Yves here. This article points out what others have noted: that Hurricane Sandy has given much more visibility to the dangers of climate change. It’s an environmental version of the old economists’ joke: A recession occurs when your neighbor loses his job. A depression takes place you lose your job. The media and policymakers in large measure live in a bubble centered on New York and Washington DC, and it has taken an event that hit their sheltered world hard to get them to wake up and take notice.
What I find interesting is that this piece is running in a venue that would seem unlikely for this sort of thing: an oil and gas oriented website that covers green tech largely for their commercial potential rather than from an environmentalist point of view. The zeitgeist in the US really does look to have made a meaningful shift on this issue.
By Dave Zgodzinski is the editor of the Green Miner newsletter and thegreenminer.com web site. Cross posted from OilPrice
Up here you get to a time in late November when you want winter to start. You know it’s coming. It’s dark and barren outside. The ground is frozen. Let it start. Let the snow come. Something down inside you wants to feel the sting of cold air on your face so you know that winter’s here. The sooner it starts, the sooner it’s over. But it’s not here, yet.
It’s like the old joke about the Sadist and the Masochist.
The Masochist cries out to the Sadist . .
“Beat me . . . please beat me.”
The Sadist replies . . .
In Alberta and on the Prairies, winter started early this year. It has already made its mark with snow and cold. But here in the east, we are getting tropical storms instead. Around here, record high temperatures followed the hurricane.
You can prepare for winter. Change the tires, buy a new coat, make sure the utility bills are paid up. You do the normal things to prepare for the cold. But hurricanes on the eastern seaboard in November aren’t normal. People in New Jersey could not have expected what they got, and prepared for that.
The new normal is storm surges in Manhattan that will turn everything south of Times Square into an aquarium. The new normal is barrier islands that took thousands of years to build up being ripped apart in one day.
There is no way to prove that Hurricane Sandy was the direct result of global warming caused by greenhouse gases. There are only statistics. The sea level around New York is now a foot higher than it was 50 years ago. If the rate of ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica increases, sea levels will rise further and coastal cities around the world will face the possibility of becoming Venice. And Venice could become Atlantis.
It’s easy to dismiss global warming, if it doesn’t affect you directly. But a couple of days prior to the election, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City took some time away from hurricane repair duties to endorse Barak Obama for President. It appeared that his decision to endorse was precipitated by Sandy and Irene. In his estimation it was a bit too much of a coincidence to have two late autumn hurricanes in the Northeast in consecutive years. Bloomberg stated that to deny that climate change was a serious problem was to be “on the wrong side of history.”
He felt that Mitt Romney was missing the boat on climate change.
Mayor Bloomberg isn’t the only one who sees climate change as a personal threat. Farmers watching their crops wither in the draught this past summer are worried about it. Another year or two of screwed up weather and farmers around the US and Canada will be demanding that something be done. It doesn’t matter what their politics are.
The families of firefighters who were killed fighting the record number of forest fires last summer are no doubt still grieving. They understand too well that extreme heat is dangerous.
And now they are hurting in New Jersey. The fury of Mother Nature brings everyone back to basics. The dispossessed need food and shelter. Everything else is secondary. All other problems pale in comparison.
Later there will be the clean-up and the rebuilding. The cost of Sandy will be enormous in money and in grief. The storm affected millions of people. At some point the insurance companies will begin to demand that something be done.
Winter will get here soon enough. We’ll have too cold weather, too much snow and ice and whiteouts. We’ll make jokes about global warming when it’s freaking cold outside. We know how to prepare for that kind of bad weather. We’re used to it.
But what’s happening these days in the atmosphere isn’t the old normal. And we are just one or two more freak-out weather events away from many more people in North America, no matter what their politics are, coming to the same conclusion.
When the majority fully realize that the cost of not doing anything to curtail global warming will be so much more expensive than the cost of wholehearted adoption of renewable energy– then something will get done.
Follow the money.