PolluterWatch Blog

Call Hurricane Sandy a freak storm. Or call it what it is-climate change.

Written by Cassady Sharp, crossposted from Greenpeace blogs.

Climate change is now changing the weather. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be [1]. The past few years have been marked by unusually severe extreme weather characteristic of climate change [2].

Hurricane Sandy grew to record size as it headed north eastwards along the US coast. Less than 48 hours before it was due to make landfall Sandy's tropical storm-force winds extended north eastwards 520 miles from the centre. Since records of storm size began in 1988, only one tropical storm or hurricane has been larger--Tropical Storm Olga of 2001 [3] . New York and New Jersey suffer the brunt of the damage and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has certainly noticed the pattern in his state giving the below statement in press conference today.

"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."

September 2012 saw the second highest global ocean temperatures on record. During the same month, ocean temperatures off the mid-Atlantic coast were 1.3°C above average. These unusually warm ocean temperatures have carried on into October, enabling Sandy to pull more energy from the ocean than a typical October hurricane.

Hurricane Sandy could have been just some coincidental freak storm. A rare occurrence with impacts few infrastructures are prepared to handle. The same coincidence that caused the East Coast derecho this summer or the simultaneous Midwest drought. But aren't coincidences and freak storms supposed to be rare?

2012 has been packed with extreme weather, and the aftermath of these events has been devastating not only to individuals, but to the operation of our country. Although mum's been the word on climate change during this year's election overshadowed by a debate on which candidate is a better friend to coal, the issue is now at the feet of President Obama and Governor Romney. The latest reports claim Hurricane Sandy caused 16 U.S. deaths, 7 million without power and $10 billion in damages. That could make Hurricane Sandy the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. What would Hurricane Sandy be beating out for that prestigious title? Hurricane Katrina whose devastation was so grave, it nearly led to the condemning of one of America's greatest cities.

Our country cannot afford the impact of climate change any longer.

The global scientific consensus makes it clear that the burning of fossil fuels is driving climate change and its impacts. It is up to our leaders in government and business to protect us from this growing threat. 

President Obama and Mitt Romney must articulate the scale of the global warming problem to the American public, and offer real plans to not only enhance US preparedness for extreme weather caused by climate change, but also to dramatically reduce the fossil-fuel emissions that are driving the worst effects of catastrophic climate change. 

American citizens are paying for climate change when they're left to clean up the mess after extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy. President Obama and Governor Romney have indicated a willingness to address taxpayer subsidies to the fossil fuel companies that are driving climate change. Both candidates should commit to prioritizing an end to these subsidies in the first days of their administration.

And we can all take part in an energy revolution.

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A satellite image provided by NASA of Hurricane Sandy, pictured at 11 a.m. EDT churns off the east coast as it moves north on October 28, 2012 in the Atlantic Ocean

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