Audubon View

Audubon's President discusses the lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy.

Just five years ago we thought the impacts of climate disruption were something our kids would have to worry about. But the victims of Superstorm Sandy and last year’s catastrophic drought—the worst since the dust bowl—would beg to differ.

Arctic ice has melted faster than we expected, and there have been an unprecedented number of weather-related disasters in the past year. 

But it will take an unnatural act to minimize the harm we’ve unleashed. We need to commit to changes that won’t produce results in most of our lifetimes, something foreign to a culture that lives paycheck to paycheck. The idea of ensuring that unborn generations avoid Sandy-like “annual 100-year floods” is both selfless and compassionate, and it’s something I believe we’re capable of doing. 

In Sandy’s wake, it’s time to be direct: The science is rock solid, and most climate disruption is directly linked to the amount of greenhouse gases we’re dumping into the atmosphere. But Americans who want to see action on climate disruption face some formidable foes. One is that parts of America see climate care as anti-growth, anti-liberty, and, frankly, a Democratic value. We believe that’s a divisive, cynical, and self-serving approach. The reason we started the unprecedented campaign called “Because Conservation Doesn’t Have a Party” is that we are convinced Americans really do believe conservation is common ground. More than 100,000 of you signed on during the election season to tell politicians that they’re fed up with conservation being a political football.

The other foes are the largest, most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill: Big Oil and Big Coal. The idea that there’s an “other side” to scientific fact is a testament to the power of money. I spent 27 years in journalism. When investigating why things happened, we lived by the adage “follow the money.” When you follow the arguments that disagree with 99 percent of the world’s climate scientists, you invariably end up with a special interest funded by oil or coal companies, a handful of earnest contrarians, and the usual conspiracy theorists who believe government is fundamentally evil. 

But Americans everywhere know we need a path to a clean energy future. It’s time for a real solution to greenhouse-gas emissions. Birds and people need the same things: clean air, clean water, places to live, and lots of habitat to suck greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Audubon has an authentic voice on the most critical issue of our time. Whether it’s locating wind and solar to minimize the impact on birds or speaking up to ensure that our members’ love for their kids and for birds becomes legislative or regulatory action, Audubon can and will be a forceful advocate. After working on this issue for nearly a decade, there’s not an argument I haven’t heard about how hard this is—but none of those arguments are as compelling as the warning signs all around us.