Hurricane Sandy, Climate Change & Our Politics
Hurricane Sandy was a tragic event that killed more than 100 people and may end up costing the economy as much as $50 BILLION. Unfortunately, Sandy is not the first and won’t be the last extreme weather event that is fueled by climate change.
Our colleagues at the Center for American Progress put out a report today on climate change and extreme weather events. The whole thing is worth reading, and has an interactive map with each county identified that was affected by at least one severe extreme weather disaster in 2011 or 2012. but just take a look this chart of the most destructive events to get a sense of what extreme weather events are already costing the U.S. just in the last two years. Nearly 1,000 people dead, and $116 billion in damages:
Conservatives argue that reducing our carbon pollution is too expensive, but it’s clear that we can’t afford not to take action on climate change.
Sandy has been so horrific an event that even the media, which has been notoriously bad at covering climate change, has taken notice of the connection between our warming world and extreme weather events like Sandy. For example, here’s the provocative cover of this week’s Bloomberg Businessweek:
Unlike in the 2008 election, only one major presidential candidate — Barack Obama — actually even believes in climate change. During the Republican primary, Mitt Romney came out as a climate science denier. And during his acceptance speech at the RNC, Romney famously mocked the president for wanting to tackle climate change — something that earned him a rebuke from President Clinton earlier this week.
During an event in Virginia today, Romney stood by silently as a protester confronted him on climate change.
MAN: Romney! What about climate? That’s what caused this monster storm! Climate change!
CROWD: BOO! USA! USA! USA!
In addition to opposing action on climate change, Mitt Romney also has curious views on federal disaster relief spending. Just last year, Romney said federal spending on disaster relief was “immoral” and suggested that we privatize the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Finally, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. who endorsed George W. Bush in 2004 and did not endorse in 2008, endorsed President Obama today, primarily citing climate change:
The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast – in lost lives, lost homes and lost business – brought the stakes of Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief.
The floods and fires that swept through our city left a path of destruction that will require years of recovery and rebuilding work. And in the short term, our subway system remains partially shut down, and many city residents and businesses still have no power. In just 14 months, two hurricanes have forced us to evacuate neighborhoods – something our city government had never done before. If this is a trend, it is simply not sustainable.
Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be – given this week’s devastation – should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.
But we can’t do it alone. We need leadership from the White House – and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. His administration also has adopted tighter controls on mercury emissions, which will help to close the dirtiest coal power plants (an effort I have supported through my philanthropy), which are estimated to kill 13,000 Americans a year.
Bloomberg also knocked Romney for his lurch rightward on the issue, adding that we need “determined leadership determined leadership at the national level to move the nation and the world forward.”
(It’s also worth noting that Bloomberg also pointed to sharp differences between Romney and Obama on women’s health and marriage equality, saying he “want[s] our president to be on the right side of history.”)
BOTTOM LINE: As Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events vividly illustrate, we simply cannot afford to wait any longer to take decisive action to reduce the amount of carbon pollution we are putting into the atmosphere.