The winds of chance and the hurricanes of disaster: FDR

E.J. Dionne, the voice of liberalism on National Public Radio and in the Washington Post, in his admiring column on Barack Obama's second inaugural address, points out that — like FDR before him, not to mention Ronald Reagan — the re-elected President unapologetically laid out his agenda, and linked it to that of the Founding Fathers. 

But along the way Dionne quotes a fascinating passage from FDR's second inaugural address:

We of the Republic sensed the truth that democratic government has innate capacity to protect its people against disasters once considered inevitable, to solve problems once considered unsolvable… We refused to leave the problems of our common welfare to be solved by the winds of chance and the hurricanes of disaster.

"The winds of chance, and the hurricanes of disaster" is a phrase that resonates especially seventy-six years later, after Sandy, and in light of stories such as the latest masterpiece from the New York Times on sea-level rise (a must read for anyone interested in the subject). 

Consider this: 

The question [of sea level rise] has taken on new urgency in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which caused coastal flooding that scientists say was almost certainly worsened by the modest rise of sea level over the past century. That kind of storm tide, the experts say, could become routine along American coastlines by late in this century if the ocean rises as fast as they expect.

In previous research, scientists have determined that when the earth warms by only a couple of degrees Fahrenheit, enough polar ice melts, over time, to raise the global sea level by about 25 to 30 feet. But in the coming century, the earth is expected to warm more than that, perhaps four or five degrees, because of human emissions of greenhouse gases.

Experts say the emissions that may make a huge increase of sea level inevitable are expected to occur in just the next few decades. They fear that because the world’s coasts are so densely settled, the rising oceans will lead to a humanitarian crisis lasting many hundreds of years.

Just to casually drop that in, a "humanitarian crisis lasting hundreds of years!" Jeez. Or consider this story, another from today, on a new study about melting in the Arctic:

FRISCO — German scientists say they’ve discovered another positive global warming feedback which could cause Arctic sea ice to melt faster than anticipated. During recent research expeditions in the Arctic they’re observed a large number of melt ponds on the surface, covering about half of the one-year ice.

“The ice cover of the Arctic Ocean has been undergoing fundamental change for some years. Thick, multi-year ice is virtually nowhere to be found any more,” said Marcel Nicolaus, of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research.

“Instead, more than 50 percent of the ice cover now consists of thin one-year ice on which the melt water is particularly widespread. The decisive aspect here is the smoother surface of this young ice, permitting the melt water to spread over large areas and form a network of many individual melt ponds,” Nicolaus said.

We can't know today if OBama's brave words will be matched by federal and perhaps international action(s); and, if they are, if those actions will be enough to save our coastal cities.

But his refusal to leave us to the winds of chance; well, funnily, I have yet to hear criticism of that effort. To, you know, save us.

I've heard plenty of criticism — for his confrontational tone, for wanting to expand government — but not of the desire to avert climate disaster. See this discussion on FOX News as evidence

Meltpond

[Pic of expanding meltponds in the Arctic from the scientists leading the study]

Related articles

Obama's unapologetic inaugural address
Why Arctic Sea Ice Melts So Quickly
Tomgram: Bill McKibben, Time Is Not on Our Side
Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: A historic Inaugural address

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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