According to CBS exit polls, 2 in 5 Americans considered Superstorm Sandy and President Obama’s handling of the disaster a crucial factor in deciding who to vote for on election day. According to the survey, the storm was the most important factor for 15% of those polled. Twenty six percent of those polled considered the storm an important factor.
If this is true, millions of votes, perhaps as much as 20 million, can be directly attributed to the impact of Hurricane Sandy.
Obama seemed to sense this mandate Tuesday night. In his victory speech Obama proclaimed:
We want our children to live in an America that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.
Republicans, flailing for someone or something to blame for their loss, have also targeted Sandy. Numerous pundits blamed the storm for Romney’s slide in the polls. And it is appropriate that a party which continues to brazenly deny the effects of and needed responses to human caused global warming should suffer a loss due to a problem they are ignoring and, through policies supporting increased fossil fuel use, make worse.
This result has given rise to calls for Obama to become a climate change hawk. Joe Romm stated on election day:
Obama’s legacy — and indeed the legacy of all 21st century presidents, starting with George W. Bush — will be determined primarily by whether we avert catastrophic climate change.
And it is, indeed critical that Obama take point on this key issue during his last four years as President. New reports show that, for the world to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst insults of climate change, carbon intensity must fall by 5% per year for each year from now to 2050. Unfortunately, current carbon intensity is falling by just .8% each year, less than 1/6th the level needed.
In fact, scientists are arguing against more research into clean energy in favor of a deploy now and deploy big strategy. The new sources — wind and solar — are established enough to provide reliable energy for humanity. And critical transportation technologies like electric vehicles are already well established as viable. The time is now to rapidly increase the scale and penetration of these key alternative energy technologies. Such increases will require new government policy measures to encourage rapid adoption and deployment. One such policy called Tax and Transfer has been submitted as a possible solution by NASA scientist James Hansen. Other countries such as Germany, Sweden, and Scotland have provided impressive models for rapid transfers away from fossil fuel based energy sources.
The President would be well served to enlist the help of luminaries like James Hansen, Joe Romm, Michael Mann, and Bill McKibben to form an emergency task force on climate change to recommend solutions to our growing problem. Such a response, combined with clear, effective policy measures for reducing carbon pollution as well as partnering with foreign countries to speed such a transition are absolutely necessary to prevent an increasingly dangerous climate.