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2012 SkS News Bulletin #2: Hurricane Sandy & Climate Change

Posted on 4 November 2012 by John Hartz

This is the second installment of a a round-up of selected news articles and blog posts about Hurricane Sandy, its impacts on the Caribbean and North America, and its relationship to climate change. This bulletin supplements the regular SkS weekly News Round-Up which is posted on Saturday of each week. A key pragraph has been extracted verbatim from each article in order to provide insight into the article's content.  

Arriving atop fantastically warm water and aided by a full foot of sea-level rise during the last century, Hurricane Sandy is just the latest example of climate change’s impact on human society. Unless we rapidly phase out our use of fossil fuels, most Americans within shouting distance of an ocean will—in coming years—live behind the sort of massive levees and floodgates that mark Louisiana today.

We Are All from New Orleans Now: Climate Change, Hurricanes and the Fate of America's Coastal Cities by Mike Tidwell, The Nation, Oct 29, 2012

As the Caribbean reaches the end of October – the second-to-last month of the Atlantic hurricane season – Sandy has caused significant material losses and claimed the lives of 44 people in Haiti, 11 in Cuba, two in the Dominican Republic, one in Jamaica and one in the Bahamas.

Caribbean Faces Increasing Fury of Storms by Patricia Grogg, Inter Press Service (IPS), Oct 29, 2912

Hurricane Sandy seems straight out of a Hollywood apocalyptic blockbuster. But a confluence of environmental and topographical characteristics helps explain its vast size, slow progress, storm surge and multiple methods of wreaking havoc on the coast and deep inland, scientists say.

The science behind Hurricane Sandy: a confluence of trouble by Neela Banerjee, Los Angeles Times, Oct 29, 2012 

But no president can cross Big Oil in the way that is required to defuse the climate crisis without the help of a powerful and sustained popular movement. If Hurricane Sandy contributes to building such a movement—and McKibben and his fellow activists at and allied organizations are launching a national tour shortly after Election Day that aims to do just that—America might still avoid the curse of Cassandra by heeding her warnings at last.

Hurricane Sandy as Greek Tragedy by Mark Hertsgaard, The Nation, Oct 30, 2012

Watching the images of Sandy leaving a path of destruction brings back memories of the day after Hurricane Andrew hit my home in Miami back in 1992. The state of shock as my parents and I approached our storm ravaged home is still fresh in my memory even 20 years later as I see the faces of those who are experiencing the same today.

Superstorm Sandy Reminds Us Why We Have to Care About Climate Change by Adrianna Quintero, The Huffington Post, Oct 31, 2012

By the time Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast coast on Monday, upending lives across the Eastern half of the country, it had become a freakish hybrid of a large, late-season hurricane and a winter storm more typical of the middle latitudes. Though by no means unprecedented, that type of hybrid storm is rare enough that scientists have not studied whether it is likely to become more common in a warming climate.

Are Humans to Blame? Science Is Out by Justin Gillis, New York Times, Oct 31, 2012

But scientists agree on one point: Rising sea levels caused primarily by global warming could worsen the effects of storms such as Sandy, particularly when it comes to storm surge. And that means coastal communities throughout the United States must think about what they’ll need for protection from such storms.

Did climate change play a role in Sandy’s strength? by Erika Bolstad, McClatchy Newspapers, Oct 31, 2012

The images of a paralysed New York City at the mercy of Hurricane Sandy's wall of water have forced climate change on to the political agenda in the final week of the 2012 presidential election campaign. Even before Sandy made landfall political commentators were debating whether the storm would be better for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. In any event it has brought forth statements from prominent Democrats and elected officials on climate change and spurred public debate about the neglected topic.

Sandy puts climate change back on the US election agenda by Suzanne Goldberg, The Gaurdian, Oct 31, 2012

Miller strongly disagreed with my discussion of the science revealing past patterns of extreme storminess in the Northeast and the science pointing to a rising human influence on some (but not all) kinds of extreme weather. The exchange is worth posting here now (Miller gave permission), to give you a sense of how intelligent people with related, if not identical, goals can interpret a large body of science very differently:

Two Views of a Superstorm in Climate Context by Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth, New York Times, Oct 31, 2012

"Folks, second year in a row the New York metro area has been [hit] by this stuff," said Todd, NBC News's Chief White House Correspondent and host of The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. "Let's not bury our heads in the sand when it comes to something has changed in the Atlantic. The climate has changed. It's called climate change, folks."

Sandy Forces Media And Politicians To Talk About Climate Change by Ruby Kramer, BuzzFeed, Oct 31, 2012

Up to now, New York's response to flood threats has been to build smaller-scale barriers around facilities to make them more resilient to flooding. A multibillion-dollar project to create a storm surge defense system hasn't been on the agenda. "The city has been very polite, and they agree that in the long term it will become a necessity," Bowman said. "But for now they say, not yet. They're focusing on resilience, solutions to small problems."

NYC flood was foreseen: Now what? by Alan Boyle, Cosmic Log,, Oct 31, 2012

Democrats have been AWOL on climate change, but Republicans have been even more recalcitrant. Their failure is odd, because in other areas of national security Republicans pride themselves on their vigilance. Romney doesn’t want to wait until he sees an Iranian nuclear weapon before acting, so why the passivity about climate change?

Will Climate Get Some Respect Now? by Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, Oct 31, 2012 

A huge storm barrels down on the United States, wreaking havoc with punishing winds, record flooding, heavy snowfall and massive blackouts. Is the main culprit climate change or a freak set of coincidences?

Climate change, or crap shoot? Experts weigh Sandy's causes by Julie Steenhuysen and Alister Doyle, Alertnet/Reuters, Oct 31, 2012

Climate science explains how global warming can make a superstorms like Sandy more destructive in several ways:

How Does Climate Change Make Superstorms Like Sandy More Destructive? by Joe Romm, Climate Progress, Oct 31, 2012

The evidence is not yet in for the East Coast in 2011 and 2012, but the general trends are increasingly clear. In its 2012 report on managing the risks of extreme events and disasters, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that "A changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration, and timing of extreme weather and climate events, and can result in unprecedented extreme weather and climate events."

Climate change is real by Chris Field, Special to CNN, Nov 1, 2012

Earlier this week, New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) issued a pointed statement on climate change and its role in the monstrous storm from which his state -- and many others -- will be recovering for months, and perhaps years, to come.

"It's a longer conversation, but I think part of learning from this is the recognition that climate change is a reality," Cuomo said. "Extreme weather is a reality. It is a reality that we are vulnerable."

Hurricane Sandy's Link To Climate Change: Does It Matter? by Tom Zeller Jr., The Huffington Post, Nov 1, 2012

I’ve tried this week, as sporadic Internet access allowed, to foster some productive discourse amid a media environment that seems dead-set on creating polarization. The two most vivid examples on my mind at the moment are “It’s Global Warming, Stupid,” a much-shared essay in Bloomberg Businessweek, and an effort by Anthony Watts, inspired by a ridiculous U.S. News Sandy-warming poll, to list scientists and commentators for and against global warming as the storm’s cause.

On Hurricanes, Presidents, Climate and One Clear Human Factor in the Sandy Disaster by Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth, New York Times, Nov 1, 2012

In a surprise announcement, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Thursday that Hurricane Sandy had reshaped his thinking about the presidential campaign and that as a result he was endorsing President Obama.

Bloomberg Endorses Obama, Citing Climate Change by Raymond Hernandez, New York Times, Nov 1, 2012

As NCAR’s Gerald Meehl, a co-author of the study, explained to me by e-mail, it’s a lot easier to stabilize global temperatures by cutting carbon emissions than it is to stabilize sea-level rise. The carbon-dioxide that we’ve already loaded into the atmosphere will likely have effects on the oceans for centuries to come. “But with aggressive mitigation,” Meehl added, “you can slow down the rate of sea level rise, which buys time for adaptation measures.”

Can we stop the seas from rising? Yes, but less than you think. by Brad Plumer, Ezra Klein's Wonk Blog, Washington Post, Nov 1, 2012

Bloomberg Businessweek editor Josh Tyrangiel tweeted, "Our cover story this week may generate controversy, but only among the stupid."

Businessweek Hurricane Sandy Cover: 'It's Global Warming, Stupid' (PHOTO), Media, the Huffington Post

Hurricane Sandy has broken the so-called “climate silence” of this year’s elections. The storm has thrown a wrench into campaign efforts, halting activities Monday and Tuesday as it became impossible to ignore the topic of climate change, which has penetrated the national dialogue.

Hurricane Sandy Fans Flames of Climate Change Debate by Rebecca Hanser, Inter Press Service (IPS), Nov 1, 2012

“While one storm ‘might have happened anyway’ in a mythical non-industrial world, the general level of weird weather (an amalgam of many events) is clearly caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gases,” says David Archer, a professor at the University of Chicago, in an email. “Like you could figure out that dice are loaded by tossing them a few times, more than just once.” (His book, The Long Thaw, is one of the best quick reads on climate change.)

What If Mike Bloomberg Is Right And A Climate Change Nightmare Is Here? by Matthew Herper, forbes, Nov 2, 2012

On Tuesday, I posted some suggestions for how people could help the victims of Hurricane Sandy here in the United States. I neglected to mention the horrific suffering in impoverished Haiti, which was pummeled by Sandy’s devastating trajectory before she hit US shores.

Don't Forget Haiti by Peter Rothberg, The Nation, Nov 2, 2012

Those crazy, radical hippies at Bloomberg Businessweek have gone and done it. With the blunt, no-nonsense cover that likely already appeared on your Facebook feed or Twitter stream or Tumblr dashboard, Businessweek dared state with certainty what so many media outlets have nervously danced around in their coverage of Superstorm Sandy: It’s Global Warming, Stupid.

Bloomberg Businessweek Gets It Right: Sandy Wasn't "Caused" By Climate Change - It IS Global Warming by Ben Jervey, DeSmog Blog, Nov 2, 2012

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Comments 1 to 2:

  1. Hurricane sandy is the worst hit hurricane so far. People have no electricity,gas and other needed things for their daily chores. Back me up
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  2. Michael Bloomberg endorsed Obama!?? Yeah, ok. I get it now. The businessweek cover, republicans believing in global warming, that thing on Google News about Disney owning Star Wars... this is all some kind of big, 'Let's freak out the people who have been living like cave men for the past week' gag.
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