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Will Hurricane Sandy Finally Get Us Talking About Climate Change?

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Will Hurricane Sandy Finally Get Us Talking About Climate Change?

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Yesterday, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg endorsed President Obama in an editorial for Bloomberg View, writing that Hurricane Sandy had brought the issue of climate change into “stark relief.” He continued: “Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be—given the devastation it is wreaking—should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

 

This was surprising, not only because Bloomberg is an independent who had explicitly avoided such an endorsement until now and didn’t give one in 2008, but because the issue of climate change has been notably absent throughout the entire campaign season. Until now, at least. The silver lining of Hurricane Sandy nipping at the heels of the election is that it may have sparked a last-minute conversation on climate change. A few other politicians have brought it back from its political slumber. New York governor Andrew M. Cuomo said that “[a]nyone who says there is not a dramatic change in weather patterns I think is denying reality.” Democratic New York senator Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat, said, “We’re going to pay a price for the change in climate.”

 

Meanwhile, the only time I can recall a 2012 election discussion about climate change pre-Sandy was when Mitt Romney, at the Republican National Convention, mocked Obama’s promise “to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet.” He’s probably wincing at that jab now.

 

Or maybe not. Most of the elected officials who have acknowledged the link between Sandy and climate change have been New York democrats. Even Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t have much national influence; an ABC News/Washington Post poll from December found that 44 percent of Americans had no opinion of him whatsoever. While this may galvanize some voters to support President Obama because of his better environmental policies, it may turn off others, considering that a full 44 percent of Americans think global warming is a myth. Although that’s down from a whopping 53 percent just two years ago—the last couple years' deadly tornadoes, floods, droughts, mild winter, and heat waves have swayed some—almost half of the country just doesn’t believe man-made climate change exists.

 

The most telling Hurricane Sandy response has been from Obama himself. Despite his competent, attentive reaction to the storm, praised even by Chris Christie, he hasn’t whispered a word about climate change. Why? Because he’s seen those statistics, too, and he’d never dream of taking such a polarizing stance so close to the election. Whatever climate change discussion that’s happening is purely partisan, and ultimately being held hostage to the stakes of November 6. And future hurricane victims—particularly in red states—will suffer because of it.

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