This is the worst possible wake-up call.
Our Shore communities are suffering unspeakable loss. More than 2 million households lost power. Tens of thousands of homes suffered serious damage or were lost. Total costs have been estimated to be as high as $50 billion for the region. And, tragically, some New Jerseyans have lost their lives.
As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put it, after Hurricane Sandy, “Anyone who says there is not a change in weather patterns is denying reality.”
The air over a warming planet holds more moisture. Warming temperatures in our oceans lead to more powerful storms. Melting polar ice caps disrupt normal weather patterns. Rising sea levels mean that, when storms hit our coasts, flooding is more severe. Deadlier, more powerful, more damaging storms like Hurricane Sandy are exactly what scientists have warned us will happen if we fail to reduce carbon pollution, warnings that were outlined in our 2009 report, "An Unfamiliar State: Local Impacts of Global Warming in New Jersey."
The majority of New Jerseyans and Americans have connected the dots. Most of us understand that more extreme weather is becoming more common, the planet is warming, and pollution is behind much of it. Most of us also believe we -- as Americans and New Jerseyans -- can do better. We can reduce the pollution that’s behind global warming. We can rely more on energy efficiency, solar power and wind power and less on oil, gas and dirty coal. Of course, this is exactly why big oil and coal companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to block sensible energy policies in our country.
We can no longer allow Big Oil and King Coal to hold America’s clean energy future hostage. It’s time for our leaders to heed Hurricane Sandy’s awful wake-up call and embrace clean energy, clean air and a safer future.
As the cleanup and restoration of normality to the lives of millions of Americans and all of us in New Jersey continues and as we recover here in the Garden State, as hundreds of our friends and neighbors mourn the loss of loved ones, we should do all we can to help them recover. We have given a lot of ourselves in New Jersey already --- please continue to help your neighbors, your family, friends and perfect strangers. Please, if you can, help the Red Cross allow us to recover.
Yet, this time, let’s heed Nature's not-so-subtle reminder of what a warming planet has in store for us. It's time to take action to reduce carbon pollution, slow global warming, slow the rise of our oceans, and leave our children a safer planet.
The time to get started is now.