Earlier in the event, Knobloch had praised Obama for sidestepping Congress after cap-and-trade legislation failed in 2010 to pursue emissions reductions through the Environmental Protection Agency.
Knobloch said Obama’s push to bolster infrastructure through stimulus funds exemplified that he would continue to address the issue in a second term.
Knobloch said that is key because climate change means storms will remain violent. He noted that while scientists would not attribute Sandy to climate change, scientists attributed the storm’s intensity to it.
Factors such as ocean temperatures off the Atlantic seaboard registering 9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal and sea level rises likely contributed to Sandy’s strength. Knobloch added that a full moon high tide — which was unrelated to climate — magnified the storm surge.
“So a lot of things were going on there. But what it really has shown, Chris, is our low-lying infrastructure is vulnerable,” Knobloch said.
Knobloch said Obama might not need to act unilaterally on climate-related issues in a second term, because events like Sandy, as well as this past summer’s record drought and wildfires in the West, could push Congress to move on the issue.
“It’s a relatively recent phenomenon that partisanship has entered into this debate,” Knobloch said, adding that the current Congress is starting “to connect the dots between extreme weather events and sea level rise and climate change.”