Associated Press
In this Thursday, April 29, 2010 file photo, a pair of coal trains idle on the tracks near Dry Fork Station.

New York reports 10,000 to 40,000 people uprooted because of hurricane Sandy, as a second storm, a cold Nor'easter, marched in. Sandy exemplifies a series of extreme events — heat waves, wildfires, droughts and floods — of surprising violence and frequency. The human and environmental impacts are severe.

So are the economic consequences. Munich Re, a major reinsurer, stated last month: "Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America. ... For the period concerned — 1980 to 2011 — the overall loss burden from weather catastrophes was US $1,060 bn."

Increasingly, the public understands surprisingly severe and frequent natural disasters as footprints of climate change, and recognizes that we'll see many more if we don't sharply reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that heat up the earth.

We need to help the victims of Sandy now, whose needs are achingly before us. And just as surely, we need to step away from burning coal, oil and gas by placing a fee on carbon, and returning revenue to the public to offset higher costs. Let's move decisively on this. We need to leave some footprints of our own.

Robert Speiser

Salt Lake City