Last month (on the Friday after Thanksgiving, when the Trump Administration hoped we would not pay attention) a major climate report issued by 13 federal agencies confirmed what we’ve known for a long time, and what we’re seeing with our own eyes right now with the devastating forest fires in California:climate change is already having and will continue to have disastrous consequences.
The damage is already here, and is projected to get much worse. It will affect our health and environment, leading to increased crop failures, wildfires, and failing infrastructure, and clobber the U.S. economy, shrinking it by 10% by 2100. This report comes on the heels of a report issued by the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change, which pointed to global catastrophic effects of climate change as soon as 2040 — including food shortages, wildfires, and massive death of coral reefs. Both reports stress the need for countries around the world to reduce their carbon emissions immediately if we are going to lessen the damage.
Climate change feels overwhelming, because it is. The scope of the problem is so large. The consequences so dire. The barriers to real action so steep (and made so much worse by the climate-denying narcissist-in-chief, to whom the lives of our kids and grandkids is truly irrelevant).
But despair is not an option. We must take big, bold, specific steps forward. So I’m encouraged at this moment by energetic new efforts at the federal, state, and city levels.
In Washington DC, Congressmember-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (working together with the Sunrise Movement, with whom we canvassed this summer, and other allies) is organizing the Green New Deal up to the top of House Democrats agenda for the coming term.
In Albany, with Democrats in control of the State Senate in January, the NY Renews coalition can set New York State on a path of a just & sustainable transition to 100% renewable energy.
Here in New York City, we aren’t waiting until next year.
Tomorrow, the City Council will be hearing legislation (introduced by Council Member Costa Constantinides, of which I’m proud to be a co-sponsor) to target the #1 cause of carbon emissions in our city (70% of all of NYC’s emissions) — buildings — by requiring retrofits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Developed through a multi-stakeholder partnership convened by Urban Green Council, and pushed tirelessly by the Climate Works for All Coalition of environmental, labor, and community organizations (with whom I’ve been working since they launched in 2014), Intro. 1253 is the boldest plan of any city in the country for reducing building emissions. The legislation will require the retrofitting of all privately-owned buildings over 25,000 square feet (and all publicly-owned buildings of any size) to reduce emissions.
Tomorrow’s hearing will take place at 10 a.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall. You are welcome to attend, or to watch the hearing online. If you have questions you’d like asked at the hearing, please reply to this email and I will try to ask your question.
The legislation will enable NYC to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% over the next decade, and to meet our goal of an 80% carbon emissions reduction by 2050 (the Paris Agreement target to sufficiently limit global temperature increases to prevent catastrophic effects of climate change).
We can — and we must — transition our city, our state, our country, and our planet away from burning fossil fuels, toward a green economy that relies on solar, wind and carbon-free power.
Until now, we’ve lacked the political will to make it happen.