The cost of Sandy

Superstorm Sandy put the issue of global warming and climate change back on the front burner, so to speak, during this presidential election season.

Neither presidential candidate has referred to this issue in the final stretch to the election. President Obama prefers not to discuss it in fragile economic times. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is avoiding tackling another area where he has flip-flopped positions between what he did as governor of Massachusetts and his stance as a presidential candidate.

Despite the silence, there is a huge gap between the positions of Obama and Romney on climate change. These contrasts, in addition to their economic impact, affect everyone’s quality of life.

First, it is irresponsible to blame every storm on climate change. Moreover, it is impossible to say that Sandy would not have existed without this phenomenon.

The great majority of scientists think that climate change is visible in storms that are worse than before, due to higher ocean temperatures and increased air moisture. The strength of a storm grows when it absorbs moisture. There is also the fact that sea levels have risen 2.25 inches in 20 years, exposing the coasts to flooding.

During the campaign, Romney has minimized the importance of this problem, looking at it exclusively in terms of the economic cost that regulating the pollution caused by contaminating industries like carbon represents for the private sector. And Romney mocked Obama’s concern about this issue during the recent Republican National Convention.

Meanwhile, the president has achieved modest progress in this area. He established fuel consumption standards for vehicles in order to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. His regulations and rules are forcing the dirtiest power plants, which emit mercury and carbon, into retirement.

The contrast is very clear. Romney holds the convenient position of doubting the human impact, because that way he can oppose regulation and argue about the economic cost to the industry. Obama is not questioning indisputable facts, but acting to resolve them.

Romney is partly right when he says this is an economic issue. The passage of Sandy left the federal government with a bill of more than $50 billion. If instead of opposing regulation, there is help and incentives for industries to be cleaner, neither the taxpayers nor the federal deficit would have to absorb such a huge cost.

Impremedia/La Opinion