Opinion Top of the Ticket

Will Obama and Romney see climate change in Hurricane Sandy?

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 © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • 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...

  • 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...

  • Don't let a false promise of voter turnout kill L.A.'s independent elections
    Don't let a false promise of voter turnout kill L.A.'s independent elections

    If two charter amendments headed to Los Angeles voters March 3 get approved, it will make it next to impossible for candidates who aren't party insiders, or the darlings of labor or business interests, to run for and win city office in L.A.

  • The carbon that's killing India, and how California can help
    The carbon that's killing India, and how California can help

    This week, President Obama is the chief guest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at India's Republic Day celebrations. At the close of the historic visit, the two leaders are expected to announce cooperation on a suite of climate and clean energy measures, with the ultimate goal of reining in...

  • Why we need to address population growth's effects on global warming
    Why we need to address population growth's effects on global warming

    Earlier this month, Pope Francis made news when he said that not only was climate change real, but it was mostly man-made. Then, last week, he said that couples do not need to breed “like rabbits” but rather should plan their families responsibly — albeit without the use of...

  • Sorting out U.S. visas for crime victims
    Sorting out U.S. visas for crime victims

    As a society, we want people to report crimes and help bring criminals to justice. Without the cooperation of victims, the criminal justice system doesn't work very well. One particular problem for police and prosecutors is that people living in the country illegally are often hesitant to...

Comments
Loading