The Mark UP

Message from ‘Frankenstorm’: Ignore Climate Change No Longer

Political campaign strategists closely monitor the possibility of inclement weather in the weeks, days and hours before every election day – and for good reason:

Stormy weather depresses voter turnout in ways that can affect election outcomes.

With a freak “Frankenstorm” now bearing down on the eastern third of the United States, this is shaping up as one monster of an election.

It’s as if Mother Nature is sending yet another message to American voters:

Ignore me no longer.

Climate change and global warming super-charges storms like hurricanes, and increases the frequency and severity of weather disasters. Sea level rise also increases the danger of flooding when storms strike our coastal states.

Disappointingly, climate change so far has been a non-issue in this election, despite this year’s unprecedented heat, flooding and other disasters, such as the freak “derecho” storm that slammed Washington, D.C. and Tropical Storm Isaac, which made a mess of the Republican convention.

Now, climate change is unavoidable.

President Obama and Mitt Romney both cancelled campaign events in Virginia, which is in Hurricane Sandy’s path. Campaign strategists are anxiously weighing what to do about millions of dollars worth of TV advertising buys if the power goes out in swing states.

And don’t think the coming storm and climate change generally shouldn’t factor into the dominant theme of this election – the economy.

Already, forecasters are predicting that Hurricane Sandy will be another billion-dollar disaster.  It will likely become just the latest climate change-related disaster to batter our economy.

Last year’s extreme weather – floods, heat waves, hailstorms and tornadoes – contributed to insurance losses of $34 billion, according to Ceres, the nonprofit business group that advocates for sustainable leadership.

This year’s record heat and drought alone – more than 25,000 new record high temperatures were set over the summer – has already cost private insurers and the federal crop insurance program more than $25 billion in damages, a Ceres report shows.

Those are real effects on our economy.

Even if it hasn’t been an issue on the campaign trail, the differences in presidential candidates on climate change and what to do about it are clear.

Mitt Romney has flipped-flopped on climate change and its causes. He wants to increase our dependence on fossil fuels – the biggest contributor to climate change – and decrease our development of clean, renewable energy, just as we’re making great strides. He dismisses climate change with a shrug and a smirk, preferring to ignore the problem instead of addressing it.

President Obama, on the other hand, is taking real steps to address climate change. He is pushing through standards to decrease emissions from power plants and automobiles, and supports federal policies and programs that have doubled our supply of clean energy in the past four years alone. To level the playing field and create real market competition in the energy industry, he wants to cut $4 billion in annual taxpayer breaks to for the fossil fuel industry, while continuing programs like the production tax credit (PTC) that has helped create tens of thousands of wind industry jobs.

As President Obama said at the Democratic Convention, “…climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They are a threat to our children’s future.”

Reiterating that point in an interview with MTV this week, he added, “we’re not moving as fast as we need to. And this is an issue that future generations, MTV viewers, are going to have to be dealing with even more than the older generation. So this is a critical issue.”

As Mother Nature continues to show us, we need to quit ignoring the issue of climate change, which is breeding the weather disasters we continue to face.

And there’s only one presidential candidate who shown the leadership we need to that; only one presidential candidate who hasn’t ignored or ridiculed the issue:

That’s President Obama.