Hurricane Sandy & US Climate Change Denial

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 11/02/2012 12:05:00 AM
Americans live large--not only in terms of their outsized figures but also their outsize carbon footprints. Callous disregard for the planet is pretty much par for the course there even if Europeans are generally much more enlightened. For instance, all major parties in the UK acknowledge that climate change is man-made, while in the US one party's platform discounts such a possibility in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence.

My opinion is one of moderation: Some reflexively link all extreme weather events to climate change, while others deny such a link exists altogether. Sensible, reasonably informed people--including the vast majority like myself who are not necessarily climate change experts--will conclude that scientists do not make this stuff up for no reason and will try to act responsibility to mitigate environmental damage given the far greater likelihood that man-made climate change does exist. Insofar as climate change does not respect boundaries, inaction has far-reaching consequences, especially on developing nations as the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change identifies.

What we have here is another of these Americanisms others immediately spot the folly behind. In other words, "carbon emissions don't matter" should rightly be regarded with similar contempt as "deficits don't matter." Sandy's aftermath reminds me of drought conditions Stateside wherein blame is placed on practically everything but man-made factors despite the huge economic cost:
Climate scepticism among farmers helps explain why carbon emissions are off the US legislative agenda despite the hottest temperatures on record. Drought has gripped the broadest area of the US corn belt since previous severe dry spells in the 1980s and the 1930s, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Wednesday.

Even with plenty to lose, farmers’ champions in Washington have fought or diverted attention from climate policy to battle regulation and focus on subsidies. Their stance defies evidence that the country’s heartland is already changing because of global warming. Farmers are adapting to these changes, whatever their professed views.
It is, literally, approaching the problem in a way that rules out any number of relevant considerations because of wearing ideological blinders.

In the meantime, there is no real sense of injustice that all these things are happening Stateside since Americans are, historically speaking, the world's worst climate offenders. If it takes even more localized lashings of the magnitude of the 2012 drought and Sandy to eventually pull their heads out of the sand, well... To paraphrase Neil Young:

How many billions must the Yankee skeptics lose
To see man makes climate change

The answer my friend a hurricane.

UPDATE 1: Don't miss New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg arguing for Obama's reelection on the grounds of combating climate change post-Sandy. I'm not sure I agree with the choice he puts forward to deal with the issue, but the issue prioritization is clear at least for the more urbane NYC audience.

UPDATE 2: Businessweek adds that reinsurers are already pricing in higher risk premia associated with accelerated climate change.