As I write this, the East Coast of the United States is waiting for the merger of a Canadian cold front and Hurricane Sandy into what some are calling Superstorm or Frankenstorm. Some areas of the East Coast are expecting a foot of rain and some areas may get two feet of snow
. The City of New York has shut down
public transit as of 7 PM Eastern Sunday, other areas are taking similar steps – including Philadelphia and Washington D.C. An estimated 10.8 million Americans will face the closure of public transit. Meanwhile, the New York Stock Exchange is cancelling live trading on Monday. Some predictions call for billions of dollars worth of damage to the East Coast
Many people have bigger worries than getting to work as evacuations have been ordered in many places. From NBC News,
Hundreds of thousands ordered to evacuate as Sandy nears
Transit systems, including NYC's, have started shutting down in advance of hurricane's onslaught
Giant Hurricane Sandy lumbered toward the East Coast on Sunday, leaving potentially tens of millions of residents with only hours to prepare for its onslaught of punishing wind, torrential rains and, at higher elevations, heavy, wet snow.
Signaling the growing concern over what forecasters predict will be an historic storm, state and local officials, including New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, issued mandatory evacuation orders for hundreds of thousands of residents in low-lying areas.
Workers on Sunday night began shutting down New York City's subway, bus and commuter railroads , as ordered by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In New Jersey, bus, rail and light rail services were gradually shut down starting Sunday afternoon.
Forecasters said Sandy has the ingredients to transform into a "super storm" as it merges with an Arctic jet stream, which could make the storm unlike anything seen over the eastern United States in decades.
"We're looking at impact of greater than 50 to 60 million people," said Louis Uccellini, head of environmental prediction for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In anticipation of widespread damage and vast power outages, states of emergency were declared in nine states from North Carolina to Maine, as well as in Washington, D.C., as Sandy made its way north after killing at least 65 people in the Caribbean.
CNN reports that storm has already cost many lives even before it reaches landfall in the U.S.
Hurricane Sandy has caused at least 67 deaths, including 51 in Haiti; the other deaths were in Cuba, Jamaica, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. As of 8 p.m. Sunday, Sandy still hadn't veered toward the United States and was centered 280 miles east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and 485 miles south-southeast of New York. The CNN Weather Unit forecasts that it will make landfall late Monday near the Delmarva Peninsula - which includes Delaware and parts of Maryland and Virginia - and southern New Jersey.
As one might expect, even the presidential campaigns are impacted by the storm. NBC News reports:
Hurricane injects uncertainty into presidential campaign
By Michael O'Brien, NBC News
The storm put some of Obama's campaigning on hold, as he canceled a northern Virginia event for that afternoon, along with an event in Colorado Springs on Tuesday. Obama was still set, though, to travel to Youngtown, Ohio on Monday morning. The president appears — for now — intent upon returning to the campaign trail on Tuesday evening in Green Bay, Wis. His campaign also advised on Sunday afternoon that two stops on Wednesday in Ohio would go forward.
The storm might have rearranged Romney's own campaign itinerary, though it's unclear whether the GOP presidential hopeful will be able to return to Virginia soon. Romney didn't address the storm in his remarks in Celine, Ohio, but his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, urged voters in the Buckeye State to keep East Coasters in their thoughts and prayers.
Nonetheless, the hurricane could prove to be the proverbial "October Surprise" of this campaign as it upended other elements of the election well before it had even made landfall.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) canceled early voting in his state for Monday, a decision other east coast governors could mirror. That could have an especially pronounced impact on a state like Virginia, a battleground state in the presidential election and home to a competitive Senate race.
Late Sunday, Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed an executive order to extend in-person voter registration in Connecticut to Thursday, Nov. 1. The deadline had originally been Tuesday.
All this brings to mind the question of global climate change. While no single storm can perhaps be attributed directly to global climate change, there is speculation about whether it has helped create the Frankenstorm
However, this raises the issue of where the candidates stand on the issue of global climate change and alternative energy sources, as over 900 global climate change studies link the use of fossil fuels to our changing climate. Let’s first look at the Obama campaign
Addressing global climate change
Under President Obama’s watch we have more than doubled production of renewable energy from wind and solar, while investing in over 15,000 clean energy projects across the country. Mitt Romney would cut funding and incentives for clean energy, including ending the tax incentive for wind energy, which could cost 37,000 American jobs. Meanwhile, he would continue providing billions in subsidies to Big Oil companies.
The President has taken historic steps to reduce carbon pollution in the United States, including establishing fuel economy standards that will cut the amount of carbon pollution from cars by a half, proposing standards to decrease carbon pollution from new power plants, and helping us transition to cleaner and more efficient energy sources.
Mitt Romney doubts the science behind climate change and would roll back progress to combat it. He opposed new fuel efficiency standards that will save consumers at the pump and reduce carbon pollution.
For the sake of fairness, let’s also examine the positions of the other major candidate, Mitt Romney, Going to the issues page
, there is no separate section for the environment. So, I thought that I would check about the issue of energy.
Open offshore areas for energy development
Mitt will establish the most robust five-year offshore lease plan in history, that opens new areas for resource development – including off the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas – and sets minimum production targets to increase accountability.
Pursue a North American Energy Partnership
Mitt will approve the Keystone XL pipeline, establish a new regional agreement to facilitate cross-border energy investment, promote and expand regulatory cooperation with Canada and Mexico and institute fast-track regulatory approval processes for cross-border pipelines and other infrastructure.
Last I checked, the company that will own the Keystone XL pipeline plans to process the oil in the U.S. and not sell it in the U.S
. There is also a great deal of concern about the environmental impact of the pipeline
and the processing of tar sands
I have to admit that I was mildly surprised that there was no environment section on Mitt Romney’s official campaign site. However, he is in a party where people like Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma have called global climate change a hoax. Indeed, he was recently awarded the Rubber Dodo award from the Center for Biological Diversity
. However, if global climate change is indeed causing more severe weather events from storms to droughts, we may see more discussion nationally and internationally in addressing these issues.
For now, my thoughts are with those whose lives will be impacted by this storm and I hope that the Frankenstorm is not the harbinger of things to come.