Climate Change in a Post-Hurricane Sandy World

By Erin Voegele | November 15, 2012

Following the devastation of “Frankenstorm” Hurricane Sandy, President Obama and other high-ranking government officials seem more open to broaching the subject of climate change—and how the U.S. might take action to mitigate its impacts. In fact, Obama said this week that he is “a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions.” Furthermore he said that “as a consequence, I think we've got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.”

President Obama addressed the issue during a Nov. 14 press conference. He was asked about New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pre-election announcement that he would endorse Obama for the presidency because he thought Obama would do more to confront the threat of climate change, and his specific plan to tackle the issue.

Obama noted that no particular weather event can be attributed to climate change, but that we do know that global temperatures are rising. “What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago,” Obama said.  “We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago.  We do know that there have been extraordinarily—there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe.”

The president said that over the next few months he will be discussing the issue with scientists, engineers and elected officials to see what can be done in both the short- and long-term to “make sure that this is not something we're passing on to future generations that's going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with.”

He also said that he didn’t know what democrats or republicans are prepared to do at this point because the issue isn’t just a partisan issue, there are also regional differences. “There’s no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices,” Obama said. “And understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused, and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth, that if the message is somehow we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don't think anybody is going to go for that. I won't go for that. If, on the other hand, we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth, and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that's something that the American people would support. So you can expect that you’ll hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and helps move this agenda forward.”

The president seems to have at least one important supporter in his corner. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., stressed how important the issue of climate change is for him during a press conference that was broadcast by C-SPAN. “I hope we can address it reasonably,” he said, noting that severe storms are overwhelming our country, and “we need to do something about it.”

While I am well aware that there are many Americans that don’t believe in climate change, I am also well aware of the overwhelming scientific consensus on the issue. No, not every scientist in the world agrees that climate change is occurring. However, the overwhelming majority do. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Research Council, the American Geophysical Union, the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, and the American Meteorological Society, are just a few scientific organizations that have taken the official position that climate change is real.

Personally, I think it’s great to see our nation’s leaders taking science seriously. It’s also a fantastic sign that Obama seems to recognize that the renewable energy industry can be a platform to not only reduce carbon emissions, but to also create jobs, revitalize our manufacturing base, and help return America to economic prosperity.

I sincerely hope that the administration is able to stay focused on this issue for the next four years, and keep vocalizing the many, many benefits of renewable energy. It’s hard to argue against further development of an industry that offers a powerful means to both mitigate climate change and provide meaningful economic development opportunities.