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Sandy and climate change
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion ...
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion section of the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass. As such, our focus starts there and spreads to include Massachusetts, the nation and the world. Since successful blogs create communities of readers and writers, we hope the \x34& Co.\x34 will also come to include you.
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I’ve heard many times not to confuse weather — what’s happening outside your window today — with climate, which is a complicated set of global phenomenon.  Any respectable climate scientist will resist the urge to blame a specific storm on generalized global warming.



But a few weeks ago I heard a scientist explain it in a way that stuck with me.  Consider steroids in baseball, he said.  You couldn’t point to a specific home run by Sammy Sosa or Barry Bonds and say steroids caused that home run.  But you can look at a decade’s worth of hitting states and be reasonably certain that the use of performance-enhancing drugs by a large number of players resulted in many more homers being hit than was otherwise likely.



So it is with Sandy. We’ve had bad hurricanes hit the northeast before, but we know that warmer ocean temperatures make for fiercer storms  (hence, so many storms in the tropics). As someone who has dipped at least my toes in the Atlantic in mid-coast Maine just about every August for the last 40 years, I know that the ocean is getting warmer (as do the scientists, of course).  It’s not hard to connect the dots.



And, after a decade in which the climate change denial lobby has been ascendent, it appears reality is changing the minds of American voters:



A post-election survey of voters conducted by Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) finds that a robust majority of Americans understand Hurricane Sandy was made worse by climate change. The survey also found strong majorities of voters connecting climate change to the record high summer temperatures witnessed in 2012 as well as this year’s extraordinary drought.  The survey found that 60% of Americans who voted in the 2012 presidential election agree with the statement that “global warming made Hurricane Sandy worse.” The survey also found that 73% of respondents agreed with the statement: “Global warming is affecting extreme weather events in the United States.”




The press release goes on to note helpfully that “The connections between climate change and Hurricane Sandy are numerous and have been well documented. A wetter, warmer atmosphere loads such storms with more energy and rain, while warmer oceans provide energy for more powerful storms and stronger storm surge, surge that is riding higher on seas that have risen nearly a foot in the NYC harbor due to global warming.



 



 

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