We need bigger charts

*This article was written as a Letter to the Editor at The Washington Post in reference to the online article “This is how an ‘off-the-charts’ flood ravaged Ellicott City.”


Climate change is here with us today. It is not the epic worldwide catastrophe that global warming can sometimes be described as. Rather, it often takes its form in quick snapshots of chaos such as the biblical flooding Saturday night in Ellicott City.

Scientists warn us that as concentrations of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere continue to rise, so will the occurrence of natural disasters such as flash-flooding. Essentially, this thousand-year rainfall event covered in the August 1st article, “This is how an ‘off-the-charts’ flood ravaged Ellicott City”, is becoming way more normal.

In the 21st Century, our beloved townships with their historic districts and quaint Americana are vulnerable to a stranger and more temperamental climate. We already know that we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to mitigate further climate change. Simultaneously, however, our cities and infrastructure also must adapt to climate impacts. We are responsible for making them more resilient to once uncommon weather events that are becoming far likelier.

This climate challenge is a climate opportunity, however. Creating resilient cities puts Americans to work and fosters an inclusive sense of community. Yet still, we must be realistic about where we stand among the facts of a new and unruly climate.  As we experience more and more “off-the-charts” storms, let’s get real and draw up new charts. And new city plans while we are at it.