Tom Ross: Sandy calls out absence of climate change from debates |

Tom Ross: Sandy calls out absence of climate change from debates

Tom Ross

— Even as Hurricane Sandy bore down on the Eastern Seaboard on Monday, the presidential candidates were loath to utter the words "climate change."

Ironically, the hurricane has the potential to shift the outcome of the election as people who planned to cast their ballots during early voting are forced to turn their attention to picking up the pieces of their lives in the aftermath of the imperfect storm.

I know some of you think I'm a fool for believing that isolated storms and other weather catastrophes equate to human-caused climate change.

Try telling that to my sister, Sara, who huddled with her husband and three young children Monday night in the living room of their home in a Connecticut college town. They've learned from recent experience that they need one generator for the refrigerator and another for the freezer when power goes down in the Nutmeg State.

I can barely keep track of all of the extreme weather events that have plagued Connecticut since March 2010, when the state endured heavy flooding.

The Hartford area, not far from my sister's home, saw a record one-day snowfall of 22.5 inches in January 2011 on the way to a monthly total of 59.8 inches.

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June of 2011 brought rains and floods that damaged property and even isolated some little towns throughout New England. And just a year ago, on Oct. 30, 2011, they saw a freak October snowstorm that paralyzed the region.

Closer to home, Colorado suffered a significant drought in 2012 and the warmest summer on record 12 months after an all-time record snowpack was recorded on Buffalo Pass.

It's climate change alright.

Steamboat Today reported Feb. 2 there are signs that the pine beetle epidemic that has ravaged Colorado forests is easing after laying waste to 3.3 million of the 24.5 million acres of forest across the state. That article by my colleague Matt Stensland resulted in some of the most thoughtful and informative discussion I've ever seen on our online forums.

This month, there is news that the Rocky Mountain region may be unintentionally exporting the beetle epidemic. The Salt Lake Tribune reported Sunday that the pine beetles now inhabit a band of pine trees in northern Canada where scientists once thought severe cold would stop their spread. Now, they think milder winters could allow the bugs to use that band of forest like a highway to the Eastern Seaboard, where they could spread south to the Georgia pines.

The article in the Tribune also reports what some of our readers said in reaction to Stensland's article — that quick response fire-fighting in reaction to blazes burning in lodgepole pines that evolved around fire allowed the forests to grow to dense, making them susceptible to the insects.

It isn't my intention today to make the case that we should abandon fossil fuels any time soon — that would be preposterous. However, it is my goal to point out the irony that a presidential election that ignored climate change could be compromised by an unusually large hurricane, almost as if it were an avenging angel.

A more productive national debate about climate change and energy policy — one driven by more than just unemployment statistics — is a must for the 2016 presidential race.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

See related story

Feb. 2, 2012: Survey shows pine beetle epidemic slowing

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