Color Penfield Green has signed onto a letter written by the NY Chapters of the Climate Reality Project asking Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to make sure that significant climate legislation is passed in this summer's anticipated Reconciliation Bill. The Climate Reality Project is a climate advocacy group founded by Al Gore and there are two vibrant chapters here in the region.
Here is the letter:
Dear Senator Schumer,
We, the undersigned, are sending this plea to you in light of the terrifying decision of the Supreme Court to severely limit the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the environment from carbon pollution. We are spurred by the fact that the window is closing for the Congress to take any meaningful action on the climate emergency.
It’s time for President Biden and Congress to deliver on the promise to tackle the climate crisis. Congress needs to approve significant investments in climate, justice, and clean energy to protect our health and environment, lower costs for families, cut carbon pollution, and create jobs and opportunity for all. Congress must act now by swiftly passing a bill that delivers bold investments in climate, justice, and jobs. The New York Congressional delegation must lead the way.
Every region of New York State will be devastated if Congress fails to act to robustly address the Climate Emergency. For example, New York State has seen a 71% increase in extreme precipitation events since 1958, according to the DEC. These inundations threaten our food supply by harming our agricultural sector. Warmer weather has made our state inviting to many pests, including the Southern Pine Beetle, (whose range has now extended north of Albany.) This insect is vastly increasing the risk of devastating wildfires in our state.
Impacts on the state’s regions include:
In New York City the greatest threats from climate change are rising sea levels, increased precipitation and extreme heat. Sea levels along our coast have already risen by a foot since 1900 and are expected to rise another 60” – 75” by 2100 under a business-as-usual scenario. The New York City harbor has already seen 15 inches of sea level rise just since 1900 (NYSDEC.) Extreme weather events are increasing in their frequency and severity, causing frequent deadly flash flooding (Hurricane Ida) as well as total inundations (Hurricane Sandy.) The combination of rising sea levels and increased extreme weather events puts New York City at risk of catastrophic human and financial losses. The average temperature in New York is already 2.4F higher than in 1970 and will be increasing dramatically over the coming decades. These increased heat levels will cause heat-related illnesses and death and will make it more likely that people who already have heart, lung, or other chronic conditions get sick or die. In sum, NYC will become a desperate place to live and may even become uninhabitable.
On Long Island regions like the East End will become archipelagos as low-lying areas, including roads, become permanently submerged under rising seas. Saltwater intrusion into aquifers will render water supplies undrinkable. More hurricanes of heightened intensity will demolish entire communities. Long Island’s renowned pine barrens are already being decimated by the northward spread of the southern pine beetle. Scallop harvests are already seeing 98% drops in yield; ocean acidification from carbon pollution will likely wipe out other shellfish populations, as well. The region is already home to some of the highest populations of disease-carrying ticks in the nation, as warmer winters allow the deadly insects to proliferate unchecked; tick-borne diseases are already epidemic.
In Westchester County and the Hudson River Valley the Hudson River could rise 71 inches by 2100. Like much of the Northeast, the region is projected to see an increase in droughts, reducing drinking water supplies; increased precipitation events, leading to severe flooding which can change the floodplain (and alter water supplies); sea-level rise, which will lead to shoreline inundation affecting water treatment plant operations. This would move the salt front north, raising the risk of proposals for energy-intensive and ecologically damaging desalination options for those that rely on the Hudson River for drinking water. With the compounding of sea-level rise and storm surges, tidal fluctuations from storm surge events could result in seawater infiltrating coastal aquifers, where groundwater recovery could take 10-20 years before it can be relied on as a drinking water source: even then, some parts of an aquifer can remain permanently contaminated by salt infiltration.
In the southern tier of New York we have seen two 100-year floods within five years. (2006 and 2011.) These storms left hundreds without homes and washed away entire neighborhoods. And the threat continues. According to a 2021 report from the First Street Foundation, a non-profit research and technology group that studies the risk of flooding and natural disasters, New York cities most at risk of flood are Hornell (number 1), Elmira (number 4) and Binghamton (number 6).
In Western New York including Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Rochester climate change is causing more neighborhood flooding, damaged infrastructure and raw sewage flowing into the waterways and Great Lakes. Rising water temperatures contribute to invasive species thriving and threatening native fish populations. Increased rainfall events flush nutrients and agricultural fertilizers into our waterways, causing harmful algal blooms. Since our region industrialized, 60-70%% of coastal and shoreline habitat has been lost. The water levels in the Great Lakes have become more unpredictable, with higher highs and lower lows. The last three years alone have seen tens of millions of dollars of damage from “Lake seiche”, or persistent winds that push water towards lakefront communities. And finally, because our region has abundant water and fewer climate change effects, we are becoming a climate migration destination, which increases demand on our crumbling infrastructure and will place undue burdens on our Great Lakes ecosystem.
In the Finger Lakes region of Central NY some industries, such as Proof-of-Work Cryptocurrency mining, have such high energy demands that they are restarting old, inefficient power plants for the purposes of generating energy for their operation. There is some activity in Congress to regulate the cryptocurrency industry (e.g. the Gillibrand-Lummus bill) but proposals should include the environmental impact (air and water quality, noise issues, effect on residents and other local businesses, and GHG emissions) of these operations.
The Capital Region and Northern New York are subject to the same increased risks from higher temperatures and precipitation as the rest of the state, including flooding, drought, and decreased dairy and crop production. There are also some threats unique to the Adirondacks area. As temperatures increase, wildfire risks increase as pests, diseases and tree species migrate north, further threatening forests. The economy based on winter sports tourism will be threatened, harming the local economies that depend on them. New York's maple syrup industry is also under threat. According to the Paleontological Research Institute, an affiliate of Cornell University, in a business-as-usual scenario, "by the year 2100 sugar maples will become extremely rare in New York State outside the Adirondacks, and even there they may not support an economically viable sugar industry." Perhaps the greatest threat stems from in-migration of potentially millions of climate refugees from coastal and southern regions.
Our Ask To You
First, as a result of the dire threats our state and its residents face, we are asking our New York State Congressional representatives to work urgently to pass a bill that delivers the bold, historic $550 billion in climate, justice, and jobs investments.
President Biden promised to cut carbon pollution by at least half by 2030. Meeting that target could deliver a cleaner, safer, and healthier future, creating jobs and economic opportunity for all. The Senate can help fulfill that promise by finishing work on the $550 billion in investments in climate, justice, and jobs that were already approved by the House of Representatives. In one example, the Congress must extend tax credits that have driven large-scale growth in clean energy like wind and solar.
New York is already taking bold measures. However, the state alone cannot take on the wider cost of the necessary response to the climate emergency, let alone shoulder the entire burden of the $10 to $15 billion per year the NY Climate Action Council estimates the state will need to meet the Act’s mandatory goals. To implement the landmark New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), we need federal support.
Second, although our Federal Congressional Representatives are not directly involved with New York State legislation, we also call on our Congressional delegation to express their support of the CLCPA and to commit to help New York to successfully achieve its goals through their legislative efforts.
Thank you for your consideration and public service.
Legislative Action Coordinator
Climate Reality Project - NY Chapters Coalition
Please consider calling our NY Senators and asking them to go big on climate in the Reconciliation Package. We must reduce our emissions by 50% by 2030!
Senator Chuck Schumer: (202) 224-6542
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: (202) 224-4451