‘Frankenstorm’: Why climate change will not be denied in this election

GETTY IMAGES Waves crash over Winthrop Shore Drive as Hurricane Sandy comes up the coast on Oct. 29, 2012 in … Continued


Waves crash over Winthrop Shore Drive as Hurricane Sandy comes up the coast on Oct. 29, 2012 in Winthrop, Mass.

The false controversy created by climate change deniers has stymied government action on environmental issues and is a contributing factor to the deafening silence on climate change in the presidential election debates for “the first time in a generation.”

A Halloween week hurricane, dubbed a “Frankenstorm” by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has just changed that.

Deny it or not, violent, erratic climate events are happening and they are destroying lives and property. Climate Central a Web site devoted to the science and effects of climate change, observes this giant “Frankenstorm” hurricane named “Sandy” is blocked in to land and not being pushed out to sea because of “blocking patterns [which have appeared with greater frequency and intensity in recent years” due to changes in the jet stream. When I was a kid growing up in the New York City area, there were certainly tropical storms and hurricanes but they were mostly pushed out to sea.

Now, some scientists have suggested, new patterns have emerged that could be linked to 2012’s record Arctic sea ice loss. This exposes more open water to the sun’s energy and this heat absorption is affecting the jet stream, making it “wavier.” Thus there are “steeper troughs and higher ridges. Weather systems are progressing more slowly, raising the chances for long-duration extreme events, like droughts, floods, and heat waves.”

These kinds of changes are better called “global weirding,” as I note in my book, “Dreaming of Eden: American Religion and Politics in a Wired World,” rather than “global warming. “We need to give up on the nice-sounding, gentle-seeming, bathing-suit wearing weather kind of language that ‘global warming’ implies and get to the weirdness of it all.”

Snowmageddon” was the term used for the record storm that hit the East Coast, and especially Washington, D.C., in February 2010. This was another freakish “global weirding” event due to the erratic and dangerous patterns resulting from warming oceans meeting cold weather. That week I wrote “Snowmageddon a sign of ‘global weirding.’”

I wrote in that On Faith post about the “sin” of refusing to see the effects of violent, destructive climate change, what I think should be called “global weirding,” that are right in front of us, killing and injuring people and causing enormous property damage.

Faith communities aren’t waiting for their political leaders to figure out that global weirding is happening right now. They get. Green Faith, an interfaith partnership on leadership education for faith leaders on environmental awareness and action is partnering with local worship groups as well as seminaries like Chicago Theological Seminary and others to educate the faith leaders we need to call attention to what is happening to our planet.

In fact, environmental action is one of strongest areas of interreligious cooperation, especially among the “Abrahamic” faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) because of the commitment to the care for the earth in the sacred texts of those religions. Many faiths have strong religious reasons for making protecting the earth a sacred responsibility.

Evangelicals, through “Creation Care,” have lifted up environmental stewardship as a core faith issue. See “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action.”

There are clear choices in this presidential campaign on whether direct action to reduce the worst effects of climate change and to prevent this rolling catastrophe from getting worse is warranted.

Politicians go where voters demand they go. As you sit in your darkened house this week, wondering when the power will ever come back on, hearing howling winds and praying and hoping that no more lives will be lost to “Frankenstorm,” you might think carefully about how you will vote. Is this the “new normal” and are you okay with that? Violent and erratic climate change is upon us.

Pay attention.

A wounded earth is speaking, are you listening?

Former president of Chicago Theological Seminary (1998-2008), the Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress

  • itsthedax

    This issue is the one instance that I’ve found I’ve found Pascal’s Wager makes sense.

    If we opt to agree with the scientific majority, that the earth’s climate is changing, led by increases in atmospheric carbon, then we would adjust accordingly. We would develop alternative energy sources, we would develop technologies to reduce or eliminate production of greenhouse gasses, and would strive to reduce the overall trends.

    If we are right, we save humanity.

    If we are wrong, we clean up the atmosphere, revitalize our economy with new industries, regain our technology edge, and export new products and technologies to the world. And, when Detroit starts producting cars that do not require fossil fuels, the Middle East goes back to being a quaint, unimportant, backwater.

  • Jim916

    There should come a day when waning numbers of climate deniers will be dragged out of their homes and shamed in the streets. Bring back the old tar & feather method. Willful ignorance is evil when it has such broad consequences, especially when perpetrated by filthy rich scum like the Koch’s who don’t need any more cash..

    The word “evil” doesn’t exist by coincidence as it pertains to humanity. People have been lying for centuries to guard gravy trains and other forms of pettiness. Lack of moral character is old news. AGW denial was inevitable.

    This is no longer a matter of “agree to disagree,” and in the case of entrenched deniers, “lack of evidence” was never the issue. They are hard-core liars who surely know their sins. Rotten to the core.

  • Jim916

    True, but there’s no reason to frame AGW as a roll of the dice situation or some random guess. Science knows it’s true just as they know smoking causes cancer.

    CO2 has been known to trap heat since the 1800s with Fourier, Tyndall and Arrhenius. The molecule only turned political in recent decades, thanks to right-wingers who’ve never respected nature. The same people who think endangered species ought to just die, etc. They tend to be Creationists, as exemplified by James (God wouldn’t let us do that) Inhofe. They live in a fake reality where people cause no large scale problems.

    Deniers pretend scientists politicized AGW, to draw attention from their own diversions. They are cut from the same cloth as gang members who never admit to initial fault, and try to maintain endless tension. They are just low quality, greedy people, fixated on taxation as the world’s greatest evil. They have no ability to respect The Commons, just their own slimy piece of the pie.

  • hek211

    There was a Horrendous hurricane in the same area in 1944 and a Hellacious snowstorm in NY in the 1880s with 40 foot snowdrifts that closed Wall Street…lay off the Kool aid Kids

  • hek211

    Too bad you missed the Cultural Revolution in China Jim…these were exactly the tactics used by the Communists…kids got to denounce their Parents at school and that night… Goons came and got them.

  • Eeyore

    A news flash from the Department of Blinding Irony: A report, “Climate and Social Stress: Implications for Security Analysis,” from the National Research Council, part of the National Academies of Science, was scheduled for release to the public on Wednesday, Oct. 31. This morning, an e-mail from NAS said, “Due to Hurricane Sandy and the closure of our offices, the release of the report ‘Climate and Social Stress: Implications for Security Analysis’ will be delayed until further notice.”

  • edbyronadams

    Here in California, we have only had one dry year in recent memory against a backdrop of droughts of many years duration that we know of in recorded history. Is that a result of global warming?

  • bourassa1

    Many of those who doubted the accuracy of the weathermen’s warnings are the same people who doubt the accuracy of climatologists’ warnings. They were crying wolf, these people said, just seeking attention. In fact their predictions were pretty much dead on the money.

    Global warming ‘alarmists’ have been predicting that New York could see flooding in a time of rising sea levels and warming seas. Global warming deniers have guffawed at this notion – though of course they’ll now deny that. This event comes, of course, on the back of a severe drought, in a year when the US lost 1/3 of its corn crop. Following the warmest winter in recorded history. Following the warmest decade in recorded history (the 00’s), which followed the 2nd-warmest decade in recorded history (the 90’s), which followed the 3rd-warmest decade in recorded history (the 80’s).

    Texas is in its 12th year of drought. So is Australia. So is Russia. Russia and India have both had to cancel grain exports altogether in recent years. World grain reserves are half what they were in 2000. World food prices are double what they were in 2000. Each degreeC of temp rise will bring dramatic reductions in world food production at a time of growing population.

    People are emitting 135 times as much CO2 as all the volcanoes (including undersea ones) in the world.

    Wakey wakey.

  • edbyronadams

    “World food prices are double what they were in 2000.”

    Those darn Chinese have the gall to lift their standard of living and food consumption. In the process, they have become the number one dumper of ghgs into the atmosphere.

    If they would just stay poor, it would solve so many problems.

  • edbyronadams

    Does your faith reinforce the hate you spew here or does it just preclude the self reflection necessary to curb it?

  • bourassa1

    China the country is the world’s largest emitter, but Chinese people per capita emit less than a quarter what Americans do.

    What is the point of your comment? If it’s an argument for more inaction, it’s a poor and irrelevant one.


    Well, make sure you spend big bucks and re-build right next to the oceans, etc- that’s wise huh?


    If we were intellectually honest about reducing vehicle emissions, we’d simple lower our National speed limit-we’re not! It’s instant, dirt cheap, fair and proven-see any mpg forum in the world what happens to most vehicl;es mpg/emissions above 60 mph-NO BRAINER!


    And your world travels to hike and see nature, etc, etc !




    It’s called reason-you build on sand and you’ll /we’ll all be sorry!

  • edbyronadams

    The point is that demand is as much a part of the price equation of commodities as production is.

    While not the point of the comment, the Chinese connection precludes any effective action on curbing ghg emssions. Ours are already currently dropping but there is no evidence that anything we do will curb the growth in Chinese combustion.

  • edbyronadams

    It ain’t sand. The geologically recent Coast Range in Calfornia is a pile of mud.

  • tmkwan

    In the book of Luke we read Jesus commenting about the lawlessness and cruelty of men by saying, “For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
    Willfully ignoring the change in the climate and turning a blind eye to man’s part in global warning is I fear setting up the world for a future Jesus that warned us against.
    The bible is clear on God’s charge to man to steward the earth and all living things. It is in our hands what we do with the environment. The fact that so many Christians are leading in denials about global warming both saddens and alarms me.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    But could it possibly surprise you? If you honestly believe in the Christian narrative of history, why on earth would you care about climate change? This is all God’s plan.

  • YouKnowImRight

    Then what about murder and rape? Is that all gods plan too? Why have any laws at all? Lets destroy the planet and wait for jesus to return!

  • brianmark

    A reverend whose boss works for the Obama Administration writes an article about the intersection of science and policy, and somehow this is considered publishable news.

    Next week on “Guest Voices,” look forward to a 6-year old explaining the Large Hadron Collider.

  • luca_20009

    Hey, didn’t a massive hurricane hit Galveston, TX back in 1911 or so? Killed about 8,000. Must have been all them SUVs they were driving around

  • Michael Chambers

    I knew this was going to happen. I just saw a woman on the news begging for food and water from the governor. Like many others she ignored the warnings. I live in Texas and we on the Gulf Coast deal with this EVERY YEAR. In my opinion most of the people in the northeast had no idea how bad it was going to be because they never experienced a hurricane. This wash’t just a storm, it was a monster storm that was basically taken too lightly until it was too late. We grieve for those who were lost, but materiel things will come again. Help is on the way from all over the country. We are a great nations and we halp those in need no matter where they are.

  • Michael Chambers

    It was in 1900. 8,000 people died.

  • filmprofessor9

    People have lived on Staten Island for 150 years, you cannot blame them for a once in a lifetime disaster. Climate change is real: Katrina, Tokyo, Haiti etc It’s about time NY & the Fed Govt start spending money on vital infrastructure to protect and absorb disasters better. You cannot expect the same infrastructure from 100 years ago to protect you today.

  • dalyplanet

    Good humor WaPo proof of the new climate religion.

  • ctowns1024

    Just what we need a theologian telling us what to believe and what science to accept! When it comes to science and economics I don’t listen to anything the: church, religious leaders, theologians, politicians, the Dali Lama or the pope has to say. All of these religious minded individuals who have lobotomized themselves into herd thinking do nothing but help the establishment gain more power over the people.

    Wake up and smell the borsht you reactionary revisionist reified reject! The AGW is unraveling, the hockey stick is defunct, the politically enforced correct thinking is evaporating and valid science is tearing apart your tissue paper green theo-ideology.
    The people who are denying science are you and your glo-baloney buds, whose mitigation will give big corps “money for producing nothing,” and the impovertization of the people of this planet.

    The planets and moons of the entire solar system have warmed at the same time earth did, why are we to blame for the earths warming? Who or what is causing the rest to warm? SIN SIN SIN???? ROFLOL! What a medieval muddlehead.

  • ctowns1024

    LOL, right on! Science relegated theology and philosophy to the tar pit of history. From there they like to swipe back as if they have any pull or authority. Their one and only source of power is politics, so they rubber stamp the reigning ideology du jour to try to recover their lost power. So they are always on the wagon no matter what nonsense is being peddled so that they can have some relevancy again.

    Put on the neo-Nazis uniform and goose step to the utopia of tomorrow brought to you by the omnipotent state! Primitive reactionary minds on their knees worshiping the silver backed alpha male in whatever totem image he appears in.

    All things bright and beautiful all creature great and small, all things wise and wonderful the STATE doth make them all! You shall be impoverished and punished for your sins!!!!! Repent, repent, repent! We have heard this utter nonsense for over 35,000 years, go back to your cave and beat your own chest and starve yourself to repent if you want to, Humanity shall continue to evolve and raise upward to the stars. You stasist, backward Neolithic Neanderthals can stay here. We are moving on.

    Man is the highest and best ideal for Man! Give up your idiotic alienation and stop projecting onto Big Mother or Big Brother your infantile needs.

    Those who Can, go inot the hard sciences, those who KANT go into philosophy (and theology).

  • ctowns1024

    Saying how many rosaries or selling how many indulgences will change the weather? By artificially restricting science, technology and energy resources you will raise prices for the poor worldwide tremendously. Shall you impoverish the many to appease your pampered wealthy western religious conscience that is not informed by any science or facts? Science and economics are not derivatives of politics or religion.

  • ctowns1024

    The green lust for bio-fuels caused many food staples to be taken out of food production. Result food prices rise. Bio-fuels are even more environmentally damaging then petroleum products and cost far more energy to produce, another fad gone awry which resulted in a tax payer give away to Big Ag and Big Oil.