Shifting the conversation
Premature talks of Sandy’s cause are politicizing the tragedy
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Superstorm Sandy is still very much in effect, but that doesn’t stop our politicians from talking about the cause.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo became the first politician to publicly link Sandy to climate change and urged governments and the public to take note of the consequences likely to occur if the world continues to ignore the phenomenon. During a news briefing on Wednesday, Cuomo stated that part of learning from the aftermath of the storm is recognizing climate change is a reality.
“There’s only so long you can say, ‘This is once in a lifetime, and it’s never going to happen again,’” Cuomo said.
Now there’s a chain of politicians and pundits wanting in on the action, backing the claims or continuing to deny such an issue is even plausible.
Climate change undoubtedly got the short stick this election season. After the presidential debates, pundits were very quick to point out the issue wasn’t mentioned in any of the three debates or the vice presidential debate. It was the first time this was the case since 1984.
Now, in the midst of tragedy, everyone has decided it’s important enough to become a discussion point. If climate change is such a big deal to these politicians, why did it take something as big as a natural catastrophe to start talking about it?
It’s only natural for our politicians to focus on the cause rather than the effect – to make something out of it that’s not there. After all, there would be nothing to place the blame on otherwise, and every politician needs something to blame rather than focusing on the present.
The last thing the victims are worried about, though, is what caused Sandy. They’re worried about how they’re going to rebuild what was destroyed. They’re worried about putting their roofs back on their houses and worried about getting back to work.
Is it possible Sandy could have been caused by climate change? Certainly – world sea levels have risen by eight inches in the past 100 years, a trend that has been blamed on melting ice and expanding water. But not only is it premature to conclude human activities have made a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane activity, it is inappropriate to make conclusions at this time.
It’s unfair to say our officials aren’t thinking about it, but if they are, it’s not the only thoughts in their heads. It’s a much different situation for Sandy to strike now than if it struck months ago while the election was still in early stages. Country leaders can be quickly credited or blamed for what comes during and after the storm, and voters can be just as quickly blinded. With only a few days to go before ballots are cast, voters have to make an effort not to let the storm carry the weight of their decision.
Remember when Mitt Romney took some heat for politicizing the attacks in Libya while they were still going on? This should be approached the same way.
Not that the issue shouldn’t be talked about, and it’s something the candidates should have been and should still be discussing. But there’s a time and a place to discuss it, and while there are still millions of people out of power, while there are still people without shelter or water or unable to get a hold of family members on the other side of the country, that time is not now.