safe haven where they may practice their religion openly and also improve the lives of their progeny.
So what is the biggest immigration problem we face? It’s the immigration of flood waters from our oceans onto our homes, places of work, and our recreation areas. And while sea levels have risen and fallen over the past eons, there is little doubt among reputable scientists that this problem is being exacerbated by humanity’s insatiable lust for energy.
In an article in today’s New York Times, it is clear that flooding caused by global warming is not a 100 year problem. It’s a problem we face today. It’s a problem that manifests itself more directly in places like Louisiana and Virginia, but the recent devastation caused by Hurricanes Irene and Sandy demonstrate that New Jersey is not immune from the ravages of anthropogenic climate change. And it’s not going to get better if we stay on the current policy trajectory.
When (if?) the history books are written about the physical and economic damage of climate change, the Republican Party, especially those in the United States Congress like Scott Garrett, will rightfully be treated in the same manner as the heliocentric deniers during the age of Copernicus. Front and center of those scorned will be Governor Chris Christie, who is an intelligent man and should know better. It will take many decades and an enlightened state government to undo the damage his actions will exacerbate to our 130 miles of shoreline and 1800 miles of inland waterways prone to flooding – flooding due to sea level rise and more powerful hurricanes.
Making a comprehensive solution more difficult is the fact that our patchwork system of government – counties, state, and federal – is often working toward different goals.
When this nation goes to war, we don’t send state militias at the whim of the 50 governors. We have a unified federal response. Well, we are in a war today – a war against the rapidly accelerating changes that we have made to our fragile planet. At a minimum, the federal government needs to be empowered to impose strict (and yes, painful) restrictions on dirty energy, and have an all-out campaign to satisfy our energy needs without killing our children. But the real solution is a global one – the recent agreement between the U.S. and Chinese government (the world’s two largest polluters) is a good but small start.