In Hurricane Sandy’s Fury, The Fingerprint Of Climate Change

Originally posted on The Huffington Post by Tom Zeller Jr.

Last month, Mike Tidwell, director of Maryland’s Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the author of the 2006 book The Ravaging Tide — which detailed the expected rise in extreme weather events that will come with global warming — received a pamphlet in the mail from his insurance company, Travelers. The full-color flier depicted a typical suburban home with a lashing storm looming on the horizon.

Federal disaster declarations are up, the pamphlet declared. Average winter storm losses have doubled since the 1980s. Thunderstorms last year caused over $25 billion in damages, more than double the previous record.

“That flier was astonishing,” said Tidwell. “I couldn’t remember ever getting anything like that before.”

The implication was simple: Given the bounty of scientific and statistical evidence now in hand, insurance companies can’t afford to dither over whether climate change is real — and really, neither can anyone else. Monday night, another multibillion-dollar weather disaster — the very sort that scientists have been predicting for years would increase in frequency and intensity as the planet heats up — struck the American East Coast. Roads and subways and homes flooded and lives were lost. Property damages from wind and storm surges could break records. Millions lost power.

With one week left before an historic election that, as it happens, has been roundly criticized for its utter lack of high-level discussion of climate change, the smooth functioning of democracy itself might well be undermined by the storm, with the potential for widespread power outages in some areas lasting 10 days or more — well beyond next Tuesday’s scheduled polls.

If ever there was a time for everyone to wake up, Tidwell suggested, it’s now. Continue reading