As we pass the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy and pass the two-year anniversary of Hurricanes Irene and Lee, we are reminded of the destruction that was left in the wake of these storms. Storms of this magnitude, which used to be considered “once in a lifetime” occurrences, are happening more and more frequently.
Although it is difficult to link the specific cause of any one particular weather event to climate change or global warming, there is scientific evidence that our planet is feeling the effects of global warming. For instance:
• The annual rate of global sea level rise over the past 20 years has been 0.13 inches a year, roughly twice the average speed of the preceding 80 years.
• Scientific data, including all three major global surface temperature analyses, shows that in the last 133 years the 20 warmest years have occurred since 1981, with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years.
• The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass, and glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world.
The problem of global warming is real, and almost all scientists believe that it is caused by human activity. Global warming occurs when the sun’s rays and the heat brought into the atmosphere by pollutants like carbon dioxide and methane get trapped, causing temperatures to climb worldwide. In a recent draft report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change adjusted its certainty level that humans are causing global warming upward from 90 percent in 2007 to 95 percent.
What can we do about climate change and global warming? Here in New York, I sponsored legislation that would require the Department of Environmental Conservation to establish enforceable limits on greenhouse gas emissions and create a greenhouse gas reporting system (A.6327). Reducing greenhouse gas emissions would help prevent the worst impacts of global warming and climate change, and implementing a reporting system would allow public oversight of the regulatory process. Our efforts here in New York complement action being taken on the federal level: President Obama is working to reduce power plant carbon pollution, accelerate clean energy initiatives, build a cleaner transportation system and cut energy waste in homes and businesses.
Governor Cuomo just recently signed a bill I sponsored with Senator Ken LaValle (A.5939-A/S.4104-A) to specifically highlight the ability to use Peconic Bay Community Preservation Funds to protect shorelines at risk of coastal flooding due to projected sea level rise and storms. It is important that we take this step, locally, to conserve our beaches, and dune systems which act as protective barriers our coastal communities.
As New Yorkers, we must do our part to slow the effects of climate change and global warming. We can’t wait for others to act. The time for leadership is now.