There were a great many institutional failures that made Sandy worse than it had to be. In retrospect, Mayor Bloomberg should perhaps have been worried more about the readiness of the city’s hospitals than the salt content of its snack foods. His obsession with Big Gulps, in the context of this destruction, is both hilarious and horrifying. Perhaps there was nothing that could have been done to prevent the flooding of the tunnels and the collapse of the electrical supply, but surely a great deal of capital and energy that were directed toward trivial pursuits good for very little other than generating headlines would have been better deployed toward the unglamorous but necessary work of ensuring that low-lying coastal cities are sufficiently inured to the threats posed by hurricanes and other common, inevitable events. New York City is many things: over-engineered against hurricanes is not one of them.
Resources are scarce. Even if we take at face value the entirety of the anthropogenic-global-warming hypothesis, it is extraordinarily unlikely that U.S. policies would succeed in halting or reversing that trend in a world in which China, India, and the rest of the developing world have made it plain that they will not reduce emissions under any foreseeable circumstances. Global-warming hysteria is a fashion, and it is exciting to a certain sort of person. Tunnel-improvement projects do not have the sex appeal of a global climate crusade, but they represent a more prudent use of our capital, both political and real. It would not be accurate to say that this hysteria serves no one, but Al Gore’s fortune is not in obvious need of further supplementation, and we did not believe Barack Obama’s promise of halting the oceans’ rise the first time around.