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Cameron Fenton

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Sandy: The Poster Storm for Climate Change

Posted: 10/31/2012 5:46 pm

As Hurricane Sandy made landfall this weekend we were in the midst of PowerShift 2012. In the end over 1100 youth from all across Canada came together to connect, learn, and build the movement for climate justice. As news of the storm filtered into our phones, computers and ears I was very afraid. I thought of my family and friends in the pathway of this storm, I thought of the hundreds of youth that would be leaving Ottawa after the gathering headed straight into Sandy's path, and I worried about what was coming next.

The Atlantic ocean is now five degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average as a result of tons of carbon being dumped into our atmosphere. This warmer ocean is increasing evaporation and thus precipitation levels. Arctic ice melt is increasing sea levels, and higher sea levels translates directly into higher storm surges.

In short, our changing climate is making extreme weather more powerful, more prevalent and more unpredictable. Hurricane Sandy is only one part of a emerging trend that sees extreme weather becoming the new normal, as we continue to drive the planet's warming, these kinds of deadly, unpredictable storms will happen more and more and more and the simple fact is that we can only be so prepared for their impacts.

One of the key pieces of any effort in disaster response is understanding the cause of a disaster and mediating as best as possible. It's why we learn where fault lines lie and how they work. It's why we study tsunamis, why we track storms, why planes and boats have equipment to detect dangerous weather, and so on.

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  • A casket floated out of the grave in a cemetery in Crisfield, Md. after the effects of superstorm Sandy Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Hundreds of people were displaced by floodwaters in Ocean City and in Crisfield. At the same time, 2 feet of snow fell in westernmost Garrett County, were nearly three-quarters of residents lost power. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

  • An ambulance is submerged in floodwaters in the wake of superstorm Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Hoboken, N.J. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

  • A vehicle drives on a flooded street in the wake of superstorm Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Hoboken, N.J. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

  • A firehouse is surrounded by floodwaters in the wake of superstorm Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Hoboken, N.J. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

  • A vehicle drives on a flooded street in the wake of superstorm Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Little Ferry, N.J. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

  • An emergency vehicle drives on a flooded street in Little Ferry, N.J. in the wake of superstorm Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

  • An emergency vehicle drives on a flooded street in Little Ferry, N.J. in the wake of superstorm Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

  • Rescue workers help stranded people out of their flooded homes in Seaside Heights, N.J., following the arrival of superstorm Sandy, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Rescue workers help stranded people out of their flooded homes in Seaside Heights, N.J., following the arrival of superstorm Sandy, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • A runway at the Teterboro Airport is flooded in the wake of superstorm Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in New York. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

  • Homes in Bethany Beach, Del. are surrounded by floodwaters from superstorm Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Officials said Bethany and nearby Fenwick Island appeared to be among the hardest-hit parts of the state. (AP Photo/Randall Chase)

  • Floodwaters from superstorm Sandy surround homes in South Bethany, Del. Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/The Wilmington News-Journal, Robert Craig) NO SALES

  • Floodwaters from superstorm Sandy surround homes in South Bethany, Del. Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/The Wilmington News-Journal, Robert Craig) NO SALES

  • Downed power lines and a battered road is what superstorm Sandy left behind as people walk off the flooded Seaside Heights island, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • This photo provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority shows the South Ferry subway station after it was flooded by seawater during superstorm Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/ Metropolitan Transportation Authority)

  • Debris litters the beach north of Indian River Inlet in southern Delaware after waves churned up by superstorm Sandy demolished hundreds of yards of beach dunes and left state Route 1, the major north-south coastal highway, covered in sand. (AP Photo/Randall Chase)

  • This photo provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority shows the South Ferry subway station after it was flooded by seawater during superstorm Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/ Metropolitan Transportation Authority)

  • This photo provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority shows the South Ferry subway station after it was flooded by seawater during superstorm Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/ Metropolitan Transportation Authority)

  • Streets around a Con Edison substation are flooded as the East River overflows into the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, N.Y., as Sandy moves through the area on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. After a gigantic wall of water defied elaborate planning and swamped underground electrical equipment at a Consolidated Edison substation in Manhattan's East Village, about 250,000 lower Manhattan customers were left without power. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • In this Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, file photo, Consolidated Edision trucks are submerged on 14th Street near the ConEd power plant in New York. After a gigantic wall of water defied elaborate planning and swamped underground electrical equipment at a Consolidated Edison substation in Manhattan's East Village, about 250,000 lower Manhattan customers were left without power. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

  • Downed power lines and a battered road is what superstorm Sandy left behind as people walk off the flooded Seaside Heights island, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • This photo taken Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, shows what appear to be transformers exploding after much of lower Manhattan lost power during hurricane Sandy in New York. After a gigantic wall of water defied elaborate planning and swamped underground electrical equipment at a Consolidated Edison substation in Manhattan's East Village, about 250,000 lower Manhattan customers were left without power. (AP Photo/Karly Domb Sadof)

  • Peter Andrews removes belongings from his father's beachfront home, destroyed in the aftermath of a storm surge from the superstorm Sandy, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Coney Island's Sea Gate community in New York. Andrews, 40, who was born in the house, said "we had a lot of storms and the only damage in the past was when a national guardsman threw a sandbag through the window." He added, the house was in the process of being sold. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • A small shop that rents personal water craft rests in a huge sinkhole on the bayside in Ocean City, N.J. Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 after a storm surge from superstorm Sandy Monday night. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

  • A beachfront house is completely destroyed in the aftermath of a superstorm Sandy, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Coney Island's Sea Gate community in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • The entrance to a beachfront house is destroyed in the aftermath of a storm surge from superstorm Sandy, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Coney Island's Sea Gate community in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • A second floor closet is exposed in a beachfront house in the aftermath of a storm surge from Hurricane Sandy, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Coney Island's Sea Gate community in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • People stop along the Brooklyn waterfront to photograph the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 in New York. Much of lower Manhattan is without electric power following the impact of superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

  • Marcus Konner, 22, boards his home in the aftermath of a storm surge from Hurricane Sandy, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Coney Island's Sea Gate community in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • People walk through the houses destroyed in the aftermath of yesterday's storm surge from superstorm Sandy, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Coney Island's Sea Gate community in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • Carlo Popolano stands outside his beachfront home, damaged in superstorm Sandy, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Coney Island's Sea Gate community in New York. Popolano said he was watching the storm with his son and "everything was okay until about 7:30 and then one big wave came and washed away our whole backyard." (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • A beachfront house is completely destroyed in the aftermath of yesterday's surge from superstorm Sandy, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Coney Island's Sea Gate community in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • A backyard is inundated with floodwaters in the aftermath of Sandy, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Lewes, Del. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Randall Chase)

  • A car is upended on a mailbox on Surf Avenue in Coney Island, N.Y., in the aftermath of Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Ralph Russo)

  • This handout photo provided by NOAA, taken Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, shows post-tropical storm Sandy off the East Coast of the US. Campaign 2012 is rich with images that conjure the seriousness and silliness that unfold side-by-side in any presidential race. Who could have predicted that a superstorm would overshadow and scramble the presidential campaign in its final days? President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney revised and re-revised their campaign schedules as Hurricane Sandy, a most unlikely October surprise, barreled up the East Coast and then roared ashore in New Jersey. (AP Photo/NOAA)

  • A parking lot full of yellow cabs is flooded as a result of superstorm Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 in Hoboken, NJ. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

  • A beachfront house is damaged in the aftermath of yesterday's surge from superstorm Sandy, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Coney Island's Sea Gate community in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • A car is upended on a mailbox on Surf Avenue in Coney Island, N.Y., in the aftermath of Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Ralph Russo)

  • Damage caused by a fire at Breezy Point is shown Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in New York. A fire department spokesman says more than 190 firefighters are at the blaze in the Breezy Point section. Fire officials say the blaze was reported around 11 p.m. Monday in an area flooded by the superstorm that began sweeping through earlier. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

  • Fire still burns at the scene of a fire in Breezy Point, in the New York City borough of Queens Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in New York. The fire destroyed between 80 and 100 houses Monday night in the flooded neighborhood. More than 190 firefighters have contained the six-alarm blaze fire, but they are still putting out some pockets of fire. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

  • East Coast Begins To Clean Up And Assess Damage From Hurricane Sandy

    ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - OCTOBER 30: People stand on a mound of construction dirt to vew the area where a 2000-foot section of the 'uptown' boardwalk was destroyed by flooding from Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The storm has claimed at least 33 lives in the United States, and has caused massive flooding accross much of the Atlantic seaboard. US President Barack Obama has declared the situation a 'major disaster' for large areas of the US East Coast including New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • Homes damaged by a fire at Breezy Point are shown, in the New York City borough of Queens Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in New York. The fire destroyed between 80 and 100 houses Monday night in the flooded neighborhood. More than 190 firefighters have contained the six-alarm blaze fire, but they are still putting out some pockets of fire. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

  • East Coast Begins To Clean Up And Assess Damage From Hurricane Sandy

    ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - OCTOBER 30: A man walks over debsris where a 2000-foot section of the 'uptown' boardwalk was destroyed by flooding from Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The storm has claimed at least 33 lives in the United States, and has caused massive flooding accross much of the Atlantic seaboard. US President Barack Obama has declared the situation a 'major disaster' for large areas of the US East Coast including New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • East Coast Begins To Clean Up And Assess Damage From Hurricane Sandy

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 30: Ground Zero is seen on October 30, 2012 in the Financial District of New York, United States. The storm has claimed at least 33 lives in the United States, and has caused massive flooding accross much of the Atlantic seaboard. US President Barack Obama has declared the situation a 'major disaster' for large areas of the US East Coast including New York City. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

  • US-WEATHER-STORM-SANDY

    Sailboats rest on the ground after being tipped over by Hurricane Sandy on City Island October 30, 2012 in New York. US President Obama declared New York a disaster area. The death toll from superstorm Sandy has risen to 16 in the mainland United States and Canada, and was expected to climb further as several people were still missing, officials said Tuesday. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-WEATHER-STORM-SANDY

    Boats rest on the ground after floating from their stands at dry dock on City Island , in New York October 30, 2012 following Hurricane Sandy's impact. US President Obama declared New York a disaster area The death toll from superstorm Sandy has risen to 16 in the mainland United States and Canada, and was expected to climb further as several people were still missing, officials said Tuesday. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Homes destroyed by a fire at Breezy Point are shown, in the New York City borough of Queens Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in New York. The fire destroyed between 80 and 100 houses Monday night in the flooded neighborhood. More than 190 firefighters have contained the six-alarm blaze fire, but they are still putting out some pockets of fire. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

  • US-WEATHER-STORM-SANDY

    Boats rest on the ground after floating from their stands at dry dock on City Island , in New York October 30, 2012 following Hurricane Sandy's impact. US President Obama declared New York a disaster area The death toll from superstorm Sandy has risen to 16 in the mainland United States and Canada, and was expected to climb further as several people were still missing, officials said Tuesday. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-WEATHER-STORM-SANDY

    Residents look at damage left by Hurricane Sandy on City Island, New York, October 30, 2012. US President Obama declared New York a disaster area The death toll from superstorm Sandy has risen to 16 in the mainland United States and Canada, and was expected to climb further as several people were still missing, officials said Tuesday. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-WEATHER-STORM-SANDY

    Boats rest on the ground after floating from their stands at dry dock on City Island , in New York October 30, 2012 following Hurricane Sandy's impact. US President Obama declared New York a disaster area The death toll from superstorm Sandy has risen to 16 in the mainland United States and Canada, and was expected to climb further as several people were still missing, officials said Tuesday. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • East Coast Begins To Clean Up And Assess Damage From Hurricane Sandy

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 30: A truck drives through a flooded street, caused by Hurricane Sandy, on October 30, 2012, in the Lower East Side of New York City. The storm has claimed at least 33 lives in the United States, and has caused massive flooding accross much of the Atlantic seaboard. US President Barack Obama has declared the situation a 'major disaster' for large areas of the US East Coast including New York City. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Climate change is being worsened because the fossil fuel industry is using our atmosphere as a dumping ground. As Bill McKibben laid out this summer in the Rolling Stone, they want to burn nearly six times the amount of carbon that even our government has agreed we have room left for in the atmosphere. Stopping this from happening is not simply climate action, it is disaster preparedness.

Hurricane Sandy is a stark and loud wake up call, but we also need to remember that we are only now feeling the impacts that people around the globe have been feeling for years. Climate change and extreme weather have destroyed and displaced whole communities. Even this storm first touched down in the Caribbean destroying homes and taking nearly 70 reported lives.

But the impacts are not only felt when extreme weather hits. Imagine the stress of living on a small island state living with the reality of a disappearing coastline, and possibly the complete sinking of your home. The lack of action by our governments and the free reign of the fossil fuel industry is creating a situation where entire islands, shorelines, communities and countries will become chalk-lines on a map.

Even closer to home, the stress and fear we feel when a storm like this hits our families and friends is the daily life of those communities living directly in the spillway of the fossil fuel industry. Inundated daily by toxic pollution, the impacts of extracting and burning fossil fuels has created a slow moving un-natural disaster in communities like those being directly impacted by the tar sands.

I am still afraid because I know that this is not a rogue incident but that as long as business as usual continues this is the new normal. That fear is coupled with a profound faith in the power of our generation, and the power of people to change business as usual and shatter the status quo.

Right now hundreds of youth are spreading out across Canada ready to build solutions to the climate crisis from the ground up, to make sure that the new normal is not crisis, but a more resilient world. The climate has changed, we have created cracks in our planet's natural systems. We have a chance now to let those cracks open wider, to let inaction define our society, or we can work together to rebuild the foundation, and after this last weekend, I think we can do it.

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  • Top 10 Most Polluting Countries

    We look at which 10 countries have the most CO2 emissions. Figure are preliminary 2010 numbers from the U.S. government's <a href="http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/perlim_2009_2010_estimates.html" target="_hplink">Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center. </a> (Photo Getty Images)

  • #10 - Saudia Arabia

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 493,726 (Photo MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • #9 - Canada

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 518,475 (Photo MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • #8 - Korea

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 563,126 (Photo CHOI JAE-KU/AFP/Getty Images)

  • #7 - Iran

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 574,667 (Photo FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • #6 - Germany

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 762,543 (Photo JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • #5 - Japan

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 1,138,432 (Photo YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • #4 - Russia

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 1,688,688 (Photo KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

  • #3 - India

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 2,069,738 (Photo ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • #2 - USA

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 5,492,170 (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • #1 - China

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 8,240,958 (Photo PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

 

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