Mitt Romney got an extended guffaw at the Republican National Convention with that smirky putdown of President Obama for having said he would do something about rising oceans. No surprise. Because the percentage of people in that audience of GOP delegates who view climate change as a liberal hoax is probably higher than the percentage of Republicans elected to Congress in 2010 who think so and act accordingly. Denial runs deep.
Deeper than the water in the streets, lobbies and subways of Lower Manhattan after the storm that should have been called Godzilla roared through the Atlantic seaboard Monday. Hurricane Sandy was just one more of the extreme weather events that have touched every state this year. Those have followed another year of more than usual extreme weather events. And another year before that.
As nearly every scientist with a relevant credential will explain, you can't single out one weather event and say that happened because of global warming, climate change. But, thankfully, we're starting to hear a lot more scientists, if not nearly enough politicians, say the pattern we're seeing, all over the globe, is caused or exacerbated by climate change. It's what an ever-larger number of climate scientists have been predicting would happen for nearly two decades, with increasing levels of empirical detail every passing year. The only thing most of them got wrong was how soon these events would start happening, how fast they would pile one atop the other.
Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research told Chris Mooney at Mother Jones Monday:
I have no equivocation in saying that all heavy rainfall events, including this one, have an element of climate change in them, and the level of that contribution will increase in the future.He's not alone. Here is Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at NCAR. His view is that all superstorms are "affected by climate change":
The air is on average warmer and moister than it was prior to about 1970 and in turn has likely led to a 5–10 % effect on precipitation and storms that is greatly amplified in extremes. The warm moist air is readily advected onto land and caught up in weather systems as part of the hydrological cycle, where it contributes to more intense precipitation events that are widely observed to be occurring.These events are not just coastal phenomena. One of those superstorms hit the Midwest in 2010.
But, throughout the presidential debates, not one word about climate change. Not one question was asked on the subject. And neither candidate chose to redirect a question directly to it. The closest approach came when both men explained their all-of-the-above energy proposals, an exchange that had environmental advocates rolling our eyes and gritting our teeth. Not least because, in the case of Mitt Romney, all of the above includes nothing more than lip service for renewables and whole-hoggery for coal, oil and gas.
After 25 years of fossil-fuel-company-funded propaganda smearing scientists, distorting data and, like that audience in Tampa last summer, laughing about the very idea that human behavior is causing climate change, is there hope that the scientists now speaking up with more fervor on the subject finally will be listened to? Not likely from one side the aisle.
Even though some Republicans have called for an end to denial, Mitt Romney's stated agenda on environmental regulations and energy policy indicate he would as president stick to the fossil-fuel path that will continue pouring gigatons of greenhouse gases into the already over-burdened atmosphere. That approach may have us calling Hurricane Sandy "just a rainstorm" in a few years.
There's an obvious alternative. Nov. 7 should mark the end of the climate silence that has afflicted the campaign of 2012. Barack Obama's energy policies have not been without serious flaws, his support for the oxymoron of "clean coal" being the key example. But he has shown support for renewables as has no president since Jimmy Carter. He has spoken repeatedly for green energy and many policies and dollars have been put against making it happen.
Upon reelection, even in the absence of 60 Democrats in the Senate or a majority in the House of Representatives, he can do more than he has so far. First on his agenda ought to be talking about climate change more, telling the story, as he would put it. And even though we have many other national and international issues needing attention, in his second term, he should be encouraged by every American who gets it to put climate change on the front burner. Delay is denial.