You are 50 miles from your final destination. You left western Massachusetts with a near-full tank of gas. You planned on refueling in southern Connecticut, but every station you’ve passed is empty.
You surge forward into New York state. The opportunity to refuel decreases sharply with each exit you pass. Every few exits, the needle drops lower. You have enough gas to make it to Morristown, but what then? Will normalcy be restored by Sunday, or will the shortages have worsened?
You consider trying an alternate route. If you drive far enough from the highway, you might have some luck. But if that doesn’t work, you’re stuck. Far from home, far from your destination, out of fuel.
Do you turn back now, or continue on?
We turned around when, about 40 miles from the convention, we realized that one tank of gas could get us in, but not out, of Morristown. We had been forewarned about fuel shortages in northern New Jersey, but we had not anticipated the scale of the problem. When electricity was restored, everyone ran to refuel at once. Northern New Jersey ran out of fuel, so Jersey folks set off for southern New York; southern New York ran out of fuel, and New Yorkers set out for Connecticut. And so on and so forth…
This road trip was a sobering experience; a reminder that climate change is not a problem of the future. If you live in one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, then you’ve seen the damage yourself. The storm left more than 8 million homes without power, canceled nearly 20,000 flights, and has caused an estimated $50 billion in damage. This weekend, more than 900,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey were still without electricity.
As power is restored throughout metropolitan areas, impatient drivers are piling into long lines for fuel. On our drive through north Jersey, the only serviceable gas station we passed had at least 50 cars lined up, drivers waiting and glaring.
Across the country, the effect of climate change will vary regionally. Everywhere, there will be a marked increase in extreme weather events. These will taken the form of storms, floods, droughts, heat waves, and a colorful mashup of other unpredictable “acts of God.”
What this means for the future of this country – for the future of this planet – is beyond the scope of this piece. I can’t predict the full impact of climate change, nor do I know how quickly certain changes will take place.
This is what I can say: This weekend, climate change impacted your community. If you did not personally feel the impact, you weren’t looking.