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[ Hurricane Sandy: The Climate Change Connection ]

Hurricane Sandy & Climate Change

Longisland

Homes Flooded on Long Island: DVIDSHUB / Flickr


Although 24/7 broadcast coverage of Hurricane Sandy barely
hinted at the climate change elephant in the room, and while the two leading
presidential candidates continued to avoid the topic, those in Sandy’s path were
more adamant about the need to confront global warming.

“There’s no such thing as a 100-year flood. These are
extreme weather patterns. The frequency has been increasing,” New York Governor
Andrew Cuomo said in
an interview
. Cuomo has recently suggested the state might need to start
constructing storm barriers to guard against the sea level scientists are
predicting
will rise two feet by 2050.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy echoed the unprecedented
nature of the hurricane in another
way
: “The last time we saw anything like this was – never.”

It’s important to note here that it’s difficult to blame some individual weather events — particularly
hurricanes — on climate change. EarthShare member The Union of Concerned
Scientists created
this handy infographic
to show which weather events have the strongest
connection. Hurricanes are on the low end of the spectrum:

Extreme-Weather-and-Climate-Change-Infographic-Blog-Format

Even so, Sandy’s record-breaking
run — largest Atlantic hurricane on record at 1000-miles across, highest-ever
storm surge in Battery Park, most widespread power outages and public transit
impacts, combined with the growing frequency of other extreme weather events
and the almost textbook
predictions of climate scientists
fulfilled — has led many to call this a
global warming-fueled storm.

“In a nutshell, global warming heats up our oceans and loads
hurricanes and other storms with extra energy, making them more violent,” says
Dan Lashof of the Natural
Resources Defense Council
, an EarthShare member organization. “Global warming also leads to rising sea levels,
which boosts storm surges, and in turn lead to more severe flooding. Sea levels
stretching from Boston to Norfolk, Virginia are rising four times as fast as the
global average, making the region more vulnerable to flooding.”

Jeremy Syomons at the National Wildlife Federation, also an EarthShare member group, points to
the source of this warming: “The near-record warmth of the Atlantic waters that spawned the
storm is the new normal, thanks to the warming caused by one trillion tons of carbon pollution that has been dumped
in our atmosphere from burning oil, coal and gas.”

The question of how big or damaging Sandy might have been
without climate change is difficult to answer, but there’s one thing 98% of
climate scientists unequivocally agree on: extreme
weather events like Hurricane Sandy will become more frequent in the coming
years
. The once-in-a-lifetime storm
is sure to become a regular occurrence in years ahead.

In 2012 alone, the US experienced the warmest
year on record
(so far); wildfires burned more than a million acres in the
West; a severe drought impacted over half of the country; violent, heat-fueled “Derecho”
storms tore through the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic; and Arctic ice melted to its lowest
extent ever.

These indications make it imperative that citizens and leaders
begin to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change by
making their cities more resilient. You can make a difference by starting that
conversation in your own community and asking the climate question, even (and
especially) when no one else is willing to do so!

For more information
on the work that EarthShare member groups are doing to address global warming, visit
our
Climate Change & Energy page.
Also check out World Resources Institute’s timeline of 2012 extreme weather
events:



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