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May 01, 2013

Six Months After Sandy

If all goes well, my parents will finally get to return home today. They live on the New Jersey Shore, on Chadwick Beach Island, next to Barnegat Bay. My brother, sisters, and I all grew up in the house, which my dad built with my uncle, almost fifty years ago.

Six months ago, Sandy took it apart.

By the time it hit the eastern seaboard, Sandy was an unusual hybrid of a post-tropical cyclone and an upper level low system. "Superstorms" like Sandy could develop without the influence of climate disruption, but warmer ocean temperatures and a shifting jet stream unquestionably have increased the odds. The scariest thing about Sandy is that such a freak of weather may no longer be so freakish.

A new norm of extreme weather is a daunting prospect. In Sandy's case, the damage to my childhood home was part of the worst U.S. natural disaster since hurricanes Katrina and Rita -- much more than $50 billion in damages and at least 72 deaths. But Sandy also destroyed something intangible -- our complacency. No longer can we assign the consequences of climate disruption to some distant future. When Sandy struck, the future rose with the sea and smashed into us head on. The question it left behind was this: What do we do about it?

For the past 100 days, Sierra Club members and supporters have answered that question loudly and clearly. We gathered in Washington, D.C., for the largest climate rally in history. We held town hall meetings and grassroots rallies across the country. And we helped send more than a million messages to Barack Obama -- telling him that we want bold action on climate disruption.

For his part, the president answered Sandy's challenge by talking about the climate crisis in his strongest words yet, both in the State of the Union and his inaugural address.

The president's words were welcome, but words will not be enough. Here are five critical actions we need him to take:

  1. Reject the toxic Keystone XL pipeline.
  2. Protect our water from coal plant pollution.
  3. Close loopholes on fracking and protect our wildlands from oil and gas development.
  4. Finalize strong standards for cleaner tailpipe emissions.
  5. Move forward with standards against industrial pollution.

Each of these actions is within President Obama's power right now. If he's serious about addressing climate disruption, not one of them is optional.

Meanwhile, we have to keep our own voices raised. If you haven't added yours yet -- you can do it here. Together, we will move forward on climate -- and we need our president to lead the way.

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