CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sandy is a storm without a silver lining. We have lost lives, homes and businesses.
Let America not also lose the chance to learn the lesson of our generation, if not our century.
In the storm's aftermath, the question we hear again and again is: Did climate change cause Hurricane Sandy? Unfortunately, that is invariably followed with the blanket hand wave of dismissal -- oh, you can never blame any single storm on climate change. That mistaken caveat leads us down the wrong path.
Think about it:
Do you know whether your aunt's cancer was caused by the cigarettes she smoked?
No -- but we know without a doubt that cigarette smoking causes cancer.
Do you know whether too much weight and too little exercise caused your uncle's heart attack? You cannot say for sure about those extra pounds -- but no one questions the scientific fact that inactivity and excess weight drive up the high rate of heart attacks.
Do we know that the lead paint in a neighbor's house caused his child's developmental delay? No, the cause cannot be tracked that definitively, even though we know exposure to lead at a young age causes measurable developmental problems -- and that removing lead in gasoline has seen a big rise in IQ among kids.
So why do we allow the complexity of cause and effect trap us into refusing to answer the right question on climate change?
Scientists know with absolute certainty that climate change has increased Earth's temperature, and that it has fueled more heat waves, more intense precipitation, more intense droughts, and more wildfires.
They're confident those extremes will soon become the new norm.
Hurricanes occur naturally; we know that. So do rainstorms and droughts. And so does cancer, heart attacks and developmental delays.