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The EditorsNovember 19, 2012

Hurricane Sandy left a trail of destruction and misery in its wake as it barreled its way onto the Eastern Seaboard and ground through the northeastern part of the United States. Perhaps hardest hit was the coast of New Jersey, where Sandy tore through beaches, demolished boardwalks, swept away houses and deposited oceans of sand in resort towns. Gov. Chris Christie called the damage “incalculable.” The New York City subways were closed for the second time in their 108-year history, as water swamped underground stations. At one point power was lost to upwards of 8.2 million households in 17 states.

Could anything have been done to prevent the damage? In most places, no. There is not much defense possible against such a titanic storm, which caused damage from North Carolina to Vermont. On the other hand, Sandy was the latest in a series of extreme weather events that the overwhelming majority of scientists say is related to global climate change. Warmer temperatures, the result of several human-made causes, lead to increased evaporation of water, which leads to more moisture in the air, and thus to more catastrophic weather. One recent example of accelerated evaporation: Greenland’s surface ice cover experienced a greater thaw during a three-day period last July than in nearly 40 years, according to three independent satellite measurements analyzed by NASA and university scientists.

With at least 179 deaths attributed to the storm in the Caribbean, the United States and Canada, and immeasureable misery visited on millions, it is time to turn our attention to how human actions influence these death-dealing events. The environmental activist Bill McKibben called Sandy a “wake-up call,” noting ruefully that “one wrecked subway system, I fear, equals a thousand academic studies.” That may turn out to be true. In the days after the hurricane, politicians on the East Coast began to call for greater attention to climate change, citing the alarming frequency of “once in a generation storms.”

The decision not to address climate change at all in the presidential campaign now seems foolish. Both Republicans and Democrats deserve blame for this state of events. The former have embraced climate change skeptics while the latter underplayed the urgency of the issue in an election year. The media are at fault too. As the unfairly vilified Al Gore tweeted during the final presidential debate, “Where is global warming in this debate? Climate change is an urgent foreign policy issue.”

The sad irony: Now that a horrific storm has battered the East Coast, home to the business and media establishments (including this magazine), there will be growing pressure upon the U.S. government to turn its attention to the problem of climate change. It seems the suffering of the people of Haiti, devastated by Sandy and so many other storms, was not enough to merit action.

There will be a temptation to politicize the events of October 2012, to blame the opposing party for failing to act or anticipate what was essentially a random and unpredictable event. Yet on that road lies failure. Trying to make political hay out of the destruction caused by Sandy will result only in more of the same: disagreement and stalemate. Until climate change is seen as an issue that affects all Americans, indeed the entire international community, we will fail to make progress in addressing its effects. Climate change is an issue that is vital to the common good and should be treated as such.

Here is where the Catholic community can help. In an address in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that climate change is not a political issue but a human one: “Today the great gift of God’s Creation is exposed to serious dangers and lifestyles which can degrade it. Environmental pollution is making particularly unsustainable the lives of the poor of the world.... We must pledge ourselves to take care of creation and to share its resources in solidarity.” That same year, the U.S. bishops helped launch the Catholic Climate Covenant to bring climate change to the attention of all people of faith. The church directs our attention to where it should be focused: on the poor, who suffer the ravages of climate change more than anyone else.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, cities near the coast will discuss how to protect themselves from the next storm. Levees, gates and dikes may need to be built in major metropolitan areas, but they cannot turn the tide of global opinion. Climate change is an issue that transcends borders and demands an international response. The United States can and should play a key leadership role in this effort. Perhaps, moved by the plight of the storm’s victims and prompted by a renewed commitment from people of faith, it will finally assume that responsibility.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
MaryElizabeth Clark
11 years 6 months ago
Thank you for your attention to global climate change as you draw our attention to the effects of storm "Sandy." This is an opportune time to invite one of the Catholic Climate Change Ambassadors to parishes and schools to present a Catholic faith perspective on how and why we need to mitigate the effects of global climate change.
The Catholic Climate Covenant and the St. Francis Pledge are two concrete ways parishes and schools can make a difference. Check out the website to find an ambassador near you. www.catholicclimatecovenant.org
William Atkinson
11 years 6 months ago
As an Alaskan, I have seen first hand as our 1 million old glaciers melt away, giving rize to our oceans in places as much as 5 feet. Just place a foot of water in a bucket and lift it up, and feel the weight, then multiply that times the earths oceans, what a horrendus new weight on the earths mantel along with so much more water to come crashing ashore as small storms now grow into mega storms. Every time anyone drive their car just think how much more polutants your sending into the atmosphere times an uneaqual rise in automobile and industrial polutants breaking down our protective atmosphere so we end up with a planet resembling the moon (try breathing moon air). All throuout America you now hike and bike ride where there used to be forests and green growth, cleared for hiways and massive urban growth. We are riding the path of death and destruction and mother earth can only absorb so much before she kicks back. The future only holds for the human race the payment for aborting our planet. Wake up to sinning and evil that each and every one of us contributes and perpetuate in and to our existence in this our universe. Start your car and destroy your own existence.
E.Patrick Mosman
11 years 6 months ago
The following was sent to Mayor Bloomberg after he came for Obama and blaming climate change, nee global warming, for Sandy and it is equally applicable to the Editors of America.
"Mr.Bloomberg, the democrat, turned Republican, turned Independent, turned Democrat obviously is too busy political flip-flopping to keep up with the latest on the AGW hoax.
For example the following recent reports or studies should have put to final rest the idea that the earth is warming and that weather events, snow, wind, tornadoes, hurricanes are truly Mother nature at work and not caused by a minute quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere.


Tree ring study.
Mr.Bloomberg should stick to dictating to New York City and tourists and leave the rest of the country and the world alone.
One question for the mayor If he is so enamored with Barack Obama would he appoint him as CEO or President of the Bloomberg empire or support him for Mayor of New York?"

Fernán Jaramillo
11 years 6 months ago

Unfortunately, there is much ignorance of science in the U.S. This is a land where people who never took a biology course dispute evolution, where a young earth seems plausible, where amateurs deny global warming on the basis of something they read in Science Digest. God give strength to the Jesuits as they fight ignorance in their colleges and universities. 

Theo Verbeek
11 years 6 months ago
Careful please! During the many ice ages and warmer than now inter ice age periods carbon dioxide levels were overall higher than now.Yes we (mankind) should work on reducing our often risky use of energy and live "better" but we really do not know yet well enough what is going on. 
Fernán Jaramillo
11 years 6 months ago
It would be good if commenters stated what their professional expertise is.
Pietro Tomassi
11 years 6 months ago
I hope that the American bishops could lead this effort in aaddressing this issue as a moral issue for all Cristians and Catholics
with the same conviction they talk about contraception,
gay marriage and abortion. 
Fernán Jaramillo
11 years 6 months ago
Don't hold your breath, dear Pietro.
E.Patrick Mosman
11 years 6 months ago
"It would be good if commenters stated what their professional expertise is."
Asuume this applies to the editors as well as those commenting and perhaps all should state that they heve studied the emails and files of Climategate that exposed the corrupt practices of the cabal of AGW "scientists".  
 The following was posted on the Wall Street Journal's website in response to an article written by Bjorn Lomborg author of "the skeptical environmentalist".
"Mr. Lomborg totally ignores the real science of the earth's time immemorial cyclical climate changes with his various environmentally based proposals. If Mr. Lomborg and the other perpetrators of climate change (covers warming, cooling and everything in between), nee global warming, scare had been around at the  beginning of the end of the last Ice Age or the advent of the Medieval Warm period or the Middle Ages Little Ice Age or the roughly 5,000 year period when North Africa went from a lush tropical paradise to the Sahara desert who are what would they be blaming, no doubt some evil spirit or angry god since mankind was not emitting much CO2

Since he did not name any of the scientists that support this premise that CO2 causes warming, a local phone call to Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT or to the climate professors at Harvard and University of Delaware who authored "Restructuring Climatic and Environmental Changes of the Past1000 Years: A Reappraisal" would have uncovered hundreds if not thousands of real scientists who have refuted the charge that CO2 causes global warming. For a few dollars more he might have started contacting the 650 scientists who issued a strong dissent to the man made global warming theory in a letter to the recent UN Climate change conference held in Poland or any one of the following:
-Khabibullo Abdusamatov and his colleagues at the Russian Academy of
Sciences astronomical observatory

-Astrophysicist Nir Shariv,Hebrew University, Israel,

-Dr. Edward Wegman professor at the Center for Computational Statistics
at George Mason University

-Dr Richard Tol Michael Otto, Professor of Sustainability and Global Change at Hamburg University, and Adjunct Professor Carnegie Mellon University.

-Dr Christopher Landsea, research meteorologist at the Atlantic Oceanic
and Meteorological Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric

-Duncan Wingham, appointed to a chair in the Department of Space and
Climate Physics in 1996, and to head of the Department of Earth
Sciences in October, 2005.

-Henrik Svensmark director of the Centre for Sun-Climate Research at
the Danish Space Research Institute (DSRI).

-Nigel Weiss, professor emeritus of mathematical astrophysics in the
University of Cambridge,

-Henk Tennekes, Chairman of the august Scientific Advisory Committee of
the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

-Dr Paal Brekke,the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (Soho).-

-Dr. Robert Balling, director of the office of climatology, Arizona
State University.

-Dr Tim Ball-environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg.

-Professor Fred Singer Professor Emeritus of environmental Science  University of Virginia"

Even a cursory, honest review of the recent climate history shows global temperature peaked in 1998 according to recent observations and now despite computer projections failing to forecast a cooling phase, some experts, including NASA, provide an additional 10 to 20 year window for continued cooling bring the total to a 20 to 30 year of cooling in a predicted warming world even as their computer programs continue to predicate global warming as the CO2 increases from its present level of approximately 0.0375 percent of the atmosphere. So who are the scientists that have scientific proof, not computer projections, that the earth's climate that has been cycling between Ice ages, little ice ages, warm periods and extreme hot periods for hundreds of millions of years without human input, is now under the influence of mankind? The best and the brightest scientists, computer programers, meteorologists, climate specialists, cannot replicate the hundreds of millions of years of cyclical climate history of the earth, cannot predicate with any degree of certainty the present, near term and certainly not the long range future climate cycles and this same group fueled by hubris and aided by scientifically challenged politicians are pushing to have billions of dollars, euros, yen or whatever given to them to try to develop ways and means to control the earth’s climate.
E.Patrick Mosman
11 years 6 months ago
Correction to last post;
"Assume this applies to the editors as well as those commenting....
Fernán Jaramillo
11 years 6 months ago
A fair assumption. Let's begin with you since you have discovered a sinister cabal! 
E.Patrick Mosman
11 years 6 months ago
After you sir.
Fernán Jaramillo
11 years 6 months ago
Not at all my friend! Readers here have adopted the modest and orthodox position: to trust what climate scientists, NASA, and the national academy of sciences are telling us. For that, little expertise needs to be claimed. In fact, we comfortably claim a RELATIVE lack of expertise. But you, well, you have discovered a cabal of evil scientists! That is an extraordinary claim, so I'd like to beging with your credentials. Come on, don't be so modest!
Vincent Gaitley
11 years 6 months ago
There is no evidence that climate change-whatever that is this week-caused the hurricane and thus all the damage.  There is plenty of proof that building on sandy barrier islands is a bad idea; building a city below sea level is an indefensible idea; and farming in the desert is a bad idea.  However, New Jersey is crammed with houses on barrier islands that can not any longer drain properly; New Orleans, levees and all, remains at risk due to its geography and negative elevation; famine in Africa is worsened by those who insist on farming arid land.  How often must we rebuild tornado smashed homes in Kansas? Some places were not meant for habitation.  We could save a great deal of grief and money if folks lived where it is safe...and dry. That would be a useful start.
Fernán Jaramillo
11 years 6 months ago
Dear Vincent, Sandy was the largest hurricane to form in the Atlantic as far as our records show. The barometric pressure recorded in Philadephia was the lowest ever. The drought this year in the midwest, where I live, was devastating. No weather expert will make a direct link, but to say there is no evidence is to deny science. This is not about zoning regulations in the New Jersey shore.
E.Patrick Mosman
11 years 6 months ago
Neither I nor anyone discovered the "cabal", they exposed themselves in both their emails and files which you apparently never bothered to peruse. Had you, you would have found exchanges on how to "hide the decline" in temperature on a published graph, how to control the publication of peer reviewed papers that failed to support AGW even to having an editor fired, instructions on deleting emails and files that were being requested by "Fredom of Information" actions and the complete failure by a  progammer to be able to reconstitute the program that concluded that the earth was warming. Ii should be noted that these email writing "scientists" were employees of the US(NASA/NOAA) and UK governemnts and government funded academics.These are the people that you trust.
E.Patrick Mosman
11 years 6 months ago
For the record:
When Hurricane Sandy came ashore near Atlantic City on the evening of October 29, the storm was no longer classified as a hurricane, according to the National Weather Service. Instead, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami determined that the storm had transitioned into a hybrid storm known as a “Post-Tropical Storm” shortly before landfall.
For home owners insurance purposes this means that the hurricane deductable does not apply.
Fernán Jaramillo
11 years 6 months ago
Thanks, Patrick. BTW, of course I agree with Vincent's other point, that human folly greatly amplifies what mother nature throws our way. But we are not hopelessly stupid; urban planners, emergency services,zoning  regulations, insurance policies, etc. have been shifting in the east coast for some time.
Fernán Jaramillo
11 years 6 months ago
Dear Patrick, I trust scientists in the aggregate. I am also a Catholic and therefore I know that people are flawed and make mistakes (although Cilmategate was much ado about nothing).  I am a scientist and I have, through the years, met a few dozen members on the national academy of sciences (i worked in one's laboratory as a postdoc for five years). I also understand a few things like how to design an infrared CO2 detector, so I am not wholly ignorant. My trust is not blind. Every year I see cases of fraud in medical research, but that doesn't mean i go to the chaman when my cgildren are sick.
Fernán Jaramillo
11 years 6 months ago
And please forgive my mobile-device typing :)
E.Patrick Mosman
11 years 6 months ago
"I know that people are flawed and make mistakes (although Cilmategate was much ado about nothing)." One can only make such a statement if one has failed to actually read and study the released emails and files.
Professor Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize in Physics, had some thoughts on scientists who.
fail to present and consider all information in their decisions.He called it "Cargo Cult" science.

Unless one is “leaning over backwards” (Feynman) to ensure maximum rigor and unbiased scrutiny of data and methods, it is always too easy to lapse toward “cargo cult science”.
This is what too many "scientists" risk doing, whether or not their results are ultimately sound. They are not displaying the integrity as Feynman defined it of always striving to subject their work to the most scrupulous possible checks and review.
“But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science…. It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwards…."
“In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to.
help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the.
information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or.

[Richard Feynman, 1974 CalTech Commencement Address, "Cargo Cult Science"].

The Climategate "scientists: are the classic examples of knowingly, willingly and  deliberately ignoring  Feynman's definition of scientific integrity. 

The idea that there is a land based global temperature reporting system is a pipe dream as the number of world wide reporting stations has decreased dramatically over the years.
"The University of Delaware has an animated movie of station locations over time [http://climate.geog.udel.edu/~climate/html_pages/air_ts2.html].
There is a very limited number of reporting station in the Southern Hemisphere covering South America and Africa and few in the Arctic and Antarctic areas.

The bulk of the reporting stations are in the Northern Hemisphere centered in the US and Europe and are in the hands of government entities NASA/NOAA/GISS in the US and the CRU in the UK.
Both use unspecified methodology to correct, massage or manipulate the measured temperatures both current as well as past data.
NASA reported incorrect temperature data for six years, 2000-2006, too high of course, and when it was pointed out by Mr.McIntyre, they quickly and quietly corrected their errors in 2007 making 4 of the 10 warmest years in the US in the 1930s, 1934 being the warmest. Today there are none. 
Global warming is truly man made, by government  employees and government funded academics.
As Einstein is reported to have said "If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts."
Professor Richard Lindzen described belief in manmade global warming as a "religion" and unfortunately scientific facts do not always conform to one religious beliefs.
Mr. Jaramillo, I am also a Catholic, I respect your profession and having spent 30+ years in Research and Development, three as Manager of a specialized R&D facility I deal in facts not in opinions or peer reviewed  presentations in which the underlying data and/or methodology are considered secret and others cannot evaluate, correct or reproduce the results. There is little more that I can add so thank you for the most interesting exchange.

Fernán Jaramillo
11 years 6 months ago
Dear Patrick,

I respectfully disagree. Best wishes for all your endeavors.

Ernest Martinson
11 years 6 months ago

Building walls to hold back rising seas in low-lying metropolitan areas does not seem very forward looking. Better to accept the inevitable consequences of melting ice and warming waters and then begin to build on high ground.

Building on high moral ground is also implied from Pope Benedict 16 with his admonition to take care of creation and to share its resources in solidarity. One small way of sharing in solidarity with the poor would be phasing in of a carbon tax at a rate rising faster than the seas. The revenue from this tax could then be distributed equally to all as a dividend reflecting common ownership in the creation given to us. The rising fortunes of the poor would then be simply due to their rightful share of creation now monopolized by fossil fuel companies and other free riders.

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