The forgotten issue

The forgotten issue

With less than a week to go before Americans go to the polls, we feel comfortable stating that this has been a very divisive election. Even the 2000 campaign with its infamous Florida recount is paling by comparison.

Whoever wins, this country will be split; neither party will be able to claim a national mandate to govern.

That means more of the same. It will be harder than ever to pass sorely needed legislation related to job growth, financial reform, health care and deficit management.

It will be especially difficult to take any meaningful action on climate change, which is probably why President Obama and Gov. Romney have all but ignored this issue — what we call, the forgotten issue — during the campaign.

Climate change is real. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.4°F over the past century, and is projected to rise another 2 to 11.5°F over the next 100 years.

“Small changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to large and potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather,” the EPA says. “Rising global temperatures have been accompanied by changes in weather and climate. Many places have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, or intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves. The planet’s oceans and glaciers have also experienced some big changes — oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising.

“As these and other changes become more pronounced in the coming decades, they will likely present challenges to our society and our environment.”

Yet the national response to climate change appears to be, if we ignore it, maybe it will go away.

It won’t.

As Hurricane Sandy pummeled the Northeast this week, the media used the opportunity to remind readers and viewers that this critical issue has been relegated to the backbenches of American politics.

“The irony is that the two presidential candidates decided not to speak about climate change, and now they are seeing the climate speak to them,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network in Maryland, in a report for the Huffington Post. “That’s really what’s happening here. The climate is now speaking to them — and to everyone else.”

To be sure, many scientists are hesitant to blame a single storm on climate change. They say event attribution science, as it’s called, is still very imprecise.

But even that is changing.  An Internet search shows a growing number of scientists and observers are willing to at least suggest the many droughts, storms, tsunamis and other major weather events are indicative of something bigger.

To be sure, there is much about climate change we do not know, but taking a wait and see approach is dangerous — for our children if not us.

Which is why we should demand our leaders seriously address climate change. Judaism teaches us to be good stewards of the earth.