Dear President Obama,
This has been a good week for you, politically-speaking.
But it's also been a devastating few weeks for parents across America because of Superstorm Sandy.
Last week when Sandy hit, our family here in Washington DC was a few hundred miles from the worst of the storm. As I listened to the wind whip around trees outside our house and even pull some large ones right out of the ground, I felt blessed to be safe.
It was painful to hear the accounts of those who weren't safe. That night, we heard about the NICU in New York City needing to be evacuated. I imagined the terror of first having a tiny premature baby ahead of schedule that is just barely the size of your hand. And then I pictured terrified, exhausted new parents in the NICU being plunged into darkness and told that they had to evacuate their precious tiny babies into the hurricane that was wreaking havoc outside. Luckily, those babies survived, but sadly other babies did not make it that night.
The stories will continue to emerge over the coming weeks, just as the impacts of climate change will continue to emerge over the coming years. The difference is that we can still control how bad climate change will be by switching to renewable energy.
Here’s what Mayor Bloomberg said when he endorsed you:
“Our climate is changing and while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”
“If a storm exactly like Sandy were to have hit in October of 1912, it would have been less wet with a storm surge that was lower. We can also say that a storm exactly like Sandy 90 years from now will be much wetter with water levels at least 24 inches higher.”
Imagine a parallel universe where President Carter had succeeded in convincing the coal, oil, and gas companies to start the switch to wind and solar energy decades ago. Imagine if the US was like Germany or the Philippines now, and on track for switching to renewable energy. Would the world be a different place? Would we still have seen half the polar ice cap disappear earlier this year? Would the "blocking system" from the Arctic still have prevented Sandy from moving out to sea before slamming into Staten Island, Manhattan, and so many other communities? Would Sandy have been less devastating if the sea was lower, if the air was carrying less water, and if the sea surface temperatures were a bit lower?
We don't know for sure how the atmospheric dynamics would play out differently because we don't have a spare planet to use as a 'control' in this science experiment. We do know that if we had transitioned off of coal, oil and gas decades ago, there would be less devastation happening right now around the world. A quarter of the carbon pollution sitting in the atmosphere today has just gone up in the past eleven years.
It's time to put this planetary experiment to an end. We need a fair and just transition off of fossil fuels. Now that you have won an election with a promise to act on climate change, you have a mandate to do so. Please, Mr. President, use your mandate. You just earned your second term, and now it is time to earn your legacy. I do not want to leave my child or yours with the legacy of a planet in which they cannot provide safety, shelter, food and water for their children.
In your acceptance speech you said that "We want our kids to grow up in a world... that isn't threatened by the destructive power of the warming planet," and the crowd applauded you wildly.
If you choose addressing climate change as your legacy, if you decide to act to protect our children now, I will support you, and parents across America will support you. We all just want to make sure that we can put our kids to bed in safe, warm, and dry beds.