11/02/2012 08:56 am ET Updated Jan 02, 2013

Sandy: Impossible to Ignore

Until now, the discussion of climate change during this election brought to mind the adage that the most important step in solving a problem is to simply admit that it exists.  

Hurricane Sandy has made the problem impossible to ignore, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will likely not be the only to base his vote next week on which candidate is best qualified to solve it. "This week's devastation," he wrote yesterday, "should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action."

The connection between climate change and catastrophes might still be dismissed by professional nutjobs in tinfoil hats, but it's painfully obvious to scientists, to insurance companies, increasingly, to the American people and to my friends and family on the Jersey Shore.

The frightening consequences that scientists have warned us about for decades are already here. We can see our world is changing before our eyes -- and it's not pretty.

Along with destruction and incalculable misery, Sandy has left an urgent question in its wake: How can we justify delaying action to stop the pollution that's disrupting our climate? How many more lost lives and billions of dollars will it take to unite our leaders behind clean-energy solutions that we already have within our grasp? We desperately need action, but instead we've had silence.

Let's be honest: Although energy issues have been at the forefront in this election, President Obama missed a series of opportunities to talk about climate directly in the debates. It's particularly unfortunate because this president has done more about climate disruption in the past four years than all his predecessors combined. His administration has cleaned up coal emissions, helped increase solar production by a factor of five, doubled our production of wind (last month, all of the new electrical energy added to the U.S. grid came from wind and solar -- 433 megawatts' worth, and not a single watt of power from coal or gas), and set strong new vehicle fuel-efficiency standards. That's a record to be proud of, not reticent about. It's a record to build on, not bury deep on a campaign website.

It's also in distinct contrast to Mitt Romney, who has backpedaled so fast on climate change he could be a new source of energy. Years ago, Romney at least claimed to take climate destabilization seriously; now it's a punchline. He's packed his campaign full of cronies and lobbyists from coal and oil. He's joined in his silence by virtually the entire Republican establishment, which has painted itself into a shameful and absurd ideological corner for fear of angering its powerful fossil-fuel donors.

The wrath of the Koch brothers, however, is no match for the fury of Mother Nature. So when it's time next week to choose those who will determine how our nation responds the climate crisis, Hurricane Sandy's question should be on our minds. It's never been clearer why we need to choose leaders who won't place the interests of fossil-fuel corporations and oil billionaires before the well-being of the planet that every one of us depends on.

Paid for by the Sierra Club Political Committee ( and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.