If Hurricane Sandy could speak, what would she have said? What has she told us about America’s badly aging infrastructure? Our emergency preparedness? Our effect on climate and climate change? While it appears that politicians have espoused a vow of silence when it comes to global warming, maybe hurricane Sandy, popularly termed a “frankenstorm”, can finally stir up some positive discussion that will blow past all the political hot air.
Mary Shelley’s classic horror, Frankenstein, tells a tale of science gone horribly, horribly askew. What most people don’t know, however, is that the name Frankenstein refers to the mad scientist, the misguided creator, not the creation itself. In that sense, the moniker “Frankenstorm”, coined by various media sources, is doubly appropriate. Sandy was a monster of a storm leaving behind a wide swath of indiscriminate destruction. But, it was also formed and shaped in part by the actions of men, such as you and I.
However, where there is unanimous agreement amongst literary scholars that the true monster in Shelley’s horror classic is as much Dr. Frankenstein as it is his creation, there is no such consensus when it comes to global warming. As a people, as a nation, we are quite apt at deflecting blame and shirking responsibility.
That’s a problem.
The world operates by cause and effect. Because we dump billions upon billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, through tail pipes and smoke stacks, the world is becoming superheated. The results are supercharged weather extremes, such as hurricane Sandy and the record-shattering droughts of 2011 and 2012. Of course, these natural disasters are ultimately symptoms of a planet reacting to very specific stimuli in a variety of ways. A good doctor doesn’t just treat the symptoms, he treats the underlying cause so that the symptoms will cease. But just like a sick patient whose underlying malady is allowed to fester, the symptoms of global warming will continue to become more prevalent, more damaging, and more lethal.
That’s also a problem.
Luckily for our sick planet, mankind understands basic self-preservation. If the world goes down the toilet, we go down with it. We get that. Ultimately, the cost of hurricane Sandy, and of other disasters to come, goes way beyond dollars. People are suffering, people are losing their homes, people are dying. The key word here is people. And denying or ignoring the existence of the threat global warming poses does a great disservice to all of the worlds people – you, me, our families, our friends, Democrats, Republicans, Americans, Europeans, Asians, and everyone else.
Sandy Says “Global Warming is Here”
The number one thing Sandy is telling us is that global warming is here. The discussion is no longer an intellectual exercise about how climate change will affect us in the years to come. It is now a discussion about how to deal with the effects, and the root causes, now. This discussion is global, as places as diverse asVenice, Italy and China all struggle to cope with profound climate shifts.
Sandy Says “Infrastructure Needs Investment”
Before Sandy even made landfall, weather stations and news outlets across the nation were already predicting that New York City would be underwater and that power would likely be interrupted across the North East. One thing Sandy has made abundantly clear is that our existing infrastructure is simply inadequate. We knew this even before Sandy decided to pound our nation’s most important city with wind, water, and waves. It doesn’t take an army of news analysts to tell me that, when it comes to infrastructure, America lags behind even some developing nations. It just took a beating for us to understand that bad infrastructure is not only bad economics, but a serious public safety hazard.
Sandy Says “You Reap What You Sow”
The silver lining to this massive natural disaster is that it has provoked serious discussions about the role of individuals, corporations, and governments in stymieing climate change and learning to adapt better to thestormy seasons to come. While climate took a backseat in the proceedings of the 2012 presidential election, Sandy brought it back to center stage.
Polls subsequently reflect increased awareness of global warming as a serious threat. That’s good news, because concerned people ask the right questions and take steps to rectify problems. What we need now more than ever is national unity on a variety of issues. Global warming is one of the most important pressing issues. We’ve been sowing carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere for the past two hundred years, Sandy may only be harbinger of things to come.
Sandy Says “Renewables Are the Future”
Let’s face it, global warming is a problem. But it’s not an unsolvable problem. As a nation, we need to continue the push for renewable sources of energy and to uphold certain standards of energy efficiency. Even oil giant Exxon Mobil has admitted on record that policies, such as carbon taxes, might be a good idea to improve the outlook of renewables. But the transition to renewable will continue to happen haphazardly until the nation can build a consensus to vigorously pursue renewable alternatives.
As individuals, there are a variety of cost-effective measures for reducing both bills and costs, such as better insulation in homes, solar panels for residents of sunny states, and water harvesting equipment in arid western and midwestern states. With the idea of distributed renewable generation gaining currency, individuals can now invest directly in energy production, usually in the form of photovoltaics.
Only by building energy infrastructure from the individual up, and investing from the top down through progressive, future-oriented government policies, can we begin to match mitigation efforts with the pace that climate change is occurring. While hurricane Sandy shattered records in terms of damage claims, the storm also managed to shatter a long national silence on the topic of climate change. This, at least, may finally be a step in the right direction.