OpinionTop of the Ticket

Will Obama and Romney see climate change in Hurricane Sandy?

Environmental IssuesElectionsSciencePoliticsAgricultureEcosystemsConservation

Hurricane Sandy's devastating intrusion into the final days of the presidential race would have at least one positive result if it inspired President Obama and Mitt Romney to finally address a huge issue they have ignored throughout the long campaign: climate change.

After the firestorms that swept the West amid a merciless drought and the killer tornadoes and freak storms that battered the Midwest, South and East Coast, Sandy is just 2012's latest screaming reminder that our weather is becoming a much more destructive force. Sandy is an example of a weather phenomenon we have not seen before -- a confluence of hurricane, cold air and an altered jet stream that created a monster storm stretching from the Caribbean to Canada and from the Atlantic to Chicago.

Until recently, climate scientists were careful not to attribute any single weather event to global climate change. But, in the last couple of days, a number of scientists have filed Twitter posts that essentially say, "We told you so." For years, they have described what the effects of global warming would look like; this year, many of them are saying, "This is it."

PHOTOS: Top of the Ticket cartoons

While the rest of the world long ago moved beyond asking if climate change is real to accepting it as a fact, the United States has stalled in a ridiculous debate. Romney leads a party in which a majority believes that climate change is a hoax and the rest -- including Romney -- avoid talking about the issue, lest they be seen as anti-capitalist, bug-loving granola eaters. Obama could speak to the issue if he wished, but he avoids it too, perhaps not wanting to give the right-wingers another reason to accuse him of plotting against America.

The issue cannot be skirted forever, though. Members of Congress can rant on about hoaxes and nefarious plots to destroy industry by curtailing CO2 emissions, but one day not too distant, even the science deniers will be unable to deny that a big bill is coming due. Rising sea levels, extended drought, raging wildfires and more frequent and more violent storms will have a huge economic cost.

Already, insurance companies are eyeing the exits, thinking that selling policies to cover natural disasters has become a very bad bet. When the insurance industry bails, government will have to pick up the expense of taking care of people who have been pummeled by weather and have lost homes, businesses and livelihoods as a result.

Cities and states face a big job ahead, dealing with floods, fires, shifting shorelines and paying for the manpower and infrastructure necessary to deal with those challenges. American agriculture will need to be revamped as farming and grazing land turns to dust in the heart of the country.

It is way past time for the federal government to develop a comprehensive plan for dealing with all of this. And it is truly unconscionable that our presidential candidates have ignored the issue, other than to spout a few gaseous sound bites about clean energy and green jobs. 

To twist an old passage from the Bible, they that sow only hot air shall reap the whirlwind.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
Environmental IssuesElectionsSciencePoliticsAgricultureEcosystemsConservation
  • Mitt Romney chokes on Richard Mourdock's rape comment
    Mitt Romney chokes on Richard Mourdock's rape comment

    Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, the tea party usurper who took down Sen. Richard Lugar in the Republican primary, created the biggest political buzz of the week by uttering the following sentence in a televised debate: “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of...

  • Campaign 2012: All voters matter, but Ohio voters matter the most
    Campaign 2012: All voters matter, but Ohio voters matter the most

    If you live in Ohio, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are giving you a lot of love. But if you reside in California or Alabama, you may feel neglected and ignored by the candidates for president. Like parents in a big, noisy family, all their attention goes to the troublesome kids, not the...

  • U.N. disabilities treaty deserves ratification
    U.N. disabilities treaty deserves ratification

    The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities should not be controversial: It requires equal access for the disabled and bans discrimination against them in all countries that sign on. There is no question that the Senate should ratify it. The only issue is why it...

  • Congress can, and should, sort out the Internet's tax structure
    Congress can, and should, sort out the Internet's tax structure

    At the dawn of the broadband era, Congress recognized that the Internet was becoming so fundamental to communications and the economy that it barred states from taxing the services that enabled people to log on. But some anti-tax groups and online businesses have hijacked the "Don't...

  • Gov. Brown knows better than to let lobbyists pay for his Mexico trip
    Gov. Brown knows better than to let lobbyists pay for his Mexico trip

    Gov. Jerry Brown is on a four-day trip to Mexico City to talk to government officials there about trade and immigration issues. That's a reasonable thing for a California governor to do. Brown is not traveling alone: Nine administration officials and 15 legislators (some using campaign...

  • U.N. Human Rights Council's anti-Israel inquiry
    U.N. Human Rights Council's anti-Israel inquiry

    Last week, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution, S-21, creating a "commission of inquiry" to investigate human rights violations in the Gaza war. Nowhere does the resolution mandate that the commission conduct a fair, impartial and balanced investigation....

Comments
Loading