Sandy A Sign Of Climate Change

In the end, we did come together. And it wasn’t the end of the election that did it. It was a disaster with a misleadingly bland moniker – Sandy.

Sandy is, now and forever, synonymous with catastrophe, destruction and death. It is simply not possible to exaggerate or overstate the destruction wrought by the “superstorm.” Even that term feels inadequate for a lashing that brought a huge part of the nation to its knees.

And here’s the sobering news: We need to brace for more. Al Gore, in an op-ed posted Oct. 30, said:

“Hurricane Sandy is a disturbing sign of things to come. We must heed this warning and act quickly to solve the climate crisis. Dirty energy makes dirty weather.”

Scientists have been warning us for years that climate change is drastically changing the game.

And yet there are doubters, many of whom are in positions of power to affect environmental policy.

But the people who can speak credibly, the researchers who have been watching and studying and warning us for years, are in agreement.

They include Michael Hamnett, executive director of Research Corporation of Hawaii and a faculty member in the UH College of Social Sciences.

“There really is scientific consensus that climate change is real, and there’s scientific consensus that climate change is being driven by greenhouse gas emissions,” Hamnett says. “We can deny all of that if we want to, but almost everybody agrees that the climate is changing. And the change in climate is having an impact on people.

“It’s having an impact on polar bears, it’s having an impact on rainfall, and I think it’s having an impact on tropical cyclones and hurricanes.”

Hamnett says people may not understand because they’re not looking at the big picture.

“It’s the difference between climate and weather. Climate is the patterns, the big picture. The normal weather pattern is changing. It’s happening now. Ocean currents are changing. The droughts that we’re experiencing in various parts of the country, those are probably because of climate change. The droughts we’re having here, those are probably related to climate change as well.”

Climate scientists agree on the culprit – greenhouse gases produced by dirty energy.

As Gore said, and has been saying for many years, “Scientists tell us that by continually dumping 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere every single day, we are altering the environment in which all storms develop. As the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, storms are becoming more energetic and powerful.

“Sandy also was affected by other symptoms of the climate crisis. As the hurricane approached the East Coast, it gathered strength from abnormally warm coastal waters. At the same time, Sandy’s storm surge was worsened by a century of sea-level rise. Scientists tell us that if we do not reduce our emissions, these problems will only grow worse.”

Is there a way to reverse the effects of climate change?

Or are we too late?

Hamnett says we’ve already gone past the point where the process can be reversed, but, “I think we can slow it down. We can slow the progression down. From what the scientific community has concluded, if we leveled off greenhouse gas emissions, if we stopped greenhouse gas emissions today, the effects of the greenhouse gases that have been emitted into the environment over the past 100 years or so are going to continue to have an effect for the next 30 years.”

But, he says, if we put a cap on global emissions, “we might be able to stop it from getting worse in time.

“That’s about the best we can hope for at this point.

“I’m just amazed at the denial that climate change is real. People just don’t want to face it. A lot of people don’t want to hear about it and they want to deny that it’s real. But I am convinced that it’s real and we’re seeing the effects of it now.”

Climate change was not a contentious issue in the presidential campaigns for a simple and regrettable reason: Neither side talked about it. At all. Maybe this is our chance to finally come together on an issue that affects us all. It would be a shame – no, it would be a tragedy – to let ignorance or politics get in the way of saving our planet.