The "Frankenstorm" bearing down on the East Coast is the latest example of the reality of climate change-induced mega storms and extreme weather events. It is also a reminder that voters in the 2012 Elections have a stark choice between radically different approaches to dealing with climate change, environmental policy, and science.
According to polls, climate change and global warming could be a "sleeper" issue, particularly in close Congressional races. This reflects the concern of a majority of voters that global warming is a reality and a growing threat to the planet.
The dismissive attitude of Republicans toward climate change starts from the top of the ticket. At the Republican Convention, presidential candidate Mitt Romney mocked President Obama's recognition of the peril of global warming.
"(He) promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family," said Romney
"How can we have a man running for the office of the president of the United States - denying global climate change and endorsing oil subsidies?" asked the actor Robert Redford, to a gathering of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). "You really wonder what kind of world and what kind of a time is this man living in?"
If Romney is bad on the environment, his vice presidential running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, an avowed climate change denier, is even worse.
Romney and Ryan embrace the environmental plank adopted at the Republican Convention, the worst in history. Its policy is based on unleashing capitalist market forces, turning environmental regulation over to corporate polluters.
The platform would remove environmental protections by severely weakening the EPA. It promotes a radical increase of fossil fuel use and fracking while scoffing at development of renewable energy and curbing CO2 emissions.
The LCV, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action Fund, Environment America, and other major environmental groups firmly back President Obama. Despite criticisms that the administration is moving too slowly, and shortcomings of several administration policies, the groups see Obama's reelection as key to the fight for an environmentally sustainable future.
"From enacting the mercury safeguards to setting carbon pollution standards for power plants, President Obama and his exemplary Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Lisa Jackson, have tackled some of the most dire and pressing threats to our health, families, and planet," said Mary Ann Hitt, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.
Environmentalists also laud Obama for tightening fuel-efficiency rules as part of the auto bailout and increasing them to an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
"The Obama administration has acted thoughtfully to address one of the biggest threats to her future -- climate disruption -- by first thoroughly reviewing the science, and then putting carbon pollution standards in place" to modernize the nation's energy production, said Hitt.
Also at stake is a pro-science, pro-environment majority in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Millions of dollars are pouring into key races from the likes of Wal-Mart, Koch Brothers, the tea party, and others to elect some of the most extreme, anti-science, anti-environment Republican candidates.
Already, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives are viewed as the most anti-environment in history.
If Republicans win a majority in the U.S. Senate, the ranking member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works that would oversee the EPA would be Sen. James Inhofe, a virulent climate change denier who wrote a book about global warming entitled "Hoax."
Republicans aim to undo every gain made over the past four years in environmental policy. Most support rolling back or even the outright elimination of the EPA.
Nearly every Republicans running for U.S. Senate is a climate change denier.
Among the worst is former Sen. George Allen, running against former governor Tim Kaine, a Democrat, in Virginia. Allen got a one-percent rating from the LVC and headed the American Energy Freedom Center funded by the oil companies and Koch brothers.
"(Allen) and I have a different point of view on science," Kaine said. "(He) does not believe that human activity affects climate. So carbon isn't a problem. So we don't need to do anything about it. I think activity affects climate."
State treasurer Richard Mourdock, the Republican tea party candidate is running against Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly for the open senate seat in Indiana. Mourdock, already in the national spotlight for his reactionary view that pregnancy after rape is "something that God intended to happen" and a "gift from God," has an equally reactionary view of climate science.
"We are basing our energy policy on the greatest hoax of all time, which is that mankind is changing the climate," said Mourdock, a former coal-mining executive who is awash with oil, coal, and tea party money.
Democrat Elizabeth Warren, running to unseat Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts has vowed to eliminate subsidies to the oil industry, develop green technologies, and oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. Brown takes the opposite approach and repeatedly voted to block the EPA from reducing carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act.
In Connecticut, Republican Linda McMahon says she'd dismantle the EPA. Her opponent, Rep. Chris Murphy has an LCV lifetime environmental score of 98 percent.
The list could go on but one thing is clear. A lot is riding on the outcome of the 2012 elections - the future of humankind.
Photo: Image of a fierce hurricane, seen from far above. kakela/Flickr