Hurricane Sandy to Play Important Role in Presidential Election?

Written By Jessica Nichols

Hurricane Sandy has been declared the highest costing and the largest hurricane on record. Scientists cite global warming and its effects to the recent spike in ‘super storms,’ which then begs the question of how Sandy is going to effect the upcoming presidential election.

Whether one is a democrat, republican or a third party supporter, a natural disaster transcends party lines. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which experts are saying was so severe partially due to global warming, how the candidates respond to these very real issues may be a decisive point in the minds of voters.

After breaking ground in the United States on October 29, Sandy has become the second-most costly hurricane in US recorded history, racking up an estimated $50 billion in economic losses, and is second only to Hurricane Katrina. Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, recently tweeted this in regards to the strength and severity of Sandy, “Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.”

Global warming is not necessarily the most widely accepted notion, however, especially outside of the scientific community. There are still many political and religious figures that do not believe in climate change as well as our role in it, and responsibility that humans have on this planet.

President Obama supports Donna Vanzant, the owner of the North Point Marina, which was damaged in the hurricane, during a tour through Brigantine, NJ this October 31, 2012

But how can global warming alter weather patterns or the severity of storms? Scientists look to indicators like sea level to determine this. This past summer heralded a large loss on the level of sea ice. Climate Central had this to say, “The loss of sea ice opens large expanses of open water, which then absorbs more of the incoming solar radiation and adds heat and moisture to the atmosphere, thereby helping to alter weather patterns.”

Romney has been unclear on the subject at best, citing an unclear scientific stance as the source for his measured view on the topic. He told donors at the Consol Energy Center, “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

Obama, on the other hand, may be taking a much more active role in the wake of Sandy. While Obama has never before had a problem mentioning global warming, he has of yet has not brought to the table the seriousness of the issue at hand, though he did say in a speech in Charlottesville, Va. last week, “Denying climate change doesn’t make it stop.”

As coverage of Sandy spreads and the clean-up effort is put into place, the pressure is on for this presidential election. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are on the ropes to ensure that they are sending their message to the public, assuring them that they, too, take this issue very seriously.

Maldives Drives Innovation to Stay Afloat

Male, the capitol city of Maldives

A picturesque view of Male, the capitol city of Maldives.

Written by: Nick Mingay

MALDIVES – The small island chain set a goal to offset its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, but if the rest of the world does not follow and world carbon emissions fall Maldives could be completely underwater by the end of the century.

The archipelago of 1,190 islands is the lowest elevated county in the world. The average elevation is just one and  a half meters above sea level, leaving it susceptible if the sea levels continue to rise.

Maldives spends approximately 15 percent of its GDP on Diesel fuel to provide power to the inhabitants of the islands. They are beginning to wane from that source of energy though. Wind turbines are starting to be completed on many of the southern islands.

Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Maldives, said he wants to be the example for the rest of the world to try and save his country from going underwater. Although creating clean energy is the only way to save his country, that is not the only reason to do it.

“For us this is an economic issue. It’s a financial issue. We are becoming carbon neutral because it is cheaper than fossil fuels,” Nasheed said.

Moving to cleaner energy is not an easy step to take. It takes investments over long periods of time and possible cuts to other areas of the budget. This may be the biggest reason why other countries have not been as forward about using cleaner energy, the cost is just too high at the moment.

Maldives’ economy thrives on tourism, which has been hit hard because of the state of the economy. It is not easy for the country to delve deep into its pockets for investment in clean energy, but it is necessary. The cost is especially hard for developing countries like Maldives.

“When cities, people and countries  develop, you have to pay a higher price. We’re trying to adjust these prices to very minimal,” Utility Chairman Ahmed Zareer said.

Other hindrances are effecting the construction of certain clean energy projects. The climate is not conducive to solar panels because of the corrosive nature of the salty environment, parts of the island chain receive hardly enough wind for turbines to be effective and there is little land mass for solar panels to have a particularly large impact.

These disadvantages come with the territory of living in paradise. But, they will not stop  Nasheed and the rest of the Maldives from trying anything they can to keep their country afloat.

Environmental Protection Agency on the Ropes In 2012


Written by: Anatole Ashraf

The Environmental Protection Agency continues to face challenges as another election year begins with 2012. On Dec. 29, Texas filed a motion in federal appeals court to block the Obama Administration’s attempts to regulate the emissions of greenhouse gases. Another federal court rejected the state’s petition one day before on Dec. 28.

The move by Texas is merely the latest in what continues to be a difficult period for the Environmental Protection Agency. The Jan. 1 implementation of the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which places stricter federal limits on pollution from coal-fired plants was delayed at the last minute by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit on Dec. 31.

“Texas law does not currently deem greenhouse gases to be pollutants,” said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has previously claimed that the state was determined to fight the EPA’s intentions. “Once again, the federal government is overreaching, and improperly intruding upon the state of Texas and its legal rights.”

Greg Abbott’s comments reflect one of the greatest challenges facing the EPA—climate change denial. With the 2012 presidential election, doubts and gaps in the science regarding global warming and rising temperatures stand to be frequently highlighted by candidates and politicians to gain favor with deniers.

The increasing fervor of charges against climate change can be traced back to a 2009 incident regarding personal emails circulating between researchers at the Climatic Research Unit of the U.K.’s University of East Anglia, the leading institution focused on climate change. Dubbed a scandal called “Climategate,” the emails revealed increasing frustration on the part of climate scientists, with one admitting that he was “tempted to beat” a skeptic at the libertarian Cato institute. The impact on public opinion was almost immediate, with a poll conducted five weeks later by Yale and George Mason University finding 57 percent of respondents believing that the planet is warming. A similar poll conducted in 2008 found 71 percent believers.

Some say climate change denial stems from negative reactions to new findings. According to political scientist Charles Taber of Stony Brook University, a person hearing about a discovery that challenges deeply held beliefs will have a negative subconscious response which in turn will guide the type of conscious memories and associations. “They retrieve thoughts that are consistent with their previous beliefs, and that will lead them to build an argument and challenge what they’re hearing,” Taber said. (On a humorous note, Mother Jones has compiled a “Field Guide to Climate Change Skeptics”.)

In the face of opposition from climate change deniers and a complicated relationship with lawmakers and politicians, the EPA’s mandate to regulate environmental crime and enforce environmental justice seems to be a challenge. Current administrator Lisa P. Jackson, however, announced at a speech at Power Shift 2011, an annual conference on climate change policy, that she was more energized than ever to “keep America on a path towards a more green and environmentally sustainable future.”