There was an astonishing sequel. Eight weeks later, Hurricane Sandy struck the New Jersey shore and New York City. Its 4.26m surge of seawater was backed by the sea-level rise already caused by a century of global warming, and the storm’s sweep and intensity was fueled by a warming planet’s warmer ocean waters. That tide of reality — what Alexander Solzhenitsyn once called “the pitiless crowbar of events” — burst the closed bubble of Romney’s campaign, its walls breached as decisively as those of lower Manhattan and Far Rockaway.
In the contest between fact and fantasy, fact suddenly had a powerful ally. The political map was subtly, but consequentially, redrawn. Obama swung into action, now not just a suspect candidate, but a trusted president whose services were sorely needed by the battered population of the US east coast. Eight out of 10 voters, as polls showed, viewed his performance favorably and many declared that the impression influenced their vote.
In a surprising, politically potent twist, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who had been the keynote speaker at the Republican convention at which Romney had mocked the dangers of global warming, turned out to be one of those impressed with Obama’s performance and said so publicly.
The US’ political world — not only Republicans, but also Democrats (albeit to a lesser extent) — had fenced out huge, ominous realities. However, those realities, as if listening and responding, entered the fray. They voted early and they may very well have swayed the outcome.
Earth spoke, and the US, for once, listened.
Jonathan Schell is a fellow at The Nation Institute and a visiting fellow at Yale University.
Copyright: Project Syndicate