Not one week after I posted about the peculiar phenomenon of climate silence during this year’s presidential debates, Hurricane Sandy ripped through the northeastern seaboard and left devastation in her path. Yesterday morning, people across the affected regions woke up to survey the damage from Tuesday’s record-smashing Hurricane Sandy. The effects of what many called “a perfect storm” were felt from the northeast to Appalachia to the Great Lakes, affecting power lines, setting fires, flooding subway systems and ultimately claiming upwards of 40 lives in the United States and Canada (NY Times). Hurricane Sandy even hit home in the Midwest; waves of record heights crashed upon the lake shore, leading authorities to warn Chicago residents to stay away from the dangerous waves (Medill). Damage is estimated at 1 billion dollars.
In my blogging course, we talk a lot about the importance of focusing our blogs and filling a niche in the blogosphere. It’s safe to assume that you, my wonderful audience reading this blog, almost certainly arrived here due to a pre-existing conviction that everyone deserves a safe and healthy environment in which to live. Through the lens of environmental justice, you most likely have accepted the following claims:
- Climate change is real (given)
- Environmental degradation affects the poor first and worst (given)
- Therefore, climate change is an issue of environmental justice (1 + 2 > 3)
Was Hurricane Sandy caused by global warming? Some scientists are wary of connecting any one weather phenomenon to climate change:
The bottom line is that climate change is unquestionably having an effect on the weather around us by raising the average temperature of the planet. This is producing warmer temperatures and very likely increasing the magnitude of droughts. However, it is a big stretch to go from there to blaming Sandy on climate change. It’s a stretch that is just not supported by science at this time. — Eric Berger, The Houston Chronicle
However, in general scientists recognize the effects of climate change on our weather systems. An article posted by Time this morning, Why We Need to Prepare for a Warmer World, is a must-read for those who care about what environmental degradation is doing to our world and the causes that exacerbate its effects, such as overpopulation and the dramatic rise of sea level around the world. Jamie Henn, contributor to 350.org writes, “If there were any poetic justice, it would be named Hurricane Chevron or Hurricane Exxon, not Hurricane Sandy.”
Yesterday, President Obama declared New York and New Jersey as emergency disaster areas, and it seems that since Hurricane Sandy they’ve put off politicking for a couple days. Perhaps Frankenstorm will successfully scare our two candidates into talking about how to deal with climate change (and not in a mocking tone, like Romney’s comments about President Obama’s promises to slow sea-level rise. Is that really such a far-fetched goal? Bill Clinton doesn’t think so).
The Time article linked above goes on to say:
We don’t demand absolute certainty before we take action in foreign policy, the economy or health. We’d be fools to wait until there’s perfect scientific consensus on the role that global warming may be playing in tropical storms before we take action to prepare for both. “Anyone who says there’s hasn’t been a dramatic change in weather patterns has been denying reality,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters today. “We need to make sure that if there is weather like this we are more prepared and protected than we have been before.”
Perhaps the storm will lead to better infrastructure and preparation that saves even more lives. If we can’t slow down global warming, particularly sea-level rise, this trend of devastating weather events will continue and we’ll need to be prepared.
In conclusion, we can only hope that something good will come out of this horrific disaster, and that the next President of the United States will stand firm in his convictions to actively fight global warming in any way we can. Stay strong, my northeast friends! You’re in the thoughts and prayers of the whole country.
Some humorous takes on Sandy (too soon?):
(“what if Gangnam style is actually a rain dance and we’ve brought this all upon ourselves?”)