Changing Planet

Hurricane Resurfaces Forgotten Election Issue: Climate Change

As Hurricane Sandy made landfall this week, bringing blizzards to West Virginia and flooding to the northeast, some debated the storm’s connection to climate change. Scientists took to Twitter to share their opinions on how warming has made Sandy worse with Texas Tech University’s Katharine Hayhoe tweeting that sea level is 7 inches higher now compared to 100 years ago and about 15 percent of the unusually warm sea surface temperatures fueling Sandy are a result of climate change. Bloomberg Businessweek left no one guessing on the focus of their Sandy coverage with a cover reading: “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”

The storm, Slate claimed, is a hybrid many scientists just don’t really understand well. Actually connecting the storm to man-made climate change is much more challengingThe Houston Chronicle reported: “The bottom line is that climate change is unquestionably having an effect on the weather around us by raising the average temperature of the planet. This is producing warmer temperatures and very likely increasing the magnitude of droughts. However, it is a big stretch to go from there to blaming Sandy on climate change. It’s a stretch that is just not supported by science at this time.” David Roberts of Grist disagrees with this kind of hedging. He says, “When the public asks, ‘Did climate change cause this?’ they are asking a confused question”—one akin to asking if steroids caused a specific home run by Barry Bonds. Others avoid the causation question altogether, and wonder whether Sandy will be a wake-up call for climate resilience.

While Sandy smashed records—for economic loss, closure of the New York Stock Exchange and mass transit—its effect on the impending election remain uncertainThe Los Angeles Times suggests that Sandy’s arrival may actually get presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to address climate change—a long-ignored issue of the campaign thus far. Bill Clinton and Al Gore are among those calling for the candidates to circle back to the issue.

Energy Impacts in Wake of Sandy

In the wake of Sandy, nuclear power outages were the second highest in a decade. More than 6.1 million customers in the northeastern U.S. have been left without power, and utility companies have warned that blackouts may persist until after the election. Many of these power companies had come under fire for their slow response to recent storm-related power outages, and their response to Sandy could put them to the test.

To help deal with energy needs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency waived clean gasoline rules—required under the Clean Air Act—for more than a dozen states. The waiver lets conventional gasoline be sold instead of cleaner-burning reformulated gasoline in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia through Nov. 20.

Alternative Sources Rising

The International Energy Agency released a report challenging the notion hydropower has peaked. It shares the steps necessary to double hydroelectricity power by 2050—preventing roughly 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel plants annually.

Across the globe in Germany, renewable energy production is projected to grow far faster than original forecasts. “The current boom in new installations of wind, solar and other renewable power sources will easily top the official target of 35 percent by 2022, reaching about 48 percent by then,” said Stephan Kohler, head of the government-affiliated agency overseeing Germany’s electricity grid. Scotland is also looking to ambitious renewable energy goals—setting a 50 percent renewables target by 2015.

Sweden is looking to other ways to cut carbon dioxide: garbage. In fact, only 4 percent of the country’s waste ends up in the landfill due to their efficiency to convert waste into renewable energy. They generate enough electricity to power roughly 250,000 homes annually—even importing near 800,000 tons of trash to fuel their habit.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

Tim Profeta is the founding director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. The Nicholas Institute is part of Duke University and focuses on improving environmental policy making worldwide through objective, fact-based research in the areas of climate change, the economics of limiting carbon pollution, oceans governance and coastal management, emerging environmental markets and freshwater concerns at home and abroad. In his role at the Nicholas Institute, Profeta has continued to use his experience on Capitol Hill to engage in climate change debates. His research has focused, specifically, on market-based approaches to environmental regulations—particularly energy and climate change policy. Other projects engage his expertise in environmental law and air pollution regulation under the Clean Air Act.
  • mememine69

    Climate change was another “Reefer Madness” and a wet dream for you lazy copy and paste news editors.

    *In all of the debates Obama hadn’t planned to mention climate change once.

    *Obama has not mentioned the crisis in the last two State of the Unions addresses.

    *Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded carbon trading stock markets run by corporations.

    *Julian Assange is of course a climate change denier.

    *Canada killed Y2Kyoto with a freely elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).

    Romney thanks us for fear mongering votes his way.

    Good news for REAL planet lovers; climate change was real all right but really not a crisis leaving climate change a LEGAL exaggeration. The rest of you just wanted this misery to be real and at least Bush didn’t condemn our kids to the greenhouse gas ovens with childish glee.

    “We could be at the point of no return.” Yes “could” be. Help, my house could be on fire maybe? How history will laugh!

    Not one single IPCC warning says it will happen, only might happen and could happen and may happen and will likely happen. Exaggeration isn’t a crime and don’t forget it was science that gave us the pesticides that made stewardship necessary in the first place.

  • Ricardo Pires

    Climate Change will no longer be ignored. The Earth has been sending us signals for a long time and now the 770 companies and interest groups that hire more than 2300 lobbyists to prevent any US policy action on climate change might be losing the battle. We spend more on subsidizing coal and oil, than we do on tackling climate change! It’s perverse.

    UNICEF produced a very interesting video debate on this, also with expert written commentaries, etc.



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