Viewpoint: The climate for Earth Day? Boiling

Viewpoint: The climate for Earth Day? Boiling

Karen Rubin, Columnist

Just ahead of Earth Day 2022, climate scientists have renewed the alarm that not enough is being done to mitigate, let alone reverse, the catastrophic impacts of climate change, no longer far away or in the distant future, but here and now.

Across this nation and the globe, homo sapiens who have declared themselves the ultimate controllers of the Earth’s ecosystem, have shown the same contempt for Mother Nature as every other woman.

So even as millions are suffering impacts of climate catastrophes and are clamoring for change, the electeds who control purse strings and policy have failed to show “political will” to make the necessary structural and societal changes.

Their selfishness and shortsightedness is like watching how the tragic flaw causes self-destruction as a Greek tragedy unfolds. (Looking at you Senator Joe Manchin and Mitch McConnell.)

You are upset about inflated prices in food, and gasoline now? Wait until drought and flooding destroy fields, wildfires destroy supply chains, and wars are fought not for oil but drinking water.

You think that refugees fleeing for their lives are a problem now? Wait until 500 million have to flee from homes washed away or burned to the ground.

Climate-denying Republicans love to use the argument that climate action will stunt the economy, but the opposite is manifestly true: floods, drought, wildfires and hurricanes made worse by climate change are costing $120 billion a year now and by 2100 could balloon to $2 trillion each year — a 7.1% loss in annual revenue, according to the Office of Management and Budget’s first formal accounting in the Federal Budget for risks of climate change.

But how do you put a price on lost lives, livelihoods, and everything a family has held dear?

The President’s budget for fiscal year 2023 invests $44.9 billion to tackle the climate crisis, an increase of nearly 60 percent over FY 2021, but a bargain compared to the $120 billion on disaster aid.

This includes $15 billion to increase clean energy innovation and deployment and further U.S. competitiveness through innovative technologies that accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.

Of this, $7 billion will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the power sector and $3 billion in the transportation sector; $5 billion in mandatory funding for the Department of Transportation to support the transition to a clean transportation sector; $18 billion to strengthen climate resilience and adaptation efforts across the Federal Government and protect communities from climate change impacts.

“Investments to confront the climate crisis will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, drive down clean energy prices, make our Nation more resilient, present new opportunities for American innovation and well-paying jobs, provide benefits to historically underserved communities, and work to protect against the long-term fiscal risks identified in the new Budget analyses released today,” the OMB stated.

Climate change is also impacting our state –just look at the $100 million that Hurricane Ida, alone, cost New Yorkers; Superstorm Sandy cost $70 billion in damages and dozens of lives.

Thankfully, Gov. Kathy Hochul has picked up the reins from Andrew Cuomo, moving forward with the state’s climate agenda, possibly the most aggressive climate and clean energy initiative in the nation.

Enshrined into law through the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, it puts New York on a path to achieve a mandated goal of 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030 and a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040 to reach economy-wide carbon neutrality.

New York has made unprecedented investments to ramp up clean energy, including $33 billion in 102 large-scale renewable and transmission projects across the state, $6.8 billion to reduce buildings emissions, $1.8 billion to scale up solar, more than $1 billion for clean transportation initiatives, and over $1.6 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. Combined, these investments supported 158,000 jobs in New York’s clean energy sector in 2020.

The state’s 2022 budget just adopted advanced the plan with historic investments in clean energy infrastructure, climate resiliency and preservation: an additional $1.2 billion for the landmark Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act, bringing the total investment to $4.2 billion; a record $400 million Environmental Protection Fund to support climate change mitigation projects, improve agricultural resources, protect water sources, advance conservation efforts; an additional $500 million in clean water infrastructure funding, bringing the state’s total clean water investment to $4.5 billion since 2017.

Significantly, for Long Island, the state is allocating $500 million to develop the State’s offshore wind supply chains and port infrastructure – supporting 2,000 jobs in a growing industry, while helping to make New York the nation’s offshore wind capital. The goal is to generate 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035 and power 1.5 million homes.

Also, the budget includes a record $32.8 billion investment in a five-year transportation infrastructure plan – a 40 percent increase over the prior five-year plan.

The state is implementing a plan to achieve 2 million climate-friendly, electrified or electrification-ready homes by 2030, and legislating to ensure that all new building construction reaches zero emissions by 2027 – the source of one-third of the state’s climate pollution.

Other notable achievements: the State finalized regulations requiring significant reductions in methane and other harmful emissions from any oil and natural gas infrastructure.

New York has become the top community solar market in the United States with more than one gigawatt of community solar installed and operational – enough to serve 209,000 homes across the state – and has the largest pipeline in the nation with enough community solar under construction to serve an additional 401,000 homes. This is a milestone toward the goal of generating 10 gigawatts of solar by 2030.

The 2022 Budget implements Governor Hochul’s Clean Green Schools initiative, funding significant infrastructure upgrades to 1,000 public schools and benefiting 1 million students, such as geothermal heating and cooling, solar, green roofs, and indoor air quality/ventilation.

It also provides $500 million to facilitate school districts’ transition to zero-emission buses – all new school bus purchases must be zero-emissions by 2027 and all school buses on the road be zero-emissions by 2035.

Also in the works: $175 million in federal funding over the next five years to install electric vehicle charging stations.

Finally, Hochul is aiming to make New York a green hydrogen hub and signed a multi-state consortium agreement with Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey and 40 hydrogen ecosystem partners, for clean hydrogen infrastructure deployment and research and development.

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