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Sandy Staggers East Coast -- And Climate Deniers

Hurricane Sandy delivered a lot of pain when it punched into the East Coast. As I write this, a week later, the sea has retreated but the suffering remains. Half of Manhattan is cold and dark. The New Jersey shore is in bits. Parts of Long Island are knocked out.

Having spent most of my life in hurricane country and having lived through many similar blows, I can’t stop thinking about what people are going through to find bottled water and a place to get gas and some sort of help for the elderly and infirm. My heart is with them.

But I’m also thinking about the other knock-out punch that Sandy delivered—to the climate deniers and the climate-avoiding politicians. Sandy is the kind of superstorm that climate scientists have been warning about for decades. They are the new heavyweight champs of the hurricane world, and will reign as long as we fail to challenge the causes of rising sea levels and warming ocean and atmospheric temperatures near coastal mega-cities.

This dire scenario was predicted three years ago by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in its endangerment findings on greenhouse gases. The EPA warned that "the potential for hurricanes to become more intense (and even some evidence that Atlantic hurricanes have already become more intense) reinforces the judgment that coastal communities are now endangered by human-induced climate change, and may face substantially greater risk in the future.”

For years we too have been warning that climate change is upon us; for months we have watched the candidates up and down the ticket in this election avoid the issue; for weeks we’ve been demanding that climate change be made a priority in their campaigns.

But, until Sandy showed up, we feared that warnings and evidence couldn't compete with the fossil fuel money used by climate deniers to stifle action in Congress and internationally.

Now Sandy is awakening a chorus of citizens from across the political spectrum to demand action on climate change, and leaders like New York’s Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg are speaking out. This Tuesday, it’s our turn to speak out, too, at the ballot box.

Let's use our votes to remind leaders in political parties up and down the ballot that climate change and the health of our planet and communities are directly linked to their willingness to reduce our reliance on coal-fired power and other fossil fuels.

One of the things Sandy makes clear is that Democrats, Republicans and Independents must all work together beginning now to create a clean energy future that relies less on these dirty fuels and more on renewable energy.

I hope to see you at the polls.

Aerial view of damage from superstorm Sandy to the New Jersey coast. Sandy is awakening a chorus of citizens from across the political spectrum to demand action on climate change.
(U.S. Air Force / Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)