01 November 2012


Some days, it is sweet to read the headlines.  From the NYTimes ~ Bloomberg Endorses Obama, Citing Climate Change ~ "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 had 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.'  "

Ya think?  The astute reader will note that often (most recently in yesterday's post), I have been one of a handful of voices in the wilderness trying to call attention to the fact that we have already crossed a number of environmental thresholds, and continue to do so, with deleterious effects on natural habitat and the survival of other species.  Our homocentric attitude toward other life forms and Earth's resources (believing that they exist for us to use/abuse as we see fit), is self-deluding and ultimately self-destructive.

We humans tend to behave responsibly only in reaction to crisis.  Few among us think and behave proactively, considering the potential consequences before making choices, and even then being willing to alter our views as new data emerges.  It is a delicious (and perhaps hopeful) irony that both NJ Governor Chris Christie (a Republican, pictured above with President Obama ~ click to enlarge) and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg have praised Obama's swift emergency response.  The irony is doubled when you consider that Republican candidate Mitt Romney, in typical foot-in-mouth fashion, actually called for defunding FEMA and turning the federal government's role in disaster response over to the states ~ a laughable proposition at best, an insult to every citizen's intelligence at worst.

(Bloomberg had a few choice observations about Romney, too ~ "In the past he has taken sensible positions on immigration, illegal guns, abortion rights and health care ~ but he has reversed course on all of them, and is even running against the very health care model he signed into law in Massachussetts.")

So yes, of course there is an essential, irreplaceable role for a strong federal government, paid for by a fair distribution of taxes.  And of course Hurricane Sandy is a wake-up call on climate change, and not the first to appear.  Extreme weather, the die-off of the world's coral reefs, massive wildfires, rising global temperatures, shifts in oceanic currents, the rapid disappearance of the polar ice pack and the world's glaciers and coastal ice sheets in Antarctica ~ these are all symptoms of climate change, and there is worse to come.  Had all the governments of the world heeded the warnings of climate scientists thirty years ago regarding greenhouse gases and rapid deforestation and the destruction of entire ecosystems, we might ... might ... have avoided a few thresholds.  Even if, overnight, the world's population were to immediately halt carbon dioxide emissions and other forms of pollution (not to mention cutting our population to one-tenth its present numbers), too many local and global processes are already in motion.  It takes time to slow, then reverse, the momentum of such massive systems.  We are out of time.

Now we must deal with the consequences.

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