Climate Change Remains A Growing Threat

A new inlet that Superstorm Sandy cut through Fire Island remains years later. (FINS photo)

“A good thing to remember as we enter a new decade is that we’ve waited far too long to take action on climate change,” said Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island. “Now we have just a small window left to act.”

Raacke was speaking as much of Australia was burning largely due to climate change, while its national government leadership remains in denial about the issue. The major reason for climate change is the burning of fossil fuels, and Australia continues to be dependent on coal-fired power plants. 

“Australia’s leaders … defend the fossil fuel industry, a big donor to both major parties — as if they were willing the country to its doom,” wrote Australian author Richard Flanagan in a recent piece in The New York Times headlined “Australia Is Committing Climate Suicide.”

The nation’s prime minister (like America’s president) insists climate change is a hoax. It’s no hoax. Among its other impacts, climate change “takes moisture out of the ground and vegetation, so it’s much drier” — thus the fires all over Australia, explains Raacke.

For Long Island, the main impacts are sea-level rise and more intense hurricanes, their power heightened by the increasingly warmer ocean waters on which hurricanes feed, says Raacke. 

As for sea-level rise, Kevin McAllister, founding president of Sag Harbor-based Defend H20, has noted that over the past 40 years, waters surrounding LI rose by 4 inches, and now, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation predicts because of climate change, in the next 40 years “we can expect they’ll rise by 11 to 30 inches.” 

People on the Island, like those in Australia, need to call for strong action to be taken to deal with the causes of climate change, notably demanding alternatives to fossil fuels. For Long Island, the program spearheaded by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo to harvest wind off our shores is a great advance. It’s among the abundant green energy alternatives to fossil fuels. 

The state Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, passed last year, aims for a 100 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with the stated goal of “exercising a global leadership role on greenhouse gas mitigation and climate change adaptation.’” The word “leadership” in its title is telling. 

“As Washington turns a blind eye and rolls back decades of environmental protections, New York turns to a future of net zero emissions,” Cuomo said. 

Karl Grossman is an investigative reporter and professor of journalism.