The Moral of Sandy

COPENHAGEN – When “superstorm” Sandy hit the east coast of the United States on October 29, it not only flooded the New York City Subway and became the most important factor for 15% of US voters in the presidential election a week later. It also resurrected the unwarranted claim that global warming was to blame for such events, together with the morally irresponsible argument that we should help future hurricane victims by cutting CO2 emissions.

From Bill Clinton to Robert Redford, countless pundits blamed Sandy on climate change. Most spectacularly, the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek placed the monumental caption “IT’S GLOBAL WARMING, STUPID” over a picture of flooded Manhattan.

Now, global warming is real, and cutting CO2 is a good idea when the reduction cost is lower than that of the damage it prevents. There is also a grain of truth in the connection between hurricanes and global warming: the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expects stronger but fewer hurricanes toward the end of this century.