Policymakers can no longer mince words: Climate. Change. Hurts.
The denial of global warming is no longer acceptable. Actually, it never really was. But the most recent manifestation of human-caused climate change in the form of hurricane Sandy raises that unacceptability to a new level. Climate change denial after Sandy veers toward immorality.
Hurricane Sandy was relentless. The hurricane brought storm swells barreling through the low-lying shores of the Northeast, hitting New York and northern New Jersey especially hard. The super storm ground to a halt one of the most central business and banking districts in the United States. Almost unthinkably, the regional public transportation system—everything from Amtrak to New York’s subways—were crippled. As of publication time, swaths of heavily urbanized land in the affected areas remain devastated and millions residents are still without power.
Soon after the storm hit, Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, made a surprise announcement. Nearing election day, and presiding over a flooded city, Bloomberg endorsed Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. This was surprising for two reasons: first, his endorsement was something each presidential candidate had wanted for quite some time.
Second, for Bloomberg to cite climate change as a decisive factor in his decision to back Obama injected, almost by force, a new dimension into the race that until then had virtually no press.
Amazingly, in none of the three presidential debates was climate change discussed. The closest either candidate came to talking about it was when they each argued over exactly how committed they were to fostering fossil fuel extraction on home soil.
Meanwhile, as the growing severity and frequency of hurricanes is being increasingly tied to rising ocean temperatures, glaciers around the world keep receding, sea levels around the world keep rising, the ocean keeps acidifying as it absorbs more and more carbon dioxide, and the amount of land being claimed by desertification grows by the month.
An overwhelming consensus of the scientific community relates these troubling patterns to man-made global warming, according to NASA. If a prominent government research body is willing to cite studies showing that “scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” how can lawmakers and elected officials possibly hem and haw about this? Apparently, not everyone in government turns a blind eye to climate change—only the ones who make policy decisions.
Where before writing off global warming was stupid, now it is immoral. The collective effects of two centuries of industrialization are emerging as “100-year flood[s] happen every two years now,” as Andrew Cuomo, the New York Governor, put it. This means people die, are displaced, or return to a landscape of devastation. Though no one person or group is solely at fault, taking responsibility for this imminent crisis is the only hope for coping with global climate change, and it starts with admitting the painfully obvious: Global. Warming. Exists.