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Superstorm Sandy leaves questions in its wake

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Oct. 31, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
October 31, 2012 4:50 pm

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

The Northeast is only starting to clean up and assess the damage caused by the most devastating, costly storm to hit the region in many years. But it’s not too early to start seeking answers to some of the questions left in Sandy’s aftermath.

• Will this finally get the presidential candidates to talk about climate change? And what can be done to better protect coastal populations?

Many scientists have linked the increasing number of extreme weather events to global warming. It’s unclear if Sandy is one of those events, but with melting polar ice and rising seas, what is more clear is that coastal cities like New York will be increasingly vulnerable to future such storms.

Should more aggressive steps be taken to protect these communities – especially economically important ones like New York City? Building storm-surge barriers would be enormously expensive and might only provide adequate protection for a relatively short time.

These are questions relevant to millions of Americans, but neither Republican Mitt Romney nor Democrat Barack Obama has shown much interest in addressing them. They need to.

• Will Romney explain comments he has made in the past about funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency?

Although Romney’s campaign released a statement Wednesday that was supportive of continued funding for disasters, it wasn’t clear whether that would be contingent on making cuts elsewhere in the federal budget, as many conservatives – including GOP running mate Paul Ryan – have insisted. Romney has avoided answering reporters’ requests that he clarify his position. He shouldn’t wait until after Election Day to do that.

• If President Obama tries to make hay out of Romney’s position on FEMA, shouldn’t he explain why his proposed budget cuts an estimated 3 percent out of the agency’s budget? Granted, that’s far less than what The Washington Post estimates would be cut under a Romney-Ryan administration – anywhere from 22 to 40 percent.

• Should the federal government even be playing a major role in disaster response?
Ask leaders in this state whether they want federal help when the Big One hits Washington. Note that we said when, not if.

Scientists say it’s only a matter of time before a massive earthquake strikes this region – the kind of subduction zone quake that hasn’t been felt here in hundreds of years. It could strike tomorrow, it could be 10 or more years from now. While much has been done to prepare for it, huge damage and loss of life are still expected.

While we here might sometimes shake our heads at our tax dollars going to other parts of the country that get regularly slammed by hurricanes and tornadoes, we need to recognize that someday, that help will be needed here.

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