By Samuel Burke, CNN
Superstorm Sandy is a sign of more things to come, says climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer.
He's been studying climate change for three decades and is a geoscience professor at Princeton University, but superstorm Sandy stunned even him.
“I knew it could happen. But until it happens to you, and hits you on the head, you don't really fully appreciate what it's like to be in a situation like this.”
Oppenheimer lives in the area of lower Manhattan still experiencing a blackout.
“I went down to the coast before the storm peaked to watch the seas rising. And even though we've predicted stuff like this in the past, it was a shock to me to see it.”
Oppenheimer said that New York City officials have been getting warnings from scientists for two decades about the potential damage from a major storm.
“We had one of these hundred-year storms in 1992, and since then, they've know the subway system could flood. They've known the power could go out. And they actually laid plans for the future, which are sensitive to global warming and the threat, but they don't have the political will to actually start moving very fast and putting anything into effect.”
Even though some of the subway stations have been raised, Oppenheimer said officials haven’t grappled with the major changes needed to safe-guard infrastructure.
As part of the rebuilding effort, he said, New York should raise subway entrances and protect roadways to prevent water from flowing in.
Oppenheimer also believes that the government should also prevent companies from building major infrastructure along the coastline, unless absolutely necessary.
He believes these goals are achievable in the U.S. because other major world cities have been able to build preventive infrastructure.
“We need to consider the more long-term and more difficult, more expensive measures, like the possibility of doing what London did, which is build a storm barrier, which is lowered when there's a big storm coming up and protects London from a Thames tidal surge.”
Oppenheimer said it will cost tens of billions of dollars and take decades to complete.
“But if you don't start now, as the world warms and these storms become more frequent, we're going to be caught out again.”