A lot of us have been wondering what it would take to finally get the rest of the world to come on board with the reality of climate change. It appears we passed that point this past week with Hurricane Sandy. At long last.
A pity that it took a global-warming fueled superstorm slamming into one of our biggest cities, with loss of life expected to top 100 deaths and damage estimates ranging up to$100 billion and higher. But maybe now we can start seriously dealing with it.
The charge was led by Bloomberg Business, which ran the unequivocal cover story in their Businessweek magazine, “It’s Climate Change, Stupid!”. And it spilled over into the presidential election, with network founder Michael Bloomberg, now Mayor of a waterlogged New York City, endorsing President Obama for re-election specifically because he would do better on the issue of climate.
Yes, yes, it’s unsophisticated to blame any given storm on climate change. Men and women in white lab coats tell us—and they’re right—that many factors contribute to each severe weather episode. Climate deniers exploit scientific complexity to avoid any discussion at all.
Clarity, however, is not beyond reach. Hurricane Sandy demands it…
Eric Pooley, senior vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund (and former deputy editor of Bloomberg Businessweek), offers a baseball analogy: “We can’t say that steroids caused any one home run by Barry Bonds, but steroids sure helped him hit more and hit them farther. Now we have weather on steroids.”
Business can’t deal with dogma. It won’t survive. And that goes for the insurance industry more than any other; insurance is built on reality as measured via statistics.
On Oct. 17 the giant German reinsurance company Munich Re issued a prescient report titled Severe Weather in North America. Globally, the rate of extreme weather events is rising, and “nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.
…Global warming “particularly affects formation of heat waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity,”
And climate change has not been an issue in the campaign. Shouted down by the right, President Obama decided to keep his global-warming achievements out of the spotlight. And that’s a problem.
The issue was MIA during the presidential debates and, regardless of who wins on Nov. 6, is unlikely to appear on the near-term congressional calendar. After Sandy, that seems insane.
Writing at the National Review, Jay Nordlinger calls any link between Sandy and climate change “crude propaganda”, adding, “I’m not sure the Left is ever so maddening, and mad, as when they talk about the weather…”
Still, as Barrett pointed out,
On Aug. 30, [Romney] belittled his opponent’s vow to arrest climate change, made during the 2008 presidential campaign. “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet,” Romney told the Republican National Convention in storm-tossed Tampa. “My promise is to help you and your family.” Two months later, in the wake of Sandy, submerged families in New Jersey and New York urgently needed some help dealing with that rising-ocean stuff.
Bloomberg’s more savvy green New York readers will probably agree. And most of the rest of the country seems to be catching up.
In truth, what’s lacking in America’s approach to climate change is not the resources to act but the political will to do so. A Pew Research Center poll conducted in October found that two-thirds of Americans say there is “solid evidence” the earth is getting warmer. That’s down 10 points since 2006. Among Republicans, more than half say it’s either not a serious problem or not a problem at all.
Such numbers reflect the success of climate deniers in framing action on global warming as inimical to economic growth. This is both shortsighted and dangerous. The U.S. can’t afford regular Sandy-size disruptions in economic activity. To limit the costs of climate-related disasters, both politicians and the public need to accept how much they’re helping to cause them.
Read the whole thing here….