Sandy made Climate Change a political issue in the US
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Sandy made Climate Change a political issue in the US

New York City : NY : USA | Nov 29, 2012 at 9:41 AM PST
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The 2012 presidential elections in US came out with some hope for the environment lovers and activists who are worried about global warming and the climate change as the phenomena of nature featured as points of serious discussion in political forums and global media. Thanks to the hurricane Sandy and its devastating impact that took over 100 lives and caused damage worth 50 billion USD along US east coast. And, what was more important was the timing of the disastrous natural event. The leaders, who hardly considered global warming and climate change as subjects of bigger political relevance, had to include the issues in political agenda because of the occurrence of the hurricane amidst campaigning for presidential election US when eyes of the whole world were focused in USA.

Sandy and its Climate Change connection

Climate change connection of hurricanes are more in debate these days after the shocking ravages of Sandy, judged by scientists to be one of the most powerful hurricanes. “Scientists still point several ways in which the storm may have been exacerbated by climate change. Year-after-year of rising sea levels—caused by climate change due melting glaciers and the fact that warmer waters actually expand—certainly added to Sandy's devastating storm surge, which hit 14 feet in some places. A warmer ocean also results in increased evaporation, leading to heavier precipitation. Combining the sea level rise with more precipitation probably resulted in a double-whammy for coastal flooding,” says Jeremy Hance of environmental news portal Mongabay.com adding that “higher oceanic temperatures and more precipitation may increase the intensity of some hurricanes. In fact, recent science shows that while hurricanes in general may occur less often due to climate change, particularly intense ones, like Sandy, are expected to occur more frequently in upcoming decades. Temperatures over the Atlantic Ocean were 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above average during the reign of Sandy.”

It’s also believed that the route of sandy hurricane was pushed by a rare blocking pattern—an unmoving block of atmosphere pressure—near Greenland which pushed Sandy westwards into New Jersey and New York. According to recent researches, this could be well connected to warming and sea ice loss in the Arctic. “Usually a hurricane like Sandy would move out eastwards and perish over the ocean, but this one was steered directly into the coast. Much more research on this theory is needed, but it may be that Arctic sea ice loss—which hit a new record low this year—could have helped form the blocking pattern that brought Sandy along its unusual course,” writes Jeremy Hance.

Supporting the climate change link of super storm Sandy, Scientists like Stefan Rahmstorf, professor of physics of the oceans at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research says, as quoted by Reuters, "there is reason to suspect that there could be a connection between the record sea ice loss this summer and the path of this storm."

However, increase in frequency and intensity of low pressures resulting in more powerful storms in the coastal areas has been predicted by many scientists before and the phenomenon has been physically established in many parts of the coastal world.

Climate Change now a Political subject

Never before a phenomenon like storm was qualified to feature as a priority in political and media debates as was Sandy. Hitting the American coasts just days before the 2012 Presidential election, the storm prompted president Barrack Obama to talk about climate change. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also, endorsed President Barack Obama for a second term, citing the importance of addressing climate change in the aftermath of the devastating impact of tropical storm Sandy.

So, global warming, sea level rise and climate change have now made themselves serious political topics than just environmental concerns and the 2012 presidential elections of USA raised fresh hope in direction of building atmosphere for a greener politics than just green industrialisation and development.

The topic is expected to go beyond debates and to encourage more activism to build pressure on the political leadership and, particularly, on Obama administration to take a clear stand on the subject and initiate action.

"One year ago we surrounded the White House to ask President Obama to be the leader we hoped for. Now is his chance to live up to our highest expectations. We can't afford anything less," 350.org, an influential climate group wrote to supporters giving a call that said, "We're not going to wait for him to come around either—if we want change, it comes from us. And it is coming."

So, during his second term, Obama is going to face more pressure from climate activists. And, this time, most of the common Americans would also support the campaigners as more such disasters in America are already predicted by many of the research groups. Even though it was one of the ravaging super storms, Sandy contributed enormously to include Climate change in the US political agenda! It's just to be seen if Obama or US administration takes lessons from Sandy and works to address the issue.

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New York mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a climate change conference
Basudev Mahapatra is based in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India, and is a Stringer for Allvoices.
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