Friday, September 23, 2016

Amitav Ghosh is criticized for his book on WRITING THE UNIMAGINABLE (see reader comment below)

Amitav Ghosh is criticized for his book on WRITING THE UNIMAGINABLE (see reader comment below)


Starting a discussion...

Mr. Ghosh, among others, has misunderstood the situation in Bangladesh with respect to climate change. A 2014 peer-reviewed article in "Climate Risk Management" by Hugh Brammer addresses this. "Bangladesh’s dynamic coastal regions and sea-level rise".
His introduction is to the point..."There is a widespread misconception that a rising sea-level with global warming will overwhelm Bangladesh’s coastal area contour by contour and will thereby displace as many as 10–30 million people in the 21st century e.g., (Gore, 2009; Houghton, 2009). In some accounts, that situation will be aggravated by high rates of land subsidence (Syvitski et al., 2009), a recent doubling of the rate of sea-level rise (Smith, 2012) and rapid, on-going rates of coastal erosion (Vidal, 2013a,b). The accounts given to-date imply that the Bangladeshi people are helpless against a rising sea-level and will be unable to resist the rising water. Those assumptions and descriptions are incorrect. Bangladesh’s coastal area is not uniform, nor is it static. It is dynamic, and so are the people of Bangladesh."
Mr. Ghosh describes Hurricane Sandy as improbable and unprecedented. This is another misunderstanding. A hurricane called "The Long Island Express" devastated the same region in 1938. Wikipedia has described it...
"Hurricane Sandy not the first to hit New York: A 1938 storm 'The Long Island Express' pounded the Eastern Seaboard. The storm formed near the coast of Africa in September of the 1938 hurricane season, becoming a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane scale before making landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on Long Island on September 21. Long Island was struck first, before New England, Vermont, New Hampshire and Quebec, earning the storm the nickname the ‘Long Island Express’. The winds reached up to 150 mph and had waves surging to around 25–35 feet high.[The destruction was immense and took a while to rebuild. The western side of the hurricane caused sustained tropical storm-force winds, high waves, and storm surge along much of the New Jersey coast. In Atlantic City the surge destroyed much of the boardwalk. Additionally, the surge inundated several coastal communities; Wildwood was under 3 feet (0.91 m) of water at the height of the storm. The maximum recorded wind gust was 70 m.p.h. at Sandy Hook.
In 1938 (one of the warmest years on record in the US) this extreme weather event might have been improbable and unprecedented, but not today.
A point to be made? Will authors years from now ask if the unimaginable was our lack of appreciation for historical climatology, our rush to a "settled science" and a misguided attempt to mitigate the climate quickly with improbable technology? Have we learned nothing from our experiences in the 1960s and 70s?

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