No one can say without a doubt that Super Storm Sandy was a result of man-made climate change. But there is a wide-spread perception that there is a connection.
In the last days of the 2012 election, after Sandy devastated much of the Northeast US coast, something changed. Most pollsters, analysts and pundits agree that Sandy impacted the result of the election.
I think there were two pivotal moments when many swing voters decided to vote for President Obama:
The first was when Governor Chris Christie and President Barack Obama bonded at the Jersey Shore. They seemed smitten. Perhaps, some swing voters thought, if Christie likes this guy he isn’t so bad after all.
The implicit message from Gov. Christie was: This is bigger than political alignment. I have an urgent problem as Governor of New Jersey and President Obama’s support is more important right now than Mitt Romney’s. Why? Because climate change just changed the game for the future of New Jersey.
Here is the Governor’s reply to a question from a Fox News reporter about Sandy and politics:
“I have a job to do. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me”
The second moment was when Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York, an Independent, endorsed President Obama:
“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. Our climate is changing. … We need leadership from the White House.”
Obama, he said:
“. . . has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption.”
The climate issue can be front and center again, especially if the President continues to bring it up as he did election night, and during his most recent news conference. And based on new interactive tools being tested on the Xbox gaming platform, elevating climate will find a welcome reception among younger audiences inheriting this warming world.
During the presidential and vice-presidential debates, discussion of climate change was off limits. At the time of those debates I was heading up a project for Xbox LIVE that included a polling feature that allowed the Xbox audience to watch the debates on Xbox and answer polling questions in real-time.
While none of the debate moderators asked questions about climate change, we asked the Xbox LIVE audience pointed questions. In the video clip below you can see one such question and the results during the second presidential debate, before Super Storm Sandy was a twinkle in any meteorologist’s eye. 57% of those who took the poll said government is not doing enough about climate change.
Below are findings from across a number of polls and studies conducted well before the election:
- On July 13, 2012 a Washington Post‐Stanford University Poll reported that most Americans believe temperatures around the world are going up and that weather patterns have become more unstable in the past few years. But they also see future warming as something that can be addressed, and majorities want government action across a range of policies to curb energy consumption.
- In September 2012, The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication found that Americans’ belief in the reality of global warming has increased by 13 percentage points over the past two and a half years, from 57 percent in January 2010 to 70 percent in September 2012. At the same time, the number of Americans who say global warming is not happening has declined nearly by half, from 20 percent in January 2010 to only 12 percent today. 79 percent favored more research into renewable energy sources, even if it cost the average household $100 extra a year. And 63 percent of respondents said they support requiring utilities to produce at least 20 percent of their electricity from wind, solar or other renewable energy sources.
- The Sierra Club and NCLR (National Council of La Raza) found in a recent national survey that nearly 90 percent of Latino voters favor clean energy over fossil fuels. The national poll surveyed 1,131 Latino registered voters across the country on a number of public health, environmental and energy issues, and found overwhelming support for clean energy innovation, protecting public lands and parks and cleaning up toxic pollution.
Clearly the level of action, or lack of action, on climate change by the US government is out of sync with the attitudes of most Americans. The same is true in Canada, where I live.
Now that President Obama is talking about climate (albeit after he was elected; not before) there is a new opportunity to put climate on the front burner and address the concerns of the public.
As the President said, “I am not running for election again.” This gives him an unprecedented opportunity to do the right thing regarding climate. But it is up to organizations like Resource Media to take this moment in time and run with it. We need to help develop coalitions around specific plans that will mitigate climate change and develop economic benefits in the process. The stronger the voice for change, the stronger the presidential mandate to take action will become.
Chair, Resource Media Board of Directors
Digital Media Strategist and Consultant