Pulse of the Peninsula: Resolve to act on climate change

Pulse of the Peninsula: Resolve to act on climate change

Lately, Bernie Sanders has been bringing Native Americans into his stump speech, reminding not only the debt to indigenous people that has been reneged on but also to remind Americans of the respect, incorporated into spiritual practice, the Native Americans pay Mother Earth. 

He follows this by raising the alarm for climate action.

“We have got to realize that this is a global environmental crisis of unprecedented urgency,” he said at the Democratic debate in Brooklyn. “You know, if we, God forbid, were attacked tomorrow the whole country would rise up and say we got an enemy out there and we got to do something about it. That was what 9/11 was about. We have an enemy out there, and that enemy is going to cause drought and floods and extreme weather disturbances. There’s going to be international conflict. 

“We have got to lead the world in transforming our energy system, not tomorrow, but yesterday. This is a difference between understanding that we have a crisis of historical consequence here, and incrementalism and those little steps are not enough. We have a global crisis. Pope Francis reminded us that we are on a suicide course.” 

The Obama Administration, which showed significant global leadership in getting 196 countries to sign onto the Paris Climate Agreement and particularly, getting China and India to take climate action, has been doing its level best against irrational obstruction by the Fossil Fuel caucus in the Congress, as well as Republican-dominated states and petro companies that are suing the Administration to roll back his historic Clean Power Plan.

It is said that the threat of climate change and global warming isn’t resonating because it is a “slow march”— as invisible as the wind, or affecting some distant place. 

But tell that to the thousands of communities who have been harmed at some point or another by floods, droughts, hurricane, tornadoes, rising sea levels (already). The impact of climate change is very immediate: it can change lives in a heartbeat.

But climate change is also causing a public health crisis. 

The EPA just released a report The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, (https://health2016.globalchange.gov/) which documents the close connection between public health: rising asthma rates, worsening allergy conditions, tens of thousands more deaths from heat stroke, malnutrition as food sources lose nutrients along with the impacts of drought, wildfires, and flooding on crop production, spread of diseases such as Zika, Lyme, and West Nile through the expanding habitat for the insects that carry them, and even exacerbation of mental illness because of the stress and trauma caused by extreme weather events.

“The major finding is that climate change is a significant threat to the health of the American people not just in the future but right now. As the climate continues to change, the risks to human health will grow, exacerbating existing health threats and creating new public health challenges, and impacting more people in more places.” From children, to pregnant women, to the elderly and disabled, every American is vulnerable to the health impacts associated with climate change, now and in the future. Certain groups are particularly vulnerable, including people living in poverty (who are also likely to live near environmental contamination and pollution, curtailing life expectancy from four to 10 years).

With a climate-denying Republican Congress in thrall to the Fossil Fuel Industry, states and localities must play a more active part. 

Fortunately, Gov. Cuomo has been engaged and active in making New York a model for the nation.

In addition to taking significant actions of banning fracking in New York State (he still has to kill the Constitution pipeline), and vetoing the Port Ambrose LNG project, Gov. Cuomo has launched important initiatives, including:

Launching the Clean Energy Standard: to expand large scale renewable power so that it provides 50% of power generation by 2030 and to propose a plan to support New York’s existing zero-emission nuclear fleet.

o Signed the Under 2 MOU (https://under2mou.org/), a Memorandum of Understanding among states, provinces and cities worldwide to affirm their commitment to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050 to help keep the earth’s average temperature from increasing two degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. As part of the 2015 State Energy Plan, New York set one of the most aggressive targets in the nation to reduce emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 (80 by 50). 

o Securing a Coal Free New York by 2020:  PSC and DEC are directed to close the state’s two remaining coal burning power plants or repower them to cleaner fuel sources by 2020.

o Leading on Transportation and Climate:. Gov. Cuomo has signed onto the Zero Emission Vehicle, and the International ZEV Alliance to move the state forward on reducing emissions from cars, as well as embarking in the Transportation and Climate Initiative with a coalition of 12 Northeastern states. The EPF will now provide major new funding to help communities mitigate and adapt to climate change, including new incentives for clean vehicle purchases and infrastructure. 

This will support NYSERDA’s forthcoming consumer zero emission vehicle rebate program.

o Adopted a 10-year, $5 billion Clean Energy Fund: Over the next 10 years, NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Fund will drive greater private sector investment to support clean energy and energy efficiency solutions to New York’s homes, buildings, and communities; invest in cutting edge R&D to accelerate clean energy innovation; provide $1 billion for the NY-Sun program; and capitalize the nation’s largest Green Bank. 

Through the CEF, the State will also reduce ratepayer surcharges by $90 million in 2016 and by $1.5 billion by 2025. It complements the Clean Energy Standard by driving down the cost and scaling up clean energy technologies to meet the 50 percent renewable electricity goal. 

o Launched a $1 billion Green Bank, the largest green bank in the nation. 

o Climate Smart Communities Take Action: 174 local governments, encompassing 6.6 million New Yorkers, have joined the State program to support local climate change adaptation and mitigation and seven communities have completed a rigorous certification process. 

One of the false claims used against transitioning to clean energy is that it will cripple the economy. But a New York Public Service Commission cost study analysis demonstrates that New York’s Clean Energy Standard would produce significant economic savings from the prevention of climate disruption related storm damage and reduced health costs for New Yorkers. 

What is more, if there is a commitment to significant reductions in carbon pollution, the state would stand to save between $1 and $3 billion even before factoring in the economic benefit of thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in renewable economic investment across the State. In addition to saving electricity customers money and spurring job growth, the reduction of carbon pollution from fossil fuel plants such as coal and the support of aggressive carbon reductions region-wide through the Regional Green House Gas Initiative will help Gov. Cuomo achieve his mandate of increasing New York’s electric sector renewable energy use to 50 percent by 2030.  

 (Note: There is currently an open public comment period for the Clean Energy Standard and there are a number of public hearings planned in May for the communities and stakeholders across the state to discuss the benefits of the program).

 Here on Long Island, Suffolk has been proactive in moving to renewable energy, particularly solar power, and will likely be the first beneficiary of off-shore windpower by signing on to the first project, off Montauk. East Hampton has even adopted a resolution to be 100 percent powered with renewable energy by the end of the decade.

But here in Nassau, the Mangano Administration has been moribund, doing absolutely nothing to cultivate renewable energy or sustainable development, which will leave Nassau behind.

It’s fallen to grassroots  activists and they came, out by the hundreds to the March 21 LIPA Board meeting to plead their case to invest in off-shore wind energy projects rather than dirty fossil fuel plants, stressing that now is the time, a critical window of opportunity is open. 

They were well received by Chairman Ralph V. Suozzi and the newly named Chief Executive Officer Thomas Falcone.

It is a critical juncture: LIPA’s current energy mix only contains 3% renewable and PSEG-Long Island (PSEG-LI) is now proposing to build, expensive, oil powered plants, commonly called “peakers,” to meet an increase in projected energy demand for this area, instead of choosing renewable energy sources. Beyond stifling the Governor’s efforts to combat climate change in New York, investing in an historically volatile energy market by investing instead in new oil peaker plants for the South Fork would further decrease Long Island’s fuel diversity, subjecting ratepayers to increasing price volatility as experienced in recent winters.

Instead, LIPA and PSEG-LI should invest in a renewable energy future for Long Island by selecting offshore wind and battery storage projects to power the East End, which would ensure reliable, affordable energy that creates jobs while protecting our environment.

Investing in offshore wind could transform Long Island into a regional clean energy hub — jump-starting the industry, bringing high-paying, local jobs and manufacturing opportunities to the community and supercharging our economy, all the while making deep cuts in the state’s climate pollution. Additionally, Gov. Cuomo and LIPA can show visionary leadership now by taking the initial steps toward ensuring the state generates at least 5,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2025 and making deep cuts in climate pollution, helping to curb climate disruption. 

Indeed, in stark contrast to fossil fuel generators which can obtain licenses to drill without first securing a “power purchase agreement” from a utility like PSEG-LI, the private companies that have been trying to secure licenses to construct a windfarm off Long Island are prevented from going forward until they have such an agreement in hand.

“We are standing at the proverbial fork in the road, LIPA will choose to build a fossil fuel peaker plant on the South Fork or an offshore wind farm with battery storage backup.” Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment said. “One choice can chart a new future. Choose wind power. The time is now, the place is here!”

As we celebrate Earth Day, there needs to be a new resolve, a new respect on the order of a spiritual commitment to Mother Earth, and to be reminded of President Obama’s invocation: “We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.”

No posts to display


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here