Sandy and climate change

Updated: 2012-11-01 07:58

(China Daily)

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The high death toll and the unprecedented devastation that Hurricane Sandy left in its wake should serve as a reminder that we cannot be myopic when it comes to policymaking and climate change.

Despite the continuing debate about whether climate change is the direct cause of natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, there is more than enough evidence to show that global warming is accelerating, as year after year extreme weather worsens.

Arctic sea ice melted to its smallest extent in satellite records in September, and the US, Middle East and Africa suffered severe droughts this year.

Global warming has contributed to the severity of Sandy, which was the largest diameter Atlantic hurricane on record, and the havoc-wreaking superstorm shows once again that we urgently need to understand the correlations between climate change and the way we live.

Only those blinded by self-interest can fail to see that the rising sea levels, warming atmosphere and changing weather patterns coincide with our ever-increasing exploitation of natural resources.

However, the global economic downturn has resulted in the international discourse on climate change being marginalized by immediate economic concerns on decision-making agendas.

It has not escaped people's notice that although US President Barack Obama said before Sandy hit that it was going to be a "big" storm and he was worried about the impact, both he and Mitt Romney failed to address climate change in their televised debates. Romney has even questioned whether human activity is causing climate change.

With the world's largest economy focusing on the need to create jobs and Europe mired in its sovereign debt crisis, the economic crisis has given the impression that climate change, though an issue that may fatally affect our future in the long run, can be shelved when we have something of immediate concern at hand to be dealt with.

The world's total population reached 7 billion on Oct 31 in 2011 and this figure will continue to rise. While fumbling for ways to protect ourselves in the face of nature's wrath, we should at the same time examine our own role in the growing severity of natural disasters and our impact on the environment. And this has to begin with sensible decision-making.

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(China Daily 11/01/2012 page8)