By Howie Hawkins, Green Party candidate for Governor
On the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, New York needs to become a world leader in taking action on global warming by committing to a 100% clean energy economy within 15 years. The state must also do more to protect residents from the impact of climate change, especially the poor.
Two years ago on October 29, Hurricane Sandy came ashore in New York and New Jersey. In New York City, the storm surge hit 14 feet, swamping the city's subway and mass transit system and flooding low-lying communities from Staten Island to the Rockaways. Damage was also severe on Long Island. Sandy killed at least 182 in the US, including 68 in New York, with property damage estimated at $65 billion. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers, especially the poor and elderly, were stranded for weeks without basic necessities. Many families still have not been able to rebuild their homes.
A little over a month ago 400,000 of us marched in conjunction with the UN Summit, demanding international action on climate change. While the massive rally has prompted New York City elected officials to be more responsive to the need to take action on climate change, it has had little impact on state and national political leaders who used their partisan gridlock to avoid needed action on this and many other critical issues while promoting increased wealth and tax giveaways for the 1%.
The people remain far ahead of our political and economic leaders in wanting action to protect us from the increasing threat presented by global warming. Severe storms will become more frequent, with once in a century devastation occurring every ten years. Already, 400,000 people die annually worldwide from the effects of climate change, primarily children, elderly and the poor who are most vulnerable to heat waves, drought, flooding and famine.
The Green New Deal would provide full employment through action on climate change. A peer-reviewed study shows how we can use existing technology to create a 100% clean energy economy based on renewables by 2030, while lowering electric costs by 50% compared to continued reliance on fossil fuels. Such an investment would create 4.5 million jobs just here in NY. This includes projects such as the LIPA proposals for off shore wind.
Climate scientists tell us that we have at best 15 years to convert to carbon-free energy sources if we are to stop runaway global warming. Every new report tends to find that global warming is accelerating faster than predicted.
We must redesign NYC and other communities to protect it from rising seas due to global warming. This includes wetland restoration to absorb storm surge, the relocation of water and sewage treatment plants and electric power stations out of flood zones, and converting power transmission and distribution to a more resilient smart grid, including decentralized micro grids to isolate impacted areas. It is a scandal that public officials have allowed so much housing development on flood plains, coastal areas and barrier islands.
The technology to build a sustainable, livable world already exits. The sun shines, the wind blows, the waves lap at our shores. Why we would not want to quickly create a renewable energy system that uses free wind and sun to cleanly power our society rather than using dirty, limited, and ever more expensive coal, oil and gas? Especially when clean energy creates many times more jobs than fossil fuels?
Unfortunately, big coal, oil, and gas and their Wall Street investors have captured our government. They have used their campaign donations to elect politicians who put corporate short-term profits before needs of the people and the planet.
To solve climate change we must solve our political and economic system. We must end the political corruption that starts with private campaign contributions by the wealthy. 331 donors have given Cuomo more than $40,000 each to buy favors.
We need to bring our energy infrastructure under democratic ownership and control as a public utility.
We also need to hold the fossil fuel companies financially responsible for the damage they have caused with global warming and to pay for the needed changes. New York City and State should divest their person funds from fossil fuel companies as unwise investment on both moral and financial grounds.
Climate change is not an act of god, it is an act of man. It is imperative that we take action now before it is too late. How many Hurricane Sandys do we need before we take meaningful action?