In my neck of the woods, just north of Boston, we got pretty lucky during Hurricane Sandy’s barrage. After the downing of a few tree branches and a couple of hours without power, our lives are back to normal. I’m extremely thankful for this and am regularly thinking about those communities that weren’t so lucky. People in New York City and several cities and towns throughout the state of New Jersey are still cleaning up from the damage and will most likely be doing so for quite some time. My heart goes out to them.
Unfortunately, many meteorologists and scientists fear that storms like this one are bound to become more and more prevalent due to global climate change. Rising temperatures mean increased moisture in the atmosphere and rising sea levels. Increased atmospheric moisture has the tendency to increase the intensity of storms – leading to exponentially more rainfall. And rising sea levels put more coastal residents at risk of flooding; especially residents on the eastern coast of the United States where sea levels are rising three to four times faster than the global average. All of this means that “frankenstorms” like Sandy could be impacting Americans (and beyond) more regularly and more severely.
Today, on day four after Sandy, amid the storm damage coverage is a storm of political advertisements, accusations, testimonies, and general mudslinging. (Sidenote: did everyone see this? I feel much the same.) Election season is in full swing and for the time being, attention has been pulled away from national debt and the economy, the war in Afghanistan, abortion rights and tax reform. For the first time, climate change is being pulled into the conversation, and neither candidate seems thrilled about it.
The truth is, though, scientists and meteorologists are forced to talk about it. As are governors and mayors of cities and towns that stand to lose the most. I was struck just this morning by a news clip of Andrew Cuomo in New York City discussing his concern for the future of strong weather in NYC and the need for levees and storm walls. He went so far as to attribute Sandy and what he expects will be future catastrophic weather events to climate change – something NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg would not stretch to discuss.
While storms like Hurricane Sandy are extremely unfortunate, our political and economic climate has a history of avoiding productive discussions pertaining to climate change. Sandy inserted herself into this election and it may be just what it takes to get politicians speaking about the raw truth of rising water levels and increasing atmospheric moisture. Plans must be made. Legitimate efforts to reduce greenhouse gases are required. Sandy will be on my mind this election day. What about you?