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An urgent item on Obama’s agenda

As we write, many residents of New York and New Jersey are still without power. Thousands are still homeless. Hurricane Sandy left more than 100 people dead and caused at least $50 billion in damages. It was followed just days later by a nor’easter that lashed already frigid residents with heavy winds and icy rain. Was Sandy’s fury fueled by climate change? No one can say for sure, but climate change itself is indisputable. Seven of the 10 warmest summers on record have occurred in the past 10 years, and the temperature of the ocean off the East Coast is at a record high. Warm ocean water is the fuel of storms.

President Obama’s re-election offers hope that the United States will finally get serious about taking its position as a world leader in the battle to slow climate change. Crucial decisions must be made about whether the increased extraction and consumption of fossil fuels is in the world’s long-term interest. Even if humans could throw the switch on carbon emissions now, the world’s temperature would continue to rise for decades. The glaciers and ice sheets that reflected much of the sun’s heat back into the atmosphere are ghosts of their former selves, and many could be gone within years. If, as happened last winter, snow doesn’t fall or melts soon after it does, the bare brown ground will absorb heat and strengthen the warming feedback loop.

The nation needs a comprehensive plan to prepare for what most scientists believe will be a future of more powerful storms, rising seas, less habitable coastlines, hotter temperatures, longer droughts, bigger and more frequent wildfires, threats from tropical diseases, and all the other ills associated with a rapidly warming world. That planning also involves either protecting low-lying cities like New York and New Orleans with sea gates and natural buffers or moving them gradually out of the path of harm. It means deciding whether to allow people displaced by rising seas and storms to rebuild at all or build at their own risk.

The insurance industry, barring even more massive federal subsidies, could determine that decision. Property owners far from areas threatened by hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters have already seen the cost of homeowner insurance double or triple over the past decade or so. That trend will continue. New Hampshire homeowners will eventually see their bills rise because of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy.

Debate over climate change and how to address it was absent from the presidential campaign . It’s not hard to figure out why. Both candidates badly needed the support of voters in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania where coal plays a big role in the economy. Unlike his challenger, Obama takes climate change seriously, and he took a significant step to address it with his executive order to double fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks over the next dozen years. With the election behind him, the president made attacking climate change a priority for his second term. He will face massive opposition from the fossil fuel industry, opposition that must be overcome by a public demand for action.

Storms aren’t partisan. They destroy the homes and claim the lives of Republicans and Democrats alike. Action to address climate change mustn’t be partisan, mustn’t be thwarted by money from the very industries at the root of the problem. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called for action. He should be joined in that call by Gov. Chris Christie of storm-ravaged New Jersey and former Florida governor Jeb Bush, whose low-lying state could disappear beneath the seas. There will be more and stronger Hurricane Sandy’s.

The question is, will America be prepared for them?

Legacy Comments3

The cost of energy in the US is considerably higher than the price we pay at the pump, or for our electric and heating fuel bills. We should be recovering all government costs related to energy through energy taxes, rather than through income taxes (or debt increase). This change would increase demand for energy efficient products (insulation, fuel efficient vehicles, LEDs, solar panels, etc.), reduce demand for energy. In the long run this change would reduce the overall combined cost of energy and taxes for Americans, while reducing global warming and climate change. Americans will continue to be taxed to cover the cost of the DOE, the NRC, and the base in Bahrain - It would make much more sense to recover those costs through energy taxes rather than through income taxes.

Just got my propane bill $3.34 per gallon, in 2002 when I built my home is was .89 per gallon, I think that I pay quite enough without giving more to Uncle Sam to spend on some fluffy program. You talk about fuel efficient vehicles but the Prius and Honda Civic hybrids have a bigger carbon footprint due to the way the parts are manufactured in several different factories. The Chevy Volt should be free to all citizens as we paid for it! Same with the Fisker. Both junk for $35000-$40,000. (Please wear fireproof clothing while driving the Volt). LED light bulbs are great, I have some in my home but the price is prohibitive $35-$40 each. Regular bulbs at Ocean State are pennies and will last a quarter life of LED bulbs. Solar panels? Over priced and there must be some hanging around one of the old warehouses owned by Solyndra, I think we own those too. What we need is a free Volt or Fisker and free solar panels at every home. Then I will feel complete.

A big reason so many people lost power in the storm is because of a failure to trim trees around power lines. One of the biggest factors in this is because when the power companies (and on Long Island, that power company is NOT a private company, but a public one) do try to trim, they get court orders from the citizens to stop. So they do. Lets not make that same mistake here in NH. Want to make real progress in keeping the power on? TRIM THE TREES AROUND POWER LINES. Its real simple. You could even give the wood to needy families.

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