Sandy, climate change, politics and telecommuting

I’m writing this as Hurricane Sandy is drenching and/or flooding the East Coast of the United States. It’s an appropriate time to wonder why, just a week before the vote in this very heated and close presidential campaign, neither of the contenders has mentioned climate change in any recent speeches or debates. Well that’s not exactly the case, Pres. Obama did discuss climate change in a recent interview by Sway Calloway, a reporter from MTV.

Still, I should point out that most reference to the problems of climate change by either contender have been indirect at best. Pres. Obama explains that this is simply because no one has asked him about climate change in any of the recent debates. Governor Romney, on the other hand, seems to feel that the human-engendered part of climate change is a hoax perpetrated by liberals meaning to somehow penalize the coal and oil industries. The fact that some 90% plus of scientists who have actually studied climate change agree that what we are seeing now is largely induced by humans seems to have no effect on Gov. Romney. Apparently he prefers to cross his fingers and rely on the few remaining naysayers instead. But, as I have said in a few earlier blogs, Mother Nature doesn’t care one whit about our druthers. Hurricane Sandy is but the most recent example. More are sure to come.

As the interview referenced above shows, Pres. Obama does have a plan for addressing climate change although many of the people seriously concerned about climate change think it is too tentative. Here we have to consider the realities of “human nature” or, more particularly, congressional nature in assessing the presidents plan. Consider that a large block of the current Congress seems to agree with Gov. Romney: climate change is a hoax. That bloc is large enough in both the House and Senate to seriously impede much in the way of constructive planning to reduce the rate of climate change. Consider also that substantial sums of money from the energy industry are being spent to prevent Pres. Obama from being re–elected. At least that seems to be consensus of the public media. Hence the President’s strategy of insinuating energy reduction options under Congress’ nose. (For some more details, consult this editorial in Nature.) Now that America has discovered the efficacy of  fracking we appear to be on a course hellbent to extract our nonrenewable resources as fast as possible. In the words of a contender in the 2008 presidential election: “drill baby, drill!”. In other words roughly half of the American public is more concerned with gas prices today then with heat deaths next month or next decade.

Then there’s the good news. Sandy may be triggering another surge in the adoption rate of telecommuting. Certainly with the subways, bus lines, trains and other forms of transportation shut down during Sandy’s passage millions of New Yorkers and information workers in other East Coast states are rethinking how important it is to actually travel to work every day. Let’s hope their employers already had disaster preparedness plans that included telecommuting. I wish them all the best. [Update, 30 October] But, sad to day, even telecommuting can’t overcome massive power failures of the type that occurred in much of the Northeast. Let’s hope that FEMA (which Gov. Romney wants to abolish) and the utilities do their best to restore power.

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