January 7, 2013: the following OPED by former executive director Rob Moore was published in the Albany Times Union.
OPED: Cuomo Raises Climate Change Hopes
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has placed himself in the vanguard of public officials pledging action on climate change. He repeatedly has recognized that climate change is real and that New York is vulnerable to the extreme weather events that accompany our rapidly warming climate.
The governor has reignited a public debate on climate change, flatly stating that our nation had become distracted by an argument over the causes while failing to address the "inarguable effects" of our warming climate.
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, after viewing the devastation and the damage that had been wrought, Cuomo laid down his marker when he said, "We need to act, not simply react."
We need to make our infrastructure more robust and sustainable, which includes upgrading our electrical grid; making sure our sewer and drinking water systems are able to operate before, during and after a crisis; and making our transportation networks less vulnerable to rising waters.
Sandy showed us, as did Irene and Lee in 2011, that we must not put ourselves in harm's way. The easiest and least costly way to avoid loss of life and expensive rebuilding efforts is to not build in coastal and low-lying areas.
And we must rapidly decrease our emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in order to avoid the most calamitous impacts of climate change.
According to public opinion polls, about three-quarters of all New Yorkers support the governor's call to action. People have his back because of his ability to lead, build consensus, and enact a bold agenda for New York that decreases our contribution to climate pollution and makes our communities more resilient in the face of the extreme weather events that have become the new normal.
No public official is better positioned to make good on their pledge than Cuomo. And all eyes will be on him this month as the governor lays out his agenda in Wednesday's State of the State address and in his budget proposal just two weeks later.
Here are a couple of ways that Cuomo can make a difference.
The governor has called for New York to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. We can do this by:
- Increasing investment in renewable energy sources like offshore wind and solar power. Not only should utility scale wind and solar power facilities be constructed, we also can make sure that homes and businesses have solar panels on their rooftops, ensuring that some power is available even if the grid goes down.
- Fostering greater energy efficiency in our homes, businesses and public facilities.
- Decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels and shutting down dirty coal-fired power plants.
We also need to make New York's communities more resilient and more sustainable. We can do that by:
- Keeping people out of harm's way and making the correct choices about where we rebuild.
- Directing development out of lowland areas that we know are most vulnerable.
- Protecting wetlands, riverside open spaces, salt marshes and coastal dunes that are valuable pieces of natural infrastructure that can provide equivalent protection from flooding and storm damage more cheaply than over-engineered storm barriers and seawalls.
Where we do choose to rebuild, make sure new construction can survive a major storm event and be a model of efficiency and sustainability.
Regardless of the actions or inactions of our elected officials, nature never fails to show us the consequences of our choices. At a news conference soon after Sandy hit, the governor said, "Maybe Mother Nature is telling us something."
His State of the State speech and budget proposal will indicate how well he listened.