“President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans… And heal the planet” – Mitt Romney
Sandy – and climate change – is having a profound impact on American politics and the Presidential election in surprising ways:
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.
Mr. Bloomberg, a political independent in his third term leading New York City, has been sharply critical of both Mr. Obama, a Democrat, and Mitt Romney, the president’s Republican rival, saying that both men have failed to candidly confront the problems afflicting the nation. But he said he had decided over the past several days that Mr. Obama was the best candidate to tackle the global climate change that the mayor believes contributed to the violent storm, which took the lives of at least 38 New Yorkers and caused billions of dollars in damage.
“The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast — in lost lives, lost homes and lost business — brought the stakes of next Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief,” Mr. Bloomberg wrote in an editorial for Bloomberg View.
“Our climate is changing,” he wrote. “And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”
Perhaps this is the break-through moment for climate politics in the US: when a respected, conservative leaning politician (Bloomberg is an independent with progressive views on a range of issues) helps dismantle the logjam stifling acknowledgement that climate change is central to the political discussion, and not a fringe concern.
The conservative politicians, think tanks, one particular global media corporation and journalists who have spent decades denying the reality are not merely looking out of touch with reality – it is now clear giving credence to their views was both foolish and dangerous.
The price of denial is writ large across Caribbean nations such as Haiti (60 dead) and the North East of the United States where the death toll has reached over 80.
The world has listened to these fanatics and merchants of unreality for too long.
But sadly it has taken two hurricanes in the United States – and far too many dead and billions in damage – to illustrate the folly of denial.
Twice climate extremes have destroyed the ambitions of conservatives in the US to hold or gain the Presidency. And twice they have chosen to ignore the lessons.
Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Presidency of George W. Bush, who was shown to be grossly incompetent. Recall it was Bush who sought to delay action on climate and ushered in the Republican war on science.
But denial among the GOP and conservatives only increased in intensity.
Now hurricane Sandy may have shifted the politics of climate change, most likely ensured a second term for Obama and discredited the sceptic movement in the eyes of most of the public.
The response of the millions who experienced the devastation of Sandy to the arguments of the sceptics will be personal and visceral:
“You’re a climate sceptic? Well I’m from New York – f*ck you”
Nor will the world forget the foolish utterances and names of those who denied climate change. The evidence of their stupidity and ideological zealotry is voluminous.
Romeny’s mocking of the issue of at the recent RNC will not merely haunt his failed bid for the Presidency: it will haunt conservatives in the US for decades.
It will haunt News Corporation for decades, who will be seen as one of the principle agents of denial.
And it will haunt conservative politicians in Australia, who fell under the siren song of the sceptic movement.
But it was bound to happen: reality was always going to catch up in the form of surging flood waters, withered crops and smashed and storm ravaged cities.
There will be an accounting and a reckoning, of that there can be little doubt.