American denial of climate change hit bottom this month. Hurricane Sandy was the most powerful instance yet of mundane weather trumping abstract science to make people face the truth. “It’s Global Warming, Stupid!” screeched the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek, above a photo of a flooded street. Rising sea levels just moved from future threat to present danger. And as the Pentagon had earlier this year emphasized climate change as a national security issue, so the CIA has just released its own grim assessment of coming “climate surprises” with “global security implications serious enough to compel international response.” In his post-election acceptance speech, President Obama warned of “the destructive power of a warming planet.”
So perhaps this unprecedented problem will finally be meaningfully addressed by the president and Congress, with new emphasis on green energy, carbon taxes, anti-fracking legislation, elimination of subsidies to oil and gas companies, rejection of new pipelines, and so on. Climate prophet Bill McKibben is in the midst of a 21-city “Do the math” tour, drawing thousands of supporters, all demanding that carbon dioxide be left in the ground. Fossil fuels are choking the planet, and a critical mass of Americans are waking up to it.