By Evangelina Cifliganec
In August, President Barack Obama announced a nationwide Clean Power Plan, in response to ever more serious climate change. The plan sets individual state goals, and states are expected to customize their plans in ways that make sense for their communities, businesses, and utilities.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s environmental and clean power plan for New York is due in September 2016, and it will affect Roosevelt Island.
Climate Change and RI
People everywhere on the planet are feeling the impact of climate change: temperatures are continuing to climb, seasons are shifting, and sea levels are rising due to melting ice. Research indicates that there will be more extreme-weather events: record heat waves, severe droughts and wildfires, and more intense hurricanes and tropical storms. Storms get their energy from warm water, and ocean temperatures are rising. The extent of storm damage is exacerbated by rising sea levels, disappearing wetlands, and increased coastal development.
October 2012’s Superstorm Sandy is a memorable example of more intense storms – lasting longer, unleashing stronger winds, and causing more damage to coastal ecosystems. It hit Roosevelt Island hard.
Many residents lost electricity and hot water – for five days at The Octagon, which, along with Coler Hospital, suffered the greatest impact here. People in other parts of the region had much worse situations, and many lost their homes. The storm cost an estimated $65 billion dollars.
Predictions of future sea-level rise show threat to coastal communities and islands – such as New York and Roosevelt Island. And Roosevelt Island has numerous people in two subpopulations that are more adversely affected by extreme weather – children, and seniors with health conditions.
The Clean Power Plan
What’s most important now is for us to respond before it’s too late. Climate problems require collective, community action. The Clean Power Plan is a great starting point in caring for our planet. Here are some facts about it:
● Sets the first-ever emission standards for existing power plants (the largest source of carbon pollution in the US), and puts us on a path toward 32% reduction of carbon emissions by 2030.
● Saves the average American family nearly $85 a year on electric bills by 2030.
● Leads to 30% more renewable-energy generation, and creates tens of thousands of jobs.
What We Can Do
While Governor Cuomo and others have praised the plan, its opponents have vowed to fight it in Congress and the courts. We need to do whatever we can to support the plan – to make sure that it’s known, and treated with priority and urgency, and implemented, and built on in the future. The goal is to bridge the gap between awareness/concern and action.
Public support will empower President Obama when he presents the plan at the United Nations Climate Change Summit in Paris in December, helping to set an example as countries outline their approaches in the effort to develop a global climate change plan for action.
One way for Islanders to help is to contact our elected representatives and urge their support of the plan, and of the environment in general.
Senator Chuck Schumer: 202-224-6542
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: 202-224-4451, 212-688-6262
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney: 202-225-7944, 212-860-0606
Another way that Islanders can spread the word is through social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Use hashtag #ActOnClimate to share your concerns and to increase climate-change awareness.
Facebook users can download the Organizing for Action app, part of President Obama’s grassroots organization for social change.
The Island’s significant international population has a special ability: foreign citizens can talk and write to their country’s representatives, to support and encourage them as they formulate and implement effective clean power plans.
And among the many small steps that we can take here, on the Island, to contribute to planetary well-being is by supporting the local groups that facilitate reusing instead of buying new. The Roosevelt Island Parents’ Network helps families share items that they no longer need; contributors post pictures of goods and products to pass on. If someone else uses what you don’t need, you’ve done the planet a great favor because that person won’t be buying a new one. The Freecycle Network (freecycle.org) is also active on the Island.
Freecycle is a nonprofit movement of people who give (and get) stuff for free in their own towns. Our local volunteer moderator is Susy del Campo Perea. And when the Cabrini Thrift Shop finally reopens next year, it will restore a vital component to our local recycling, by selling donated items. The goal is to facilitate the leap between awareness, concern and action.