Friday, November 2, 2012

A Post-Sandy Plan for Climate Change: Protect, Prepare, Prevent

Sandy's destructive path has left a scar on our nation. Our hearts go out to the families of the more than 90 people killed, and to the Americans still struggling without power, food and water.

But in Sandy's wake must be a wake-up call. Climate change is no longer some far off issue. It's at our doorstep right now. We must consider how to address the underlying factors that are fueling these extreme weather events.

For a superstorm like Sandy to occur so late in the storm season, reach such fury, and have the kinds of flooding impacts that we are seeing, is consistent with whatscientists have told us we should expect due to global warming.

Two reports I released in the last few months have detailed climate change's effect on extreme weather and in New England.

In 1775, Paul Revere warned Massachusetts revolutionaries of an invasion coming from the sea. With climate change, low-lying areas of Boston and the Bay State could now face an invasion of the sea itself.

Here's what we know about climate science, and how it specifically relates to Sandy.

One, it's hotter. We just had the warmest 12-month period in the continental United States on record. 2000 to 2009 was the warmest decade on record. That is heating up the oceans, including the Atlantic off the East Coast, where ocean temperature readings are the highest they've been since 1854. That warmer water fuels stronger storms and extreme rainfall.

Two, it's higher. As water warms it expands, raising sea-levels. And it's happening faster on the Eastern seaboard, where sea level rise has increased up to 4 times greater than other parts of the globe. When you combine a stronger storm with high tides and sea-level rise, you get devastation like we are seeing along the New Jersey shore and New York City.

Three, it's more harmful. We are seeing dramatic changes in the Arctic, including the disappearance of sea ice. New scientific research suggests this melting could be affecting the jet stream. That can turn what used to be a harmless storm into a direct hit on the East Coast. And that storm will be stronger, pushing higher seas farther inland.

If you want to take action today, I suggest giving to the American Red Cross. They can take your donation and get help to the people who need it now.

But it's also a time to talk about what a post-Sandy climate change plan must look like, to deal with the impacts we can no longer avoid and the dangerous effects we still have a chance to prevent.

For years I have fought for legislation that cuts carbon pollution and promotes clean energy. We have succeeded in boosting fuel economy for motor vehicles and improving appliance efficiency, including light bulbs.

But Big Oil and lobbyists for the pollution industry have blocked a national Renewable Electricity Standard, home appliance efficiency measures and climate legislation.

In a year we have seen superstorms, droughts and wildfires punish Americans in nearly every state. Congress can no longer afford to ignore clean energy and climate.

We must take action to Protect, Prepare, and Prevent. More

It is entirely possible that in 20 years the East Coast may have sea level rise of another two feet. If one then models another Sandy on top of two extra feet of sea level rise the results would be catastrophic And to be very honest Sandy was barely a Catagory 1 hurricane. Imagine if you would a Catagory 4 hitting with that two extra feet of sea level rise.

It is time for the United States's government to think of the safety of their citizens, and of those of us argound the world on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and in Arctic communities, and work with the international community to adapt and mitigate global warming.

It is time, as Rep Ed Markey said, to take big oil to task and do away with all lobbying and subsidies and make them responsible for the destruction they are causing. I would argue that through blocking legislation to mitigate carbon output the oil companies are abusing the human rights of all inhabitants of the world. Editor.