Meet Hurricane Sandy, brought to you by global warming.
Aerial views of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy along the New Jersey coast on October 30, 2012.
That’s a tough message to swallow right now. It means that the devastating scenes we are seeing from the Northeast are not a freak coincidence, but a reflection of our new reality on a hotter, less stable planet, and a reality that will get much worse if we don’t do something about it.
Fortunately there are things we can do, both to better prepare ourselves for more extreme weather events like Sandy, and to slow down the global warming at their root.
But whatever we do won’t matter until our politicians start getting honest about the problem.
Some are doing so. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo connected the dots in his briefing this morning:
“There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement. That is a factual statement. Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality … I said to the president kiddingly the other day we have a 100-year flood every two years now.”
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm sees the obvious too:
“There’s a clear link to climate change. And, yet, for the first time in over a quarter century, climate change was not brought up even once at the presidential debates.”
President Clinton may have drawn the sharpest, clearest connection so far, in a critique of Gov. Romney earlier today:
Clinton gets the facts slightly wrong in his scathing take-down of Gov. Romney (he made his “rising seas” joke at the RNC, not in a debate) but his point stands that Romney’s campaign has completely ignored the looming thread of climate change, and even flirted with denying it. Perhaps even worse than Romney’s joke that Clinton mentioned – one that is likely to become infamous in the post-Sandy world – is the fact that Romney’s budget proposal would cut FEMA funding by 40 %. That’s not exactly a smart resilience policy for a hotter planet with more extreme weather events.
Despite President Clinton’s praise, President Obama has also been mostly silent on the climate discussion for some time. While Obama has made strides on clean energy in his presidency, he has run a campaign almost entirely devoid of any mentions of climate change, instead trying to out-embrace Gov. Romney for who could better endear himself to the fossil fuel industry responsible for the problem in the first place.
It may feel funny to talk about politicians right now, but if we are serious about steeling ourselves for the next disaster and slowing down the global warming that’s putting these hurricanes on steroids, then part of picking up the pieces means finding out which politicians we can trust to be honest about what’s exacerbating these disasters.
That starts with the next president. Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney will likely both be talking about Sandy this week: it’s a good chance for them to show they’ll be one of the politicians who gets it.