Every four years presidential candidates tell the American people that that election is a turning point for the country. This year they might have actually been right. To be sure, there are always differences between candidates. On a range of issues, from health care to tax reform, voters this year faced a real choice about two different approaches to governing. But the other turning point in this election, which has a very real impact on the future of this country, was the bipartisan silence, during almost all of the campaign, on one of the most critical issues of our time. By this I refer to the silence around climate change.
For the first time in 24 years, the words "climate" and "warming" were not used once in the presidential debate, while "oil" and "natural gas" were mentioned 56 times. To put that in context, the U.S. just experienced the warmest eight months on record, during which time over 60 percent of the nation experienced moderate-to-exceptional drought conditions, 44,000 wild fires burned 7.7 million acres, and U.S. corn production reached its lowest yield in 17 years. In 2011, the 14 most severe weather events in the country cost the U.S. close to $140 billion. I write this in the midst of Hurricane Sandy, which is on track to be the largest storm ever to hit the east coast.
The nation is haltingly moving from one disaster to the next while the candidates bickered about who can drill for more oil and gas. To ignore the problem of greenhouse gas emissions while millions of Americans are suffering as a result is either denial to the extreme or the peak of negligence.
Now, before people jump to conclusions, let's clear up one misconception right away. Averting the worst consequences of global climate change is not about protecting the planet. It is about protecting us. As the extreme weather events of the last decade have shown us time and time again, the planet is quite capable of protecting itself. Eons ago, Earth existed and even prospered under conditions that would be uninhabitable to mankind and most other forms of life today. The heat waves, flooding, wild fires and gale force winds that we now experience with increasing frequency and intensity are all a part of the Earth's adaptive capacity to adjust to a changing climate.
Read the rest at Huffington Post.
Photo: A truck drives through water pushed over a road by Hurricane Sandy in Southampton, New York, on October 29, 2012. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters)