Editorial: Climate change is everyone's problem

While the United States is no longer leading the world against climate change, state and local efforts aimed at helping stabilize the earth’s temperature are building steam.

While these initiatives are critical, they are also not enough. We must do more.

Even New York state, which has set some of the nation’s most ambitious targets for lowering greenhouse gas emissions, is falling short according to a new report from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Economic researchers outlined a more dramatic clean energy investment plan that they say would “put the state on a true climate stabilization trajectory,” create jobs, and show the world what needs to be done. Now.

The reason for urgency is obvious. A time series heat map created by NASA shows the average variation of global surface temperatures between 1884 and 2016. Cooler averages are marked in shades of blue. Warmer averages are colored red. Blue goes from being the overwhelmingly dominant color, to nearly disappearing off the map within the past 35 years.

We applaud the coalition of climate organizers who conducted the first NY Climate Solutions Summit in Rochester at the end of October. The Harley School, Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, Alliance for Clean Energy New York, New Yorkers for Clean Power, Mothers Out Front, NY-GEO, Frack Action and the Alliance for a Green Economy are trying to build greater momentum and support for implementing measures like those outlined in the UMass-Amherst document.

The 200-plus summit attendees learned more about how our electricity system works, how to lobby government, grassroots leadership and – most important, by far – how to engage with others around this topic, regardless of political ideology.

 

In the big picture, this is not a political or economic issue. However, those influences are playing an enormous role in how we respond to this global crisis. There is a pressing need to implement smart and creative solutions that improve energy efficiency and expand the clean energy supply while also mitigating the impact on the fossil fuel industry and its workers.

The UMass-Amherst report calls on New York to multiply by five its clean energy investments, which are already close to $7 billion annually. That is a daunting figure, but the economists offer rosy job generation figures to go with the increased investment. Considering how much our state and local governments already invest in job creation ventures that promise and produce far less, this academic study is at least worth a look.

We do not need to be participating in this week’s United Nations climate talks in Bonn to increase our own knowledge about what needs to be done, and to take individual responsibility for helping change the world.