The most important consideration regarding Hurricane Sandy is the safety of those in its path and recovering from damage. There is the danger that discussing the political implications might seem distasteful, however very recently the Republicans began to play politics with the death of Americans in Libya with total disregard for waiting for the facts to come in. There is no reason not to look at the political implications of a tragedy where the facts are clearly on our side. Policies have consequences and Sandy shows the consequences of the Republican beliefs being wrong in two areas–disaster management and climate change.
Mitt Romney would return us to the disaster management policies of George Bush just like he would return us the economic policies of George Bush. Over the last couple of days numerous sites have linked to multiple statements from Mitt Romney talking of cutting FEMA. He has argued this should be handled by the states, but he also vetoed money for flood prevention while governor. Cutting funding for FEMA is also the position of the Republican Party:
Over the last two years, Congressional Republicans have forced a 43 percent reduction in the primary FEMA grants that pay for disaster preparedness. Representatives Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and other House Republicans have repeatedly tried to refuse FEMA’s budget requests when disasters are more expensive than predicted, or have demanded that other valuable programs be cut to pay for them. The Ryan budget, which Mr. Romney praised as “an excellent piece of work,” would result in severe cutbacks to the agency, as would the Republican-instigated sequester, which would cut disaster relief by 8.2 percent on top of earlier reductions.
Now Romney either avoids answering questions about FEMA or claims he will not cut it. Campaigning for cuts to big government programs in the abstract is popular. It is a different matter to identify individual programs. Romney claims he will cut federal spending to less than 20 percent of GDP by 2016 but refuses to say what he will cut. It would be folly to vote for someone who refuses to answer this question.
Mitt Romney made fun of Barack Obama, saying he “promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet” at the Republican convention. That doesn’t sound like such a bad idea now. Bill Clinton mocked Romney for a similar attack on Obama at the first debate (where sadly Obama failed to defend himself):
I was actually listening closely to what the candidates said in these debates. In the first debate, the triumph of the moderate Mitt Romney. You remember what he did? He ridiculed the president. 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. All up and down the East Coast, there are mayors, many of them Republicans, who are being told, ‘You’ve got to move these houses back away from the ocean. You’ve got to lift them up. Climate change is going to raise the water levels on a permanent basis. If you want your town insured, you have to do this.’ In the real world, Barack Obama’s policies work better.
Many Republicans deny science, claiming that global warming is a hoax despite all the evidence that the earth has warmed due to activities of mankind. Scientists, along with the insurance industry which must rely on facts, acknowledge that severe weather events are related to climate change. From Scientific American:
Hurricane Sandy has emboldened more scientists to directly link climate change and storms, without the hedge. On Monday, as Sandy came ashore in New Jersey, Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, tweeted: “Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is [the] storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.”
Raymond Bradley, director of the Climate Systems Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, was quoted in the Vancouver Sun saying: “When storms develop, when they do hit the coast, they are going to be bigger and I think that’s a fair statement that most people could sign onto.”
A recent, peer-reviewed study published by several authors in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science concludes: “The largest cyclones are most affected by warmer conditions and we detect a statistically significant trend in the frequency of large surge events (roughly corresponding to tropical storm size) since 1923.”
Greg Laden, an anthropologist who blogs about culture and science, wrote this week in an online piece: “There is always going to be variation in temperature or some other weather related factor, but global warming raises the baseline. That’s true. But the corollary to that is NOT that you can’t link climate change to a given storm. All storms are weather, all weather is the immediate manifestation of climate, climate change is about climate.”
Now, as promised: If you still don’t believe scientists, then believe insurance giant Munich Re. In her October 29 post at the The New Yorker, writer Elizabeth Kolbert notes:
Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurance firms, issued a study titled “Severe Weather in North America.” According to the press release that accompanied the report, “Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.” … While many factors have contributed to this trend, including an increase in the number of people living in flood-prone areas, the report identified global warming as one of the major culprits: “Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity.”
If Democrats can capitalized politically on Hurricane Sandy’s demonstration that Republicans are wrong in cutting government disaster funding and wrong about climate change they could do very well next week.
On the other hand, if they have not been able to benefit politically from running against a candidate who would destroy Social Security and Medicare, and if they still have not yet been able to sell all the benefits of Obamacare to the public, there is no reason to be confident that the Democrats will win this argument despite having the facts on their side. The Republican tsunami of misinformation,which covers up facts and presents a direct danger to liberty and democracy, is even more harmful to this nation than any single natural disaster.