Author Archives: Bill Moulton

POTUS and Climate Change: Four Steps Forward, One Step Back, but Still Missing a KEY Step

Barack Obama is about to leave on a historic journey that could affect Americans for generations to come – he’ll become the first sitting American President to visit the Arctic to observe Alaska’s rapidly melting glaciers. This trip, coming on the heels of Obama’s historic clean energy plan is groundbreaking. Also poignant as it will coincide with the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina which signaled the arrival of climate change on U.S. shores— whether Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wants the president to talk about it in New Orleans or not.

On August 13th, our Commander-in-Chief took time out from his vacation to announce the Arctic trip, declaring, “What’s happening in Alaska isn’t just a preview of what will happen to the rest of us if we don’t take action. It’s our wake-up call — the alarm bells are ringing. And as long as I’m President, America will lead the world to meet this threat before it’s too late.”

The Obama administration’s Council on Environmental Quality even hosted a panel discussion on August 20th about what’s being done on college campuses to educate youth about the climate crisis. This is a step in a very positive direction. However the president can’t get an “A” in my book until his administration does something to address the eco-education gap among adults.

This week President Obama addressed the Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas. He sounded like a true advocate in declaring, “Solar isn’t just for the green crowd anymore—it’s for the green eyeshade crowd, too!” in praising recent cost reductions for renewable energy.

However, Obama’s decision, announced last week, to grant Shell Oil the rights to drill in the Arctic seemed to fly in the face of his earlier news and left climate activists scratching their heads. Is the Obama administration trying to pull a fast one —a Shell game— or what? That’s not yet clear, and the timing is particularly puzzling since his drilling decision so closely precedes the fact-finding, glacier-gazing trip to Alaska.

Given the latest data showing Greenland’s glaciers melting at a dizzying rate of three feet per hour, this journey comes none too soon. Not to mention that July was the hottest month EVER recorded and 2015 is set to melt records.

Yet the green light given to Shell, especially after the oil giant botched its first attempts to drill in the pristine region, seems oddly timed. What is clear is it’s too soon to uncork the champagne in celebration. Better keep it on ice until after Obama sees the melting icebergs, drills down, and connects some more green dots.

I put some bubbly in the fridge to chill after the President’s August 3rd Clean Power Plan announcement. Comments like “…no challenge poses a greater threat to our future and future generations than a changing climate,” “There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change,” and “We only get one home, one planet,” and “There’s no plan B” showed that Obama understands the importance of this crisis, and also its immediacy.

What rocked my world most about Obama’s announcement was that CNN carried it live. Millions around the country and world got the full impact in real time – similar to the Pope’s pivotal encyclical on climate change. Getting the mainstream news to report on growing threats from a changing climate and other eco-existential challenges is paramount. It’s been a commitment of mine for more than a decade to bring this to fruition.

As a former CBS Radio reporter and anchor who left breaking news to cover our breaking planet and emerging eco-evolution as an independent radio host/producer, I can attest to the fact that there is zero programming on any commercial broadcast network – radio OR television – that covers these critical environmental changes.

I call this astonishing media void the “glaring green gap” and have been trying to fill it for more than a decade. After producing and hosting more than 2,500 shows on the former Air America network (left of center) between 2004-2007 and later independently on the internet, archived at and, I have experienced first hand how much there is to learn and report on, both in terms of challenges…and solutions.

There are at least “50 Shades of Green” both in range of topics (from garbage to GMO’s to global warming) and “E”-list guests. Eco-leaders like Al Gore, Robert Kennedy Jr., Van Jones, climate scientists including Dr. Jim Hansen and Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, writers Francis Moore Lappe and Elizabeth Kolbert, and Senators John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, Bernie Sanders have all been interviewed on my programs, but they represent just a tip of the melting iceberg when it comes to credible and compelling voices for our embattled environment. Passionate experts on these topics must be heard by the masses in order to broaden our understanding, widen the conversation and prompt restorative action.

It’s worth noting that not one of the questioners or candidates in the August 6 Fox News Channel “prime-time” GOP presidential debate mentioned the climate crisis, energy or the environment, other than Jeb Bush taking a jab at opponents to the Keystone pipeline. And just ahead of the President’s visit to New Orleans Thursday Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal warned against linking Katrina to climate change.

Keep in mind that Jeb Bush’s low-lying State of Florida is predicted to be the first U.S. casualty of rising sea levels. No one who watched the debate heard any discussion about the need to scale back our carbon emissions to 350 parts per million.

Just imagine how many millions would get a critical education and quick wake-up call on our shared eco-reality if the TLC network replaced its cancelled hit reality show “19 Kids and Counting” with a program called “400 Parts Per Million and Rising.” Now that might get America to wake up and smell the carbon!

The Climate March Will Break Records But Will It Encourage More Environmental Media Coverage?

As someone who has spent too many years trying to break through what I call “The Green Ceiling” in mainstream media — a steadfast wall of refusal on the part of programming executives to dedicate regular airtime to the then-emerging (and now fully arrived) environmental crises, I am committed to putting that question to a final test next week in New York.

It’s time to disrupt the media status quo on climate silence, connect the green weather dots and invite the rest of America to join the conversation about what we’re going to do to save this embattled habitat of ours, our life support system that makes life — and a life worth living — possible. 

There’s a green buzz in the air, literally, all around me. I’m writing this on a flight from San Francisco to New York City a few days ahead of the People’s Climate March, and already I’ve recognized several familiar faces from home and overheard two conversations by attendees. I’m sure there are other marchers on board as well. Tens of thousands of climate activists are streaming into the Big Apple to make their presence felt and pre-rally activities are already under way. It occurs to me that on this flight, perhaps for the first time, I may not be the only passenger to keep her Styrofoam coffee cup for reuse later. Oh joy!

Sunday’s weather forecast is calling for an unseasonably warm 82 degrees, and that may even be a high for a September 21st. Appropriate given the cause — Mother Nature may be on our side after all! Recall the sweltering late-June day in D.C. last year when President Obama gave his strongest speech yet on the climate crisis. As he repeatedly mopped his dripping brow, the prospect of a globally warmed world did not seem far off at all.

It will be exhilarating to march for climate action with fellow advocates in the city I more commonly associate with Broadway shows and a glut of great gluten-heavy restaurants —including our old family favorite, Carnegie Deli. But that was in the good ‘ole days when we gleefully ate pastrami, and (rye) bread. Now we can enjoy the New York pickles and spicy mustard but hold everything else! Even the world’s best bagels, which we still can’t get in California, are verboten now. Oy vey.

But I digress…it won’t be food or fashion on my mind for this visit to the suddenly Greener Apple. Instead, it’ll be fuel, and what the burning of fossil fuels is doing to our atmosphere. With CO2 levels now topping 400 ppm, we are careening toward a new climate era that has already given us some scary sneak previews.

The People’s Climate March and the UN Climate Summit come two years after Superstorm Sandy brought mayhem to Manhattan and environs. Between that landscape-altering storm and today, record-breaking tornados, wildfires, flash flooding and the California drought have brought about what scientists say is “a new normal.” But while everyone is talking about the extreme weather, what are we doing about it?

That of course is what this rally is all about. Timed to coincide with the United Nations Climate meeting, and to make our presence, and impatience — felt, concerned citizens from across the country are convening to pressure U.N. conveners to take strong and decisive actions, the glaring lack of which turned Hopenhagen into Nopenhagen in Denmark two years ago.

There are an estimated 1,400 environmental, social and economic justice groups of all green shades and stripes, each providing a square of the patchwork quilt that, stitched together, will help us to sew…or see…our way out of this critical mess.

Before, during and after Sunday’s rally, green gurus, groups and groupies will be buzzing around town painting signs, participating in meetings, attending lectures and hopefully raising a ruckus to be seen and heard from Wall Street to Washington Heights. My highest hope is that we’ll also be recognized in Manhattan’s Midtown area, where the nation’s broadcast and cable networks are based.

We’re past the point where major TV and radio stations would dare to overlook the hard-to-miss mass of humanity in their midst. Even with the most conservative attendance estimates, this historic event will be difficult to ignore. I hope I’m wrong, but if past coverage is any indication, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, and to a lesser degree, MSNBC, will do VO (voice-over) and B-roll (videotape) on the mega-rally, not in-depth interviews. However this time could be different, simply due to the sheer volume — both in numbers and decibel levels — of this movement-making march.

The big networks may well feel obligated to do more, which I predict will be an interview with the King of Climate Change, Al Gore, the newest eco-celebrity and “fractivist” Mark Ruffalo, (I mean that in a GOOD way—Ruffalo “rocks”!) and the movement’s most thoughtful and understated rabble rouser, Bill McKibben.

CNN also employs the dashing Philippe Cousteau for occasional ocean and climate segments, so I expect he’ll offer insightful commentary. In fact, the Cousteau clan seems to be filled with intelligent, camera-ready commentators, complete with the kind of name recognition that programmers believe is appealing to mainstream audiences (nothing wrong with that approach, but I know for a fact there are MANY more of that articulate green ilk, having interviewed hundreds of passionate environmental experts, activists and eco-innovators over the past decade).

What I am advocating for — and I welcome more eco-collaborators! — is at least one of the major television and/or radio networks to launch a green-themed talk show that highlights the avalanche of environmental changes afoot both in terms of challenges and solutions — already underway.

Given the current media landscape — with hundreds of networks if you include cable TV and satellite radio, and thousands of programs available (many of questionable, if not laughable, merit) — the continuing fact that there is NO dedicated programming on our “eco-evolution” anywhere on commercial outlets is appalling, and should not be allowed to continue. (Shout out here to Living On Earth, NPR’s long-running stalwart show on sustainability.

I love it, and listen every week, but the Americans who most need to have their eco-literacy levels raised are not the ones tuning in). But what it will take, and what I’ll be knocking on big lettered doors (CNN, CNN Headline News, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC) hoping to pitch, is a lively, empowering informative and inspirational interview format program that addresses the mountain of interconnected eco-crises and what leaders across the green front lines are saying and doing to turn the Mother ship around.

Because if not now, when? Programmers, and to a large extent the public, don’t know what they don’t know. If we can engage a critical mass of citizens outside the choir — before the compounding damage to climate, oceans, forests, species and everything else under our power generating sun, is beyond the point of no return — than we’ll really have something to celebrate next Earth Day, the 45th anniversary of the moment Americans first tuned into their environment en masse.

So wish me luck and stay tuned. If we can get more Americans to join the conversation about a brighter green future, then we will ALL benefit, especially our children and theirs. When you stop to think about it, how can we afford NOT to make this happen? As Bill McKibben said on my program a decade ago, in the end it’s a question we each have to answer ourselves: “How DO we love our kids, country and planet?” Now stop reading, put down your laptop, and come march with us into the next chapter of America’s energy future.

What You Can Do to Honor Robin Williams’ Life and Legacy

The death of Robin Williams one month ago hit close to home. I can see his bayside neighborhood from my back deck in Marin, the county where America’s most beloved funnyman grew up, showed up, lived, loved and died. He is still being mourned, the power lines brought down by the giant media trucks are still being repaired, and his shuttered house a sad reminder of what happened inside. But happier memories are still being shared now that the shock is subsiding, somewhat.

Like many local residents, I had my own encounters with the man I first experienced as Mork on our family’s TV set in the ‘70s.

I first met Robin Williams on the set of a film my newborn daughter was in as a baby extra. While Nine Months (1995) was not one of William’s major acting roles, it was a big deal when my girlfriend — also a new mother — and I bumped into him in the elevator during a filming break. I still have the photo of him dressed in doctor’s scrubs holding my Jenna as if she were his own. Years later, when we met again at a fundraiser, I jokingly showed him the picture and asked why he had never written or called. My infant daughter is smiling brightly, “almost a laugh” as she peers up at Robin adoringly.

Living in the same area as Williams and serendipitously having my only child in one of his movies before she was a month old is not really why his suicide touched a familiar nerve or two. Three members of my own family died by suicide, and my father died of complications from Parkinson’s Disease, which the world now knows Williams had also been battling, along with depression.

Twenty years ago, in a house less than a mile from Williams’ residence, my first husband took his life. Forty years ago my mother — beautiful, beloved and with a genius level IQ — took her life. And 20 years prior, the grandmother I am named after but never got to meet, took her life in a hospital room in New York City.

What they all had in common was each suffered from at least one illness that was chronic but not necessarily terminal, combined with biochemical depression. The combination can be deadly.
In my late husband’s case, he had been suffering from the ravaging effects of Multiple Myeloma, a bone marrow cancer, that disfigures by eating away at the marrow and creating brittle bones. Mark was 49 years young.

Jane, the woman who gave me life, had battled Colitis and Ileitis for years before the physical pain associated with simply eating food combined with inherited depression made the suffering unbearable. While she had many happy years raising three kids and being the life of the party, her dark days eventually grew more frequent and debilitating. She was unfortunate enough to have hit her low point just a few years before Prozac was invented, and was given Valium which didn’t help. Jane was only 40 when we lost her which left a gaping hole in my heart, family and life, a traumatic loss that continues to have ripple effects even to this day.

Bertha, my maternal grandmother and namesake, had suffered from Rheumatic Fever which caused heart damage, eventually requiring surgery. But back in the mid-‘50s they reportedly didn’t know about post-operative depression, especially with cardiac cases. She hung herself with hospital bed sheets leaving behind a heartbroken husband and two teenagers.

In March, 2001 my handsome and hilarious father, Jerry, died of complications from Parkinson’s Disease. His was not a suicide, but the circumstances were equally tragic, as he had undergone a fetal tissue transplant to ward off the early symptoms of Parkinson’s. A brain hemorrhage within 24 hours of the experimental surgery left him unable to walk, talk, eat or ever make us laugh again. While Jerry was no Robin Williams, he WAS the funniest guy in our family and his social circles. His dry sense of humor and perfect timing made for showstopping toasts at both my weddings. One of his lines was so clever he made it into the San Francisco Chronicle‘s infamous Herb Caen column.

Six months after we lost our dear Dad, on September 11th we as Americans lost our complacency and sense of safety, along with some 3,000 souls, to terrorism. And my family narrowly missed having another loss that day. If it hadn’t been for an impromptu call and invite from a former girlfriend the night before, my stepson Jon could have died on that beautiful Manhattan morning. He was scheduled to attend a conference at Windows on the World in the North Tower but drank too much the night before and slept through his alarm. Instead Jon was awakened by the sound of a plane crashing into the building from his apartment on nearby Hudson St. Life can be tenuous, death can be random and miracles can happen.

One of my miracles was second husband Alan appearing in my life soon after I became a widow at age 37. And just in time to have the daughter I’d yearned for in part to recreate the bond with my own mother. The baby girl who made her “stage debut” in Nine Months is now a sophomore at NYU.

After becoming a mother I grew weary of my career in radio news covering breaking stories and was increasingly frustrated with what got covered and what didn’t merit attention. I wanted to use my voice and skills to reach the public with content that was more relevant, and less fleeting, than the news du jour. So I “recycled” my career, transitioning from reporter and anchor for CBS Radio to radio-activist, using my broadcast platform and microphone to raise eco-awareness.

Beginning on Earth Day 1997, with “Trash Talk” minutes on KCBS offering tips on how to reduce, reuse and recycle, my waste prevention focus eventually widened from garbage — and all that’s going into our landfills — to global warming and what’s coming out of our tailpipes. My green features went from local radio to a national, hour-long show on the short-lived liberal network, Air America. Heard in more than 40 progressive radio markets, EcoTalk became the first green-themed program to air nationwide on a daily basis. After Air America went bankrupt I moved my show to the internet, continuing to interview sustainability leaders and eco-innovators across the green front lines.

What does all this have to do with Robin Williams? Despite all the publicity around his stunning death — and especially here in Marin County, where so many stories about encounters with this sweet and generous man persist — I’ve yet to hear of one that mentions his concern for our environment.

Many locals know Robin and his wife were big supporters of the arts, education and numerous children’s causes, but little has been said publicly about his interest in climate change. I was at two environmental fundraisers where Robin Williams either performed or emceed. Friends of the Earth was one of the venues. One year he showed up at their annual fundraiser in San Francisco with his buddy, Chevy Chase. Attendees got more than their money’s worth from this national treasure.

And treasuring what we have before it — or they — are gone is my point. Not only for this piece but in our lives. We’ve all heard, said, or perhaps sung the expression, “we don’t know what we’ve got till its gone,” from Joni Mitchell’s 1970 song Big Yellow Taxi. So true and yet so difficult to remember in the day to day grind.

But why DO we too often forget until it’s too late? How many of us wouldn’t give five years of our lives to spend five more minutes with a departed loved one? I know I would, and I’m at an age where five years goes by far too quickly and as my husband likes to say “there are no throwaway days — each one counts.”

As we take a moment to contemplate what we’ve already lost — whether it’s the precious innocence and innocence lost on September 11, 2001 or the rare genius of a life lost August 11, 2014 — shouldn’t the takeaway message be to cherish what we DO have in our lives that adds real joy, meaning, makes life worth living and should make the prospect of losing nature’s gifts — our life support system — unacceptable?

If so, that means we all have to DO something, or many things differently, to prevent it. And there is much to do at the citizen, community and country levels.

If you loved Robin Williams — or at least appreciated his amazing talents — perhaps you’ll consider expressing that respect and gratitude for the gifts he shared by doing something positive for the physical environment currently under siege, from the U.S. We are leading the world with unchecked growth and over consumption, even in the face of evidence that our extractive, acquisitive and wasteful ways are stealing comforts and abundance—not to mention national security — from our children and future generations. And we are not any happier with all this stuff. Au contraire. Research shows many Americans yearning for community and connection…being world class shoppers just doesn’t satisfy for long.

Think about it for just a moment. If we are going to destroy the livability on our one and only planet, in part by burning fossil fuels that pollute, degrade our climate and add to the national debt at dizzying rates, might we come to regret this reckless runway to ruin?

Might we wish for a chance to turn back the clocks and beg for a re-do? Might we not have an adequate response when our kids and grand kids ask what were we thinking—and so damn busy doing— that we couldn’t be bothered to change habits, policies and leaders, so as to better protect that which makes life…and everything in it…possible…and pleasant enough to enjoy??

If you think suicide is depressing, just imagine what eco-cide would look and feel like. Once a stable climate, healthy oceans, bio-diversity, endangered species and the entire web of life — this sweet spot of an earthly ecosystem — are irreversibly compromised, isn’t that a form of collective suicide or eco-cide? And any future survivors of that will surely be sorry, sad and appropriately mad that those of us who could have done more failed to heed the warning signs of impending doom. If we willfully ignore the many signals — and Mother Nature is screaming at us now — then who are we as a culture and a country?


But if your answer is yes then consider showing your BIG love for kids, community, country or even a favorite fallen comedian, by marching in the upcoming rally for climate action on September 21st. If you can’t join us in New York City for the march in conjunction with UN Climate Summit People’s Climate March on September 21st, then find or plan an event in your own town. Consider inviting friends over to discuss your environmental concerns, hopes and what you can do to be part of the solution.

IN SUMMARY, this is what I know for sure after a life filled with much love but too much loss. The things we all share…our love of life and fear of losing what we hold most dear…should mobilize us. We ALL co-exist on one small planet that we are squeezing the life out of. Our climate is hanging in the balance. As I write this the California drought is shriveling crops, raising food prices, and record flooding in Pakistan and in Phoenix, Arizona topped the nightly news this week, though typically, leaving out a mention of what’s fueling it, global weirding.

But while loss and death are unavoidable, extreme weather events are not a fait accompli. Or at least some of it is preventable, but only if we wake up now and smell the carbon. The ultimate tragedies are ones we could have avoided but instead chose to ignore while we could still take action.

If you’ve read this far, thank you. If you like the message please share so it can go “enviral”. Then go do something positive for your planet and fellow citizens in memory of those we have loved and lost. Whether or not we care about what’s happening with our weather will determine what happens next. But don’t do it for me. Do it for everyone and everything you hold dear. And if you’re thinking of him today, or any day, do it for Robin Williams. When you do, just imagine those expressive blue eyes of his crinkling and twinkling from on high.

And then go out and have a good laugh, something we should all do as often as possible.
It’s more satisfying than shopping and gentler on your wallet, not to mention our ailing planet.

Our Climate is Shutting Down – Does Anyone Care About That?

As I write this, wall-to-wall coverage continues on the financial emergency brought on by our nation’s so-called Republican leaders. However, as damaging as the “fiscal cliff” is for hundreds of thousands of Americans, it pales in comparison to the human crisis we’ll all face if we go lemming-like over the climate cliff. We are heading there fast and furious, seemingly with blindfolds and earplugs on, as the nation is slow to come to grips with the full intensity of what we have brought to bear on ourselves, our children, their offspring and beyond.

I am a broadcast journalist who left mainstream media in part because of-pardon the expression- the gang-bang mentality of breaking news, regardless of the event’s actual real-world importance. After two decades of covering daily news, I grew weary of the “if it bleeds it leads” editorial approach to story selection. Granted, covering a changing climate, our energy challenges and the growing strain on natural resources from overpopulation and over consumption is less juicy than political scandals, Donald Trump‘s latest tirade or the omnipresent celebrity news. Yet stories about what we’re doing to our only home and its inhabitants seldom, if ever, get above-the-fold headline treatment, despite the irreversible impact of our actions.

There should have been headlines this week with release of the long-awaited Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. While the 2007 version included enough warnings to get us mobilized (or should have), the latest climate conclusions—based on consensus and conservative estimates—should be enough to awaken the slumbering masses. However, they likely won’t, in no small part due to the government shutdown occurring the same time those results were released to the public and a myopic media.

I’m not saying the US government hanging a “Gone Fishing” sign out at national parks, monuments and federal offices is not news—but if we can’t get wider, deeper and louder mainstream media coverage on the unfolding climate emergency when there IS news, we should know all too well what that means. Yesterday’s stories, even if they were inadvertently pushed aside, get discarded as proverbial fish-wrap…and that stinks because there truly is no time to spare. The IPCC report concludes, with 95% certainty, that humans are causing greenhouse gases to heat the planet’s atmosphere and oceans, and fuel more extreme weather events of the deadly kind.

Despite the rising heat, once again news of a warming climate gets put on the back burner, right next to the proverbial frog that is boiling so slowly it doesn’t know its fate. Unlike that frog, we don’t have any place to jump to for our safety—and while the government being closed for business has both direct and ripple effects on thousands of Americans, the long-lasting impacts of poisoned weather is already costing lives and causing hardship for victims of destructive tornadoes, drought, wildfire and floods. If scientists can now connect the green dots, wouldn’t the patriotic and prudent thing to do be to treat the threat as the crisis it truly is?

Imagine if the networks and newspapers did cover what’s happening to our life-supporting climate as if it really mattered. As if it mattered as much as a government shutdown. Day-in, day-out analysis, commentary and continued coverage—like what we’re witnessing now—would surely go a long way towards shattering what I call “the green ceiling”, that firewall which heretofore no programmer or syndicator has dared to cross. The resistance and downright refusal on the part of news media gatekeepers is something I know all too well, after fifteen years of trying to break through the barrier and get a dedicated program on national airwaves addressing our many eco-challenges and what we must do to avoid catastrophe.

When drought and heat waves are claiming livestock, livelihoods and human lives; tornadoes, floods and wildfires are leaving entire towns wrecked beyond recognition; and Americans are NOT feeling a sense of urgency and outrage at procrastinating representatives with their heads in the sand (and hands in the deep pockets of Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, and right-wing “think tanks”), something is really wrong with this picture. Even more so than the United States of America shutting itself down.

The common denominator and culprit in both of these man-made disasters is the influence of those who fear big government, higher taxes and lord knows what imagined wrath from Democrats, especially President Obama. What I don’t understand is why those fears—however misplaced—are so strong that they blind ideologues to the scariest prospect of all, going forward into an increasingly hostile climate that at some point will wreak havoc across the globe, perhaps even coming soon to a city near you.

Scientists say our climate is near the breaking point, or at least the point of no return. With greenhouse gases last measuring at 400 parts per million in the atmosphere and experts saying we have maybe two to five years—max—to slow the rate of emissions, why are we not getting into high gear and instead continuing to act as if its business as usual? Its politics as usual that is strangling us and when it comes to our climate, we don’t have very long to release the choke hold.

A fueled up Mother Nature is certainly not waiting for us to grow up and get our act together. So are we writing off our future—telling our kids we were too busy quibbling while home was burning? Why not take a vote on stopping that actual crisis before it really is too late? The political pendulum swings back and forth; the planetary pendulum, not so much.

The Green Elephant in the Room

As the New Jersey Shore’s “surreality” show continues to unfold on TV, one cannot help but note all the ads on CNN and Fox News from those that likely helped make such epic storms possible, or — at the very least — helped to make them worse. Commercials from the oil and coal industry pepper the coverage like so many reminders of what is not being discussed by the mainstream news media: the role our dependence on fossil fuels is playing in this unfolding mega disaster.

The numbers are staggering enough: some 60 million Americans directly impacted by Superstorm Sandy, at least 74 Americans dead, and, at last count up to 10 million people who lost power. When the electricity comes back on and the damage toll is tallied, the bill is likely to reach $20 billion or higher. And that does not include all the travel upheaval or the hit to the economy in general.

It seems the summer that brought us the worst drought in modern history, fires in dozens of states, and some 40,000 temperature records broken this year alone, is now being followed by an autumn that spawned Sandy, what some are already calling the Storm of the Century. Or, at least the latest one. With sand turning Atlantic City into a beach, the boardwalk into the broad wreck, homes broken in Hoboken, and more than 11 feet of floodwater on Wall Street with gale-force winds tossing cars around like matchsticks in Manhattan, you’d have to work for the coal and oil industry to miss the irony — as well as the tragedy — encompassed in the continued political silence on climate change…

While we know we can’t pin any one (mega) storm on climate disruption, there is no question but that warmer coastal waters are adding more precipitation and energy to these systems. And while the Arctic storm which is dumping snow on several eastern states cannot be blamed on Sandy, the collision of both at the same time makes for one hell of a hybrid weather event. And it’s not even winter yet.

Not all politicians are remaining silent on climate change. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made my day when he declared, “Anyone who says there hasn’t been a dramatic change in weather patterns is in denial. We have a new reality and old infrastructures and old systems.” Well put.

And Rep. Ed Markey, longtime climate change champion and top Democrat on the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, noted:

“For this superstorm to occur so late in the storm season, reach such fury, and have the kinds of flooding impacts that we are seeing, is fully consistent with what scientists have told us we should expect due to global warming. It’s time to admit the obvious fact that climate change is here. Warmer water in the Atlantic is fueling stronger storms, the seas are higher, and the dramatic changes in the Arctic are potentially altering the path of storms hundreds of miles away. Climate change is no longer some far off issue; it’s at our doorstep. We must consider how to address the underlying factors that are fueling these extreme weather events.”

Other than Green Party candidate Jill Stein, the presidential candidates are still mum and MIA on the connection between extreme weather and climate change. While Sandy has knocked both President Obama and Mitt Romney off the campaign trail, they are not getting on topic with the green elephant in the room: the likely arrival of climate change. While Sandy has impacted campaign schedules, she has not yet altered the agenda, let alone the day’s talking points.

Granted, last week the president briefly commented on a question about climate from a MTV interviewer. In the clip, Obama commented that he was surprised climate had not come up as a topic in the presidential debates. Of course, he could have brought the subject up himself in all the back and forth about coal and oil exploration.

But most Americans never heard that clip. Instead, CNN’s Anderson Cooper chose to play a softball question and answer excerpt about Malia and Sasha indicating the president’s views on climate just don’t seem to rank up there in importance with Obama’s privacy concerns about his daughters’ future use of Facebook.

Amidst all this comes ad after ad brought to you by your friends at, a coal industry association, and the American Petroleum Institute (API). One of AmericanPower’s ads attacking EPA regulations is particularly poignant in light of the stormy backdrop. It says “enough is enough” in reference to the agency fighting to protect our environment — and failing, in no small part, due to the fossil fuel industries spending more than $150 million to influence the outcome of this election alone. Enough is enough, indeed!

Here’s what the API has on their website about those pesky hurricanes that rudely interrupt the drilling:

Hurricane and tropical storm activity can put a strain on U.S. oil and natural gas operations, particularly if the storm tracks through the production-heavy Gulf of Mexico or makes landfall along the Gulf Coast region, which houses many of the nation’s refinery and natural gas processing centers. API has assembled this fact sheet to help consumers better understand the interconnected U.S. fuel supply system and what happens when a supply shock, such as a major hurricane, occurs.

I honestly don’t know what’s spookier — our changing climate or the success of the disinformation campaign, but I do know that on this Halloween, once again, there were tricks being played on the American people.

As Columbia professor and economist Jeffrey Sachs recently noted, “If you’re not scared you’re not properly informed on this suicidal and reckless trajectory of our energy policy.”

But here’s one way to get out of fear and into anger — and then action.

All you have to do is tune into Rush Limbaugh to hear him declare for the umpteenth time that “climate change is a hoax.” But he didn’t stop there, he went on to mention the long dead East Anglia “controversy,” dubbed “ClimateGate” by the fossil-fuel funded denialist industry, and had the nerve to mock 200 climate change activists who have been camped out in Massachusetts to bring attention to “climate silence” on the part of politicians, media and even the American citizenry. He thought it was hilarious that the rain from Superstorm Sandy ended the vigil a day early this week. Ironic indeed.

The other person mocking climate change, of course, is candidate Romney, or at least he did at the Republican National Convention. Given his smug remark on President Obama’s 2008 concerns about “the rising of the seas,” Romney now has wet mud splattered all over his face, as those rising seas overtook huge portions of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut this week. If the Democrats were smart in this too-close race, they’d be running ads with Romney’s snarky comment amidst the spectacle that is Sandy, devastation so surreal it reminds one of a couple of movies dismissed by many as hype: An Inconvenient Truth and The Day After Tomorrow.

With the election just a few days away — and with scientists giving us less than five years to turn the tide on fossil fuel dependence to avoid climactic catastrophe — one can only suspect that Mother Nature may be a Democrat. Regardless, the specter of climate change looms over us, as dangerous as the broken crane hanging over the Manhattan skyline — a fitting symbol perhaps for our broken climate… hanging in the balance.


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