It seemed that climate change wasn't going to be part of this election cycle. There were sarcastic comments in one of the debates by Governor Romney, some discussion on energy security in another -but as far as a serious discussion on climate change in the debates there was none. Comments by Obama on climate change were left to the stump where he was talking to his own supporters.
That was the situation until Hurricane Sandy hit the north eastern seaboard of the United States. It brought the devastation to the most populated areas of the US into the living rooms across America, imagines that they have mostly seen in developing countries.
Thursdays issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, let me just say that again Bloomberg Businessweek headlined with "IT'S GLOBAL WARMING, STUPID". It is of course paraphrasing James Carville famous quote and campaign strategy from the 1992 election, "It's the Economy, Stupid" which won the election for Governor Clinton.
Inside had an article by Mayor Bloomberg endorsing President Obama because of his stance on Climate Change. He wrote:
"Our climate is changing, and while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.” He went on to say. "One sees as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics."
So with less than 5 days to the election climate change finds itself being front and centre of the last weekend of campaigning.
Sandy represented two extreme weather instances in 14 months for New York and New Jersey if you add to this the extreme temperatures in the south of the US over the last year then something is happening - From January - June 2012:
· The national temperature of 52.9°F was 4.5°F above the 20th century average;
· Most of the contiguous U.S. was record and near-record warm for the six-month period, except the Pacific Northwest;
· 28 states east of the Rockies were record warm;
· 15 additional states were top ten warm;
· The first six months of 2012 were also drier than average with a nationally-averaged precipitation total 1.62 inches below average.
The twelve warmest 12-month periods since 1895 in the US have occurred since 2000, and 2012 is the highest.
Whoever gets into the White House will have to deal with this. There are questions relating to strengthening the Federal Emergence Management Agency (FEMA) which has done so well in the emergence under the leadership of Craig Fugate who had been the Florida Director of Emergency Management. Prior to this disaster it was assumed that FEMA would be cut by a Romney Presidency as he handed more of the federal government back to the states. He has now issued a support statement on FEMA.
There needs to be some new thinking on sea defenses but that might also need to take in the idea of restricting building on certain coastlines. In future if governments don't act insurance companies will. Early estimates is it will cost insurance companies $10-$20 billion for the impact of Hurricane Sandy and that is likely only to move higher.
We are less than a month away from the next meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Doha. We are also just over three years away from the 2015 UNFCCC meeting which will set the post Kyoto agreement. Perhaps in aftermath of Hurricane Sandy the US government will start taking the leadership that Mayor Bloomberg and many of us have been asking for, for far too long....before it is too late.
Climate Change and Energy Insecurity - The Challenge for Peace, Security and Development edited by Felix Dodds, Andrew Higham and Richard Sherman
"We must treat climate as a security issue, the most important threat to global security we will ever face. Energy is at the heart of this transition. Climate security and energy security are two sides of the same coin: one cannot be achieved without the other. This book is an important contribution to exploring this vital part of the environmental security agenda."
Maurice Strong, Secretary General of the Rio and Stockholm UN Conferences