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. We are already seeing degraded fisheries, drought-related water shortages, decreased agricultural yields, increased incidents of heat-related death and illness, and higher asthma rates from increased air pollution. We have to act now in order to curb the effects of climate change and protect our health, environment, and economy.
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. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed a rule to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants. This proposed Clean Power Plan would complement a 2013 EPA rule limiting carbon emissions on new (yet to be built) power plants and limit emissions from fossil fuel fired power plants on a state-by-state basis and build on successful existing programs in states like New York and Connecticut. The Clean Power Plan will:
- Slash pollution from power plants that contributes to climate change: The plan will cut carbon pollution 30% in the U.S. by 2030.
- Save consumers and businesses money on electric bills: By increasing energy efficiency, the plan will shrink electricity bills by roughly 8% in 2030.
- Reduce harmful air pollution: The plan will cut pollution that leads to harmful soot and smog by over 25% in 2030.
- Provide billions of dollars in climate and health benefits: The plan will lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion in 2030.
- Protect public health and save lives: The plan will avoid 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children.
Updated by jchristensen 7/18/14