Hurricane Sandy and its $50 billion price tag and the election of President Obama made the pre-election criticism about the silence of both Romney and Obama on one of the most important issues of our time, perhaps the most challenging, seemingly irrelevant. But it’s worth looking at why the two candidates avoided the issue. On October 25 the Times offered a detailed explanation, which might be summed up as, “In times of economic dire straits, calling for action that will inevitably result in higher energy prices is political suicide.” The Times explained:
Any serious effort to address climate change will require a transformation of the nation’s system for producing and consuming energy and will, at least in the medium term, mean higher prices for fuel and electricity. Powerful incumbent industries — coal, oil, utilities — are threatened by such changes and have mounted a well-financed long-term campaign to sow doubt about climate change. The Koch brothers and others in the oil industry have underwritten advertising campaigns and grass-roots efforts to support like-minded candidates.
Now that Obama has won and many of the Kochs’ “like-minded candidates” lost (though not enough in the House and in many state races) and never has to win re-election again, he can and must campaign to win our support for this transformation of our energy system. The predictions are simply too dire to ignore, and it’s almost too late to prevent the warming by getting carbon out of the atmosphere and keeping most fossil fuels in the ground. It will be expensive–but much more expensive not to act now. (Soon, a post on cost-benefit analysis that proves we cannot postpone action any longer.) The good news: several grass-roots movements are underway to put pressure on the administration and Congress to begin the change; upcoming posts will summarize them and guide you to the sites where you can join the actions (e.g., 350.org’s Do the Math campaign) and be inspired by wonderful coverage of the movement (Grist, Think Progress, Yes!).