CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The widespread and serious damage from superstorm Sandy doesn't appear to be bringing any urgent calls from West Virginia political leaders for government action to deal with global climate change.
The Gazette asked various officeholders and some candidates exactly what they proposed that West Virginia and the nation should do about climate change to try to minimize future disastrous storms.
Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., did not respond. Neither did Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin or Reps. Shelley Moore Capito and David McKinley, both R-W.Va.
The only member of West Virginia's congressional delegation who answered was Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va. Rahall said that "harsher domestic emissions restrictions" should wait until industry improves technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.
"While scientists debate whether abruptly lowering carbon emissions would have any effect on the severity of natural disasters, there should be no debate that such a policy would create a man-made disaster here in West Virginia and in other coal-producing states," Rahall said through a spokesman.
"The wiser course is to find ways to address the challenges of burning coal in a potentially changing world, and the United States ought to lead in that effort so that we can reap the benefits of research and development combined with the existing world market that is in need of more efficient energy technologies," Rahall said.
In the wake of this week's storm, climate scientists say it's difficult to conclusively blame Hurricane Sandy on human-induced global warming.
However, researchers see possible links to human activities in factors that made the storm worse, such as a foot of sea-level rise in New York in the past century, unusually warm waters in the Atlantic, and even a high-pressure ridge that steered the storm in an unusual due-west path.
"Human-caused climate change is delivering a one-two punch that is chipping away at our coasts," said Brenda Ekwurzel, a climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Sea-level rise and more intense precipitation from a warmer, moister atmosphere make coastal storms more damaging."
In West Virginia, though, where this year's election has focused on what the mining industry has depicted as the Obama administration's "war on coal," some political leaders and candidates are very sure that climate change is nothing to worry about.
Seth Wimer, campaign manager for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney, said that Maloney "believes we should be mining more coal, and that it's nothing more than a hoax to think that man has anything to do with global warming."