After playing only a bit part in the US election, climate change took centre stage this week as Hurricane Sandy swept across the northeastern seaboard to leave much of New York and Atlantic City submerged under water.
Creating scenes reminiscent of a Hollywood blockbuster, this super storm has left tens of thousands of people stranded, and millions without power. The disaster comes just days before Americans are expected to head to the polls to vote for their next president.
'October surprises', designed to ensure the victory of one candidate over another, are usually man made. But, this year as the two candidates squabbled for control of the White House, Mother Nature stepped in to show who's really in charge. Dubbed as a 'once in a lifetime' event, this super storm comes 7 years after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans to wreck over $110 billion in damages. Such events are no longer black swans. They are caused by warmer weather over the Atlantic ocean, and a change in weather patterns because of less ice in the Arctic.
"The terrifying truth is that America faces a future full of Frankenstorms. The threat of killer winds and crushing storm surges will grow by the year unless we get serious about tackling greenhouse gas pollution," says Shaye Wolf from the Centre for Biological Diversity.
In the words of Al Gore, former US Vice President: "For many, Hurricane Sandy may prove to be a time when the climate crisis became a reality. Hurricane Sandy is a disturbing sign of things to come. We must heed this warning and act quickly. Dirty energy makes dirty weather."And, that's why New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has just endorsed President Barack Obama:
"The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast brought the stakes of Tuesday's presidential election into sharp relief. Our climate is changing. This week's devastation should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action."
This super storm follows a US summer of scorching heat waves, biblical floods and the worst drought in half a century. And, although such events may seem apocalyptic, they were bought about by a mere 0.8 degrees celsius temperature rise.
Earlier this year, the International Energy Agency warned that the planet may warm by up to 6 degrees celsius by the end of this century. This will usher in changes not seen since the last ice age. Unless we radically rein in our global carbon emissions, our children's children will be growing up in a very different world indeed.
And, as US is the world's largest superpower, it's role in pushing through a legally binding international deal is critical. Most elections get billed as the most important in a generation. But, with America teetering on a fiscal cliff as the fate of our climate hangs in the balance, this one really is.
But, with the President and his challenger Mitt Romney still locked in a dead heat, anything could happen. With just a couple of days to go, both candidates have returned back to the battleground states to woo over those coveted undecided voters.
Campaigning for Obama in Minnesota, the former US President Bill Clinton criticized Romney's position on the environment:
"He ridiculed the president for his efforts to fight global warming in economically beneficial ways. He said, 'Oh, you're going to turn back the seas. In my part of America, we would like it if someone could've done that yesterday."
Climate change is causing sea levels around the world to rise. And, around the north eastern part of the United States, they are rising up to three to four times faster than the global average. "We are all from New Orleans now. Climate change - through the measurable rise of sea levels and a documented increase in the intensity of Atlantic storms - has made 100 million Americans virtually as vulnerable to catastrophe as the victims of Hurricane Katrina were seven years ago," says Mike Tidwell, the founder of Chesapeake Climate Action.
If Romney gets into the White House this November, that number could rise even higher. His energy plan, largely tailored for the big oil companies, will ensure that events like Hurricane Sandy and Katrina become more frequent.
And the President understands this. Recognizing that "climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation," Obama has made clean energy a priority. It has already doubled under his stewardship, and he plans on making at least 80 percent of the nation's electricity come from renewable energy by 2035: "I will not let oil companies write this country's energy plan, or endanger our coastlines."
With just a few days to go, each and every vote will count will count as much as the next one. But, only if it is cast. Hurricane Sandy may stop some voters from getting out to the polls. And, according to conventional wisdom, Democrats are less likely to vote during poor weather than Republicans as they are less likely to have a car.
Moreover, according to a poll conducted by USA Today, up to 90 million Americans may bow out of this election altogether. They may prefer Obama to Romney, but they are just not passionate enough to vote. In the words of the late British politician Edmund Burke: "All it takes for evil to triumph is for a good man to do nothing."
The election in 2000 was shaped by a mere 560 votes. That means that your one vote does have the power to determine the fate of this election. In the words of Al Gore: "What hangs in the balance is the future of civilization as we know it." And, on Tuesday when your cast your ballot, you can do something about it.