Extreme events caused by warming are happening much sooner than we thought they would. It’s time for Obama to act
“WE WANT our children to live in an America… that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” With these words in his re-election speech, President Obama finally put climate change back onto the US political agenda.
That was welcome after a campaign in which both sides ducked the issue. But Obama still didn’t say quite the right thing. It’s not just our children we should be worrying about. As yet, we can’t say how much of the devastation caused by superstorm Sandy was attributable to climate change. It’s nonetheless suggestive of the extreme events that a changing climate will visit on us - much sooner than we had anticipated (see “Climate change: It’s even worse than we thought”).
Obama can perhaps be forgiven for casting climate change as a future challenge. The scientists who drew up the last major report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 may have taken that view too. But it is now becoming clear that the report underestimated how quickly the planet would respond to warming and how serious the effects are likely to be.