The science is clear that human activities are contributing to global climate change, and urgent action is needed. While local and state governments are working to reduce emissions, a coordinated federal approach is critical for the United States to transform our behavior, energy use patterns, and economy to meet the challenge of the climate crisis.
What is Climate Change?
Climate Change, or global warming, is the increasing average annual global temperature and is caused by the build-up of unnatural amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG), like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and chlorofluorocarbons (CFC). Burning fossil fuels, including coal and oil, emits greenhouse gases that build up to trap heat and warm the lower atmosphere. Approximately 80% of global CO2 emissions are due to fossil fuel combustion.
Today, dramatic changes in climate are occurring throughout the U.S. and across the planet. Impacts from climate change include increasing intensity of storms, severe droughts, melting glaciers, and rising sea levels. Our oceans, bays, and estuaries are getting warmer as well, which contributes to the creation of more intense hurricanes and tropical storms. Additionally, these water bodies trap carbon and as they warm, the chemistry of our oceans also changes (see figure below). In fact, oceans have already experienced a 30% increase in acidity from pre-industrial levels, putting many marine ecosystems at risk.
How is Climate Change Affecting New York and Connecticut?
New York enjoys nearly 10,000 miles of coast, including Lake Ontario, the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island Sound, the Finger Lakes and Lake Erie, while Connecticut has over 600 miles of coast, largely on or near Long Island Sound. Connecticut and New York’s geography leaves us particularly susceptible to the damage from rising sea levels. Studies by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that a 1-foot rise in sea level could occur along the Atlantic Coast as early as 2025!
The EPA estimates that barrier beaches could suffer extensive damage from sea level rise and coastal storms. The direct impacts of sea level rise include beach erosion, complete loss of beaches, increased flooding, loss of ecologically important wetlands, and saltwater contamination of drinking water on Long Island. Tourism and commercial and recreational fishing will be negatively impacted. It is estimated that sea level has already risen 10 inches in New York in the last century. Today, many of our coastal beaches suffer from severe beach erosion.
Documented in Climate Change in the U.S. North East, the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment, scientists estimate that the water levels in the Great Lakes could fall as much as ten feet within the next century, while sea levels rise. Lower water levels in the Great Lakes could lead to a loss of habitat for wildlife and reduced energy generated by clean hydroelectric facilities in Niagara Falls. The report also found that summers could be similar to those now experienced in the South.
There ARE Solutions!
Climate change can seem overwhelming, but understanding how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is the best way to combat climate change. Both individual and collective actions including pursuing renewable energy and energy efficiency measures help curb climate change.
Tell Congress and President Obama to Address Climate Change Now!
By reducing GHG emissions and preparing adaptation plans to address changes already underway, we can tackle the climate crisis. A strong, coordinated federal approach is necessary to achieve meaningful GHG emission reductions economy-wide. It is necessary for Congress to pass legislation that advances several positive steps including: regulating emissions from all-fossil fuel based energy; providing incentives for energy and water efficiency; requiring the production of renewable energy; and adaptation measures to prepare our communities for climate change. Congress needs to hear from you! The legislation cannot include public subsidies for nuclear power or coal. In order for us to have real solutions to climate change our Congressional representatives need to know that you support aggressive action for protecting our food and water.
Take action now:
Write your Senators, Representative, and President Obama:
- Tell them why addressing climate change is important to you.
- Tell them you support a mandatory cap on climate change pollution and a polluter-pay system.
- Tell them you oppose public subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear power.
- Ask for a response and how they will address your concerns.
Please send a copy of any response you receive to show email address —it helps us track progress on the issue. Thanks!
CCE’s comments on the NYS Climate Action Plan Interim Report, February 7, 2011
CCE's comments on the EPA's GHG Endangerment Finding, June 23, 2009
CCE's Climate Resource Center
Updated by tbono 2/14/12