Seeing is believing, they say. If that’s true, there shouldn’t be anybody left in America who doesn’t believe global climate change is for real after seeing what Superstorm Sandy did to the East coast.
Coastlines from New England to Virginia battered. Millions without power. New York City’s subways flooded. More than 110 people dead. Property damage estimated at $30 billion and climbing. All this makes Sandy the second most devastating storm ever to hit the United States, behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
It’s true that Sandy was freakish. But the trouble is that these “freak” events are happening more and more often. Three of the 10 worst floods to hit New York since 1900 happened within the last three years. As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, it seems like “we have a 100-year flood every two years now.”
The increase in extreme weather events like hurricanes is consistent with what climate scientists have been predicting all along. The warming of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans doesn’t necessarily produce more hurricanes, but it makes them more powerful and destructive. Hurricanes suck their energy from the ocean. Warmer water means bigger and more intense hurricanes. And as ocean levels rise, the vulnerability of coastal areas to flooding increases.
The evidence that the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans are rapidly getting warmer is so overwhelming that virtually no serious scientists dispute it anymore. As NASA reports, global temperature reconstructions show that “Earth has warmed since 1880. Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all of the 10 warmest years occurring in the past 12 years.”
The only remaining debate—such as it is—is about how much the burning of fossil fuels is making things hotter. It may be impossible to ever settle that question definitively, but the evidence is overwhelming that human activity since the Industrial Revolution?when people started using fossil fuels in a big way?has been a major factor. A recent report by a panel of 1,300 independent scientists from around the world concluded there’s a 90 percent probability that human activity over the past 250 years has made the planet warmer.
Confronted with the facts, some who oppose measures to reduce fossil fuel use fall back on the argument that changing our ways would be too expensive. We’d reply that $30 billion seems pretty damned expensive?not to mention the cost of droughts, floods and other weather extremes likely to increase as the planet gets warmer.
Maybe out of the wreckage of the East Coast a new willingness to face the fact of global climate change will emerge among both the politicians and the public. To help that process along, we’re applying THE BOOT to the asses of the remaining deniers in the hope it will make them extract their heads.