On September 21st, 2014, New York City became the site of the largest march against climate change in human history. The People’s Climate March, attended by over three hundred thousand people, called upon the world’s leaders to address climate change and other environmental issues. In December, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing, a form of natural gas drilling opposed by environmentalists as a threat to public health. New York is now the only state other than Vermont to ban the practice – and with 19 million people, 29 electoral votes and the biggest city in the country, the state’s ban represents a massive environmental victory.
There’s no question that 2014 was a very good year for the environment in New York. Unfortunately, we’re still feeling the ill effects of climate change, and as global temperatures continue to rise, they will only increase. One 2012 study from the journal Nature Climate Change found that increasing ocean temperatures lead to thermal expansion of ocean water and a corresponding rise in sea level. The study predicted an increase in New York’s severe flooding risk, and Hurricane Sandy battered the city the very next year. In California, a 2014 Stanford University study found a like between atmospheric pressure caused by carbon emissions and the state’s historic drought. Even last fall’s Ebola scare had a link to our changing environment – as rising global temperatures lead to food scarcity in the third world, desperate people turn to bush hunting and other unconventional food sources. That means people eat animals such as fruit bats, which the World Health Organization considers the natural animal carrier for the Ebola virus.
We can’t ignore the effects of climate change on the world, but we can do something about it. New York State’s Public Service Commission is discussing an initiative called Reforming the Energy Vision or REV. It’s aimed at completely overhauling the state’s regulation and generation of energy and moving us towards a more sustainable future. This is our opportunity to make the state a national, if not global, leader in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Environmentalist groups such as NYPIRG are pushing for ambitious goals including an 80% reduction in climate pollution by 2050, as well as half the state’s energy coming from renewable sources by 2025. Now that the state has banned hydraulic fracturing, New Yorkers who care about a sustainable, greener future have momentum on our side.
We have every reason to think that the same special interests who pushed for more natural gas drilling in the state will try to sink the REV. At best, their vision of “sustainability” would turn the state’s most serious reform efforts into a meaningless piece of paper. Meanwhile, groups like NYPIRG want to see a strong, assertive set of policies – an initiative with the will and the way to actually fight climate change effectively.
If this sounds good for you, please go to https://www.nypirg.org/climatechange/ and leave a public comment to the Public Service Commission in support of a cleaner, brighter future for the state. Even just a sentence or two saying that we need to move away from fossil fuels or towards renewable energy would make a powerful statement, as the PSC reads every single comment.
Anik Nath is a project coordinator for NYPIRG.