With political will, a green N.Y. is achievable

BY MARK A. DUNLEA  |  Last week the Cuomo administration announced that it would seek to redesign how electricity is distributed in New York (i.e., Reforming the Energy Vision), part of an ongoing effort to modernize our electrical system.

While the governor has supported several reforms to further the development of renewable energy, such efforts fall way short of the investments needed to protect the state and its residents from the threats posed by climate change. The governor proposes spending $5 billion over 10 years to support the transition to renewable energy when probably 20 times as much money is needed.

Global warming from carbon and greenhouse gas emissions is driving increasingly severe weather. The increased heat provides more energy and power, pushing the weather pendulum further in every direction. Storms of the century now occur every five or 10 years.

Winters can be much colder in some places, like the Northeast, while bears end their hibernation weeks early in the West because spring arrives prematurely. Heat waves during the summer last longer with higher temperatures, which are especially deadly for children and seniors. Historic floods and droughts become commonplace. Insects and their attacks on our food system spread. And deadly diseases, such as malaria, dengue and Ebola, spread as well. Access to food and water will become more difficult.

We can’t stop climate change at this point, but we can reduce how devastating and expensive it will be. We can reduce the number of people who will die from it. A report by 20 nations estimated that 100 million people worldwide will die from climate change by 2030 if we continue on the present path. Most of the predictions by climate scientists so far have underestimated how fast climate change is occurring.

Scientists say that, to avoid the worst of climate change, we have to ensure that 80 percent of the existing fossil fuel reserves remain in the ground. Yet the fossil fuel industry is spending hundreds of billions of dollars in ever more extreme extraction efforts that will bankrupt them and our economy, especially if oil prices fail to rebound to much higher levels.

Investing in clean energy will benefit virtually everyone — other than the coal, oil and gas C.E.O.s, with their enormous profits. The debate is not over whether we go to a carbon-neutral energy system, but when. The political will, not technology, is the problem. And while New York State has made some small reforms on electricity, it has done little on transportation and agriculture.

Getting to 100 percent clean energy by 2030 will create an enormous number of jobs along the way.

The technology to go to 100 percent clean, renewable energy and energy conservation already exists — and is steadily becoming cheaper and more efficient.

The time is now for state officials to set a goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2030.

Dunlea is president, board of directors, Green Education and Legal Fund

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