Elections and the Envrionment

By: Daniel Edelson, Sustainability & the Greek Community

Global warming, it is a widely shared belief that CO2 has been trapped and altered our atmosphere leading to extreme weather events around the globe. This decade alone, we have experience record heat in the continental U.S., wildfires to the highest intensity, strengthened storms, and a rise in worldwide sea levels from melting ice caps in the Arctic. Despite these threatening climate extremes and the knowledge of hurricane Sandy, the 2012 presidential race has largely avoided the public discussion of climate change.

In the three presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate, no candidate managed to utter the words “climate change.” Even if the candidates wanted to avoid the topic, why was there no direct question about climate change surfaced during the debates? With Hurricane Sandy becoming the second-costliest storm in U.S. history, it appears that climate change has finally begun to make its presence in the political scene. As we near election Tuesday, voters are increasingly taking notice of candidate’s stances on environmental issues. Policies to reduce carbon emissions, set higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks, and adopt tighter controls on mercury emissions, could potentially sway votes and even the presidential results.

So will Sandy, the second “once in a century” storm of the decade, finally have an outcome on the presidential election? Recently, in reaction to Sandy’s widespread devastation, New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who has been critical of both candidates, endorsed president Obama because of his commitment to leadership on climate change. With many people questioning whether the storms will get stronger, become more damaging, and happen more frequently, an endorsement like this could prove to be quite influential. Even if the hurricane was not directly caused by climate change, the candidates now have to contend with the possibility that global warming is real, relevant, and threating to national security. As we continue to progress through the 21st century, hurricane Sandy could finally by the tipping point for the 45th U.S. president to respond to climate change more actively and with a sense of urgency.

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