This is the worst possible wake-up call.
Our shore communities are suffering unspeakable loss. More than 2 million households lost power. Tens of thousands of homes suffered serious damage or were lost. Total costs have been estimated to be as high as $50 billion for the region. And, tragically, some New Yorkers lost their lives.
As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put it, “Anyone who says there is not a change in weather patterns is denying reality.”
The air over a warming planet holds more moisture. Warming temperatures in our oceans lead to more powerful storms. Melting polar ice caps disrupt normal weather patterns. Rising sea levels mean that, when storms hit our coasts, flooding is more severe. Deadlier, more powerful, more damaging storms like Superstorm Sandy are exactly what scientists have warned us will happen if we fail to reduce carbon pollution, warnings that were outlined in a report we released this summer: "When It Rains, It Pours."
The majority of New Yorkers and Americans have connected the dots. Most of us understand that more extreme weather is becoming more common, the planet is warming, and pollution is behind much of it. Most of us also know we -- as Americans and New Yorkers -- can do better. We can reduce the pollution that’s behind global warming. We can rely more on energy efficiency, solar power and wind power and less on oil, gas and dirty coal. Of course, this is exactly why big oil and coal companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to block sensible energy policies.
We can no longer allow Big Oil and King Coal to hold America’s clean energy future hostage. It’s time for our leaders to heed Superstorm Sandy’s awful wake-up call and embrace clean energy, clean air and a safer future. Right now, we should do all we can to help millions of New Yorkers recover from Superstorm Sandy. Please, if you can, contribute to the Red Cross.
At the same time, let’s heed Nature's not-so-subtle reminder of what a warming planet has in store for us. It's time to take action to reduce carbon pollution, slow global warming, slow the rise of our oceans, and leave our children a safer planet. The time to get started is now.