Climate scientists and environmental groups moved quickly to link warming ocean temperatures and rising seas with extreme storms like Sandy.
While most media reports hedged on whether climate change was to blame, Bloomberg Businessweek brazenly announced on a bright red cover, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”
At the same time, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a surprise announcement and endorsed Obama over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, citing the storm and climate change. “The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast — in lost lives, lost homes and lost business — brought the stakes of next Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief,” he wrote in an editorial.
In his comments thanking Mayor Bloomberg, Obama broke his campaign silence on the issue. “Climate change is a threat to our children’s future, and we owe it to them to do something about it,” he said.
Now, after his victory and the defeat of several climate skeptics in Congress — and amid growing public awareness of climate science — environmentalists say Obama has an opening to transform the debate on global warming in his second term.
In his Time magazine “Person of the Year” interview, Obama said climate change would be one of three major priorities. But the interview took place two days before the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The president is now believed to be undecided over what to prioritize among gun control, the economy, immigration, energy and climate change.
Some members of Congress are already acting on calls for action. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., announced earlier this month that Senate Democrats, along with any interested Republicans, would convene weekly to discuss federal climate legislation when Congress returns in January.
“People are coming up to me, they really want to get into (climate action),” Boxer told reporters. “I think Sandy changed a lot of minds.”