Mr. Kristof has a question: “Will Climate Get Some Respect Now?” He says climate change has virtually been ignored in this presidential campaign, but Sandy brought it front and center. Ms. Collins also has a question: “Guess Who It’s All Up To?” She says Ohio has it all: a Real Recovery Road Rally, tons of TV ads and a problem with political lawn signs. People, if this election is going to come down to one group, let it be Ohioans. Here’s Mr. Kristof:
President Obama and Mitt Romney seemed determined not to discuss climate change in this campaign. So thanks to Hurricane Sandy for forcing the issue: Isn’t it time to talk not only about weather, but also about climate?
It’s true, of course, that no single storm or drought can be attributed to climate change. Atlantic hurricanes in the Northeast go way back, as the catastrophic “snow hurricane” of 1804 attests. But many scientists believe that rising carbon emissions could make extreme weather — like Sandy — more likely.
“You can’t say any one single event is reflective of climate change,” William Solecki, the co-chairman of the New York City Panel on Climate Change, told me. “But it’s illustrative of the conditions and events and scenarios that we expect with climate change.”
In that sense, whatever its causes, Sandy offers a window into the way ahead.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York says he told President Obama the other day that it seems “we have a 100-year flood every two years now.” Indeed, The Times has reported that three of the 10 biggest floods in Lower Manhattan since 1900 have occurred in the last three years.
So brace yourself, for several reasons:
• Hurricanes form when the ocean is warm, and that warmth is their fuel. The Atlantic waters off the East Coast set a record high temperature this summer. Presumably most of that is natural variation, and some is human-induced climate change.
• Computer models suggest that hurricanes won’t necessarily become more frequent, but they may become stronger. As the United States Global Change Research Program, a collaboration of federal agencies, puts it, “The intensity of these storms is likely to increase in this century.”
• Climate change adds moisture to the atmosphere, which may mean that storms come with more rain and more flooding.
• Sandy was particularly destructive because it was prevented from moving back out to sea by a “blocking pattern” associated with the jet stream. There’s debate about this, but one recent study suggested that melting sea ice in the Arctic may lead to such blocking.
• Rising seas create a higher baseline for future storm surges. The New York City Panel on Climate Change has projected that coastal waters may rise by two feet by 2050 and four feet by the end of the century.
I was schooled in the far-reaching changes under way several years ago by Eskimos in Alaska, who told me of their amazement at seeing changes in their Arctic village — from melting permafrost to robins (for which their Inupiat language has no word), and even a (shivering) porcupine. If we can’t see that something extraordinary is going on in the world around us, we’re in trouble.
“Of the 10 warmest summers on record for the contiguous United States, seven have occurred since 2000,” notes Jake Crouch of the National Climatic Data Center.
They include this summer’s drought in the United States, the worst in more than half a century.
“For the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change,” James E. Hansen, a NASA climate scientist, recently wrote in The Washington Post.
Politicians have dropped the ball, but so have those of us in the news business. The number of articles about climate change fell by 41 percent from 2009 to 2011, according to DailyClimate.org.
There are no easy solutions, but we may need to invest in cleaner energy, impose a carbon tax or other curbs on greenhouse gases, and, above all, rethink how we can reduce the toll of a changing climate. For example, we may not want to rebuild in some coastal areas that have been hammered by Sandy.
(That’s almost as bizarre as Michael Brown, the FEMA director during Hurricane Katrina, scolding Obama for responding to Sandy “so quickly.”)
Democrats have been AWOL on climate change, but Republicans have been even more recalcitrant. Their failure is odd, because in other areas of national security Republicans pride themselves on their vigilance. Romney doesn’t want to wait until he sees an Iranian nuclear weapon before acting, so why the passivity about climate change?
Along with eight million others, the Kristofs have lost power, so I’ve been sending Twitter messages on my iPhone by candlelight — an odd juxtaposition that feels like a wake-up call. In the candlelit aftermath of a future hurricane, I’m guessing, we’ll look back at the silence about climate in the 2012 election and ask: “What were they thinking?”
Now here’s Ms. Collins who’s in Cincinnati, the poor thing:
Have we mentioned that it’s all up to Ohio?
“People do like being the center of the universe. And Ohio — when does that happen?” asked P.G. Sittenfeld gleefully. He is a member of the Cincinnati City Council who went to battle recently over a series of billboards that popped up in minority neighborhoods announcing “VOTER FRAUD IS A FELONY!” with a picture of a gavel banging down.
The ads, which certainly seemed less than encouraging, were paid for by a foundation led by a big Republican donor from Wisconsin. Now they’re down, and thanks in part to Sittenfeld’s yelps, there are new billboards in the same neighborhoods saying, “Hey, Cincinnati: Voting Is a Right, Not a Crime.”
So there’s a happy ending. Although, in an ideal world, we probably wouldn’t be required to remind folks that voting for president is not against the law.
“How do Florida and Colorado feel?” Sittenfeld wondered. “Do they resent us? Is there swing-state envy?”
It’s been all up to Ohio for months now. But, on Wednesday, a new CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac poll showed Obama leading Romney by five points in the Buckeye State. In response, Romney officials began to suggest that maybe it was really all about Pennsylvania.
Nobody took them seriously. Mitt is bringing half the Republican Party to Ohio on Friday to kick off the new “Romney-Ryan Real Recovery Road Rally.” Everybody’s coming — Ann, the sons, Paul Ryan, Paul Ryan’s wife who we have yet to actually meet, Rudy Giuliani, a couple of Olympic medalists and pretty much every Republican elected official except He Who Must Not Be Named in New Jersey.
Sudden plans for a road trip are usually the sign of a pressing need to escape reality.
Ohio is currently famous for its oversupply of TV campaign ads — Douglas Tifft, a legal research clerk in Cincinnati, counted 16 in a row one recent night. It also has a history of Election Day crises. This is one of the reasons voting now runs for more than a month, the better to reduce the chances of a last-minute pileup. (Earlier this year, the Republican secretary of state seemed bent on expanding voting hours even more in the suburbs while reducing them in the cities, but he has gotten over that.)
Nearly a quarter of the likely voters have already cast their ballots. Frankly, I don’t see why everybody hasn’t voted already, because this is the only way to keep the desperate party workers from calling you and coming repeatedly to your door to ask you to get with the program.
The Romney-Ryan Real Recovery Road Rally will begin in John Boehner’s hometown of West Chester. Then everybody will fan out across the land to distract the country from the fact that Mitt Romney once said he wanted to get rid of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And, actually, it’s not very fair to bring that up. That was during the primaries, and Romney did not mean a single thing he said during the primaries. The person currently running for president is the late-fall Mitt Romney, who is mainly concerned with China. And “change.”
Change is so 2008. Right now, we are just looking for a president who will nudge things a tad toward the right general direction. Bring us the guy who won’t totally screw things up. We want a “No New Disasters” rally.
About Ohio. President Obama canceled a big Cincinnati rally on Wednesday, but his supporters here didn’t seem to mind. This was mainly because Ohio appreciated the importance of focusing on the disaster along the East Coast, but also because local Democrats are in such a state of manic anxiety that the president’s visit was just going to be that many hours lost from going door to door, begging people to vote, or putting up lawn signs and then replacing the lawn signs when they’re stolen.
“I wanted to sit up all night in a lawn chair,” said Michele Mueller, who has lost a large number of Obama signs to vandals. “But my husband said, no, we’re going to hang them from the tree.” The next morning when they woke up, the Muellers found someone had climbed into the trees and draped towels over their placards. So it goes.
If this election is going to be all about somebody other than me, I’m good with Ohioans. They are, as a group, hard-working, unassuming and inclined to take their civic responsibilities seriously.
“I don’t ever get anybody saying: ‘I’m not interested,’ ” said Denise Driehaus, a state representative and compulsive door-to-door campaign worker.
Her brother, Steve, was a Cincinnati congressman who lost his seat in the big Republican surge of 2010. He then joined the Peace Corps and took his family to work in Swaziland. This should be a model for every ex-congressman lobbyist in Washington. Look to Ohio, guys. It’s all about Ohio.