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World News Local Views: The environment as controversy

Although not much could be considered certain in today’s political arena, arguably the phrase ‘climate change’ is still sure to spark controversial conversations –  especially given President Donald Trump’s recent decision to withdraw from what is known as the Paris Deal.

During his speech at the end of May when he announced that decision, Trump said the Paris Accord on climate change agreement would hurt America’s economy, saying that the deal left the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage. However, it seems that since Trump’s decision, more research has come about stating that the choice could, in fact, hurt American jobs (and in turn, the economy) by way of stilting green energy progress.

Locally, municipalities have been discussing solar energy and other forms of energy less negatively impactful to the environment, and whether or not they want to jump on board with what New York state is pushing.

It’s no secret that Governor Andrew Cuomo is not happy with the President’s decision and ultimate stance on climate change; yet many people in this area do not think Cuomo has a real scope of Western New York life. Even those interested in green energy may be put off by the state’s agenda, rural communities do not usually favor or agree with state mandates, and after the recent uproar regarding the governor’s Shared Services Initiative, it’s not likely that municipalities would be glad to once again consider more.

In retaliation to Trump’s decision, some states decided to form what is now called the United States Climate Alliance on June 1, in order to uphold and move forward with the ideals set in motion by the Paris Deal, New York, California and Washington were the first three. It could be argued that politicians throughout the country were discussing the possible outcome and guessed what Trump’s decision would be before he made it, as the Alliance was formed just days after the announcement. As of June 5, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia all joined in the Alliance.

The Alliance’s goal is to reduce harmful emissions in the environment by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels, and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan, according to Cuomo’s office.

The Alliance will “also act as a forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy,” Cuomo’s press release states.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty of this topic involves asking the question “Is fighting climate change worth American dollars?” The question is not “Does climate change exist,” as there is scientific proof that it indeed does exist.

Combining the issues of climate change and America’s economy into one discussion is necessary. Citizens are forced to think to themselves what their tax dollars are truly worth, and unfortunately, the majority of us have no say in where our tax dollars flow. It comes down to the fact that if no step is taken toward lowering harmful emissions in the environment, someday our world and lineages will suffer.

Trump argued that the projected emissions cut down as a result of the Deal were essentially inconsequential. My question is, does our president have any other ideas to take on this serious problem? An idea that will unify developed and developing countries? Just because he thinks the Accord is not accomplishing enough is not a good enough reason to take no step at all. Doing nothing in respect to addressing climate change (which he in the past has called a ‘hoax’) could lead to devastating consequences for the future.

However, we can see the flip side of the coin too, as we live in a rural small town in New York state, and we can see how hardworking individuals making it paycheck to paycheck would want to see New York’s money filtered in other ways; especially since Cuomo’s office announced a Clean Climate Careers initiative, a $1.5 billion investment in renewable energy products, on June 2. That particular press release states, “this initiative focuses on accelerating energy efficiency and renewable energy growth to make New York a magnet for new energy technologies and creating 40,000 new, good-paying clean energy jobs by 2020.”

That sure looks good and promising – but it’s difficult for struggling blue-collar workers who are waiting for tax relief to see more billion dollar initiatives and mandates hanging over them. We are all for the greater good, and believe that this country should be making leaps and bounds toward progress in the matter, given the brilliant minds that this country can produce (and the simple fact that no healthy environment equals no healthy humans), but no issue is black and white.

It’s only through research, active participation and discussion that change can be made.

For research’s sake:

NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration) offers data, graphics, fact-based articles and photographs that discuss the alarming rate of climate change. Recent readings of carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) emissions in the atmosphere are listed, alongside graphics for an easy to understand guide.

– National Geographic put together a very understandable and research/fact-based article regarding climate change and the controversy surrounding it, which can be found at www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/global-warming-real.

– Conserve Energy Future has a very interesting article that discusses five arguments that global warming is real and five arguments that global warming is not real, and can be found at www.conserve-energy-future.com/is-global-warming-real.php.

– Some of New York’s goals and touted early accomplishments in fighting climate change, according to Cuomo’s office press releases, include:

  • Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions: Established ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to reduce emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.
  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Spearheaded the formation of the successful RGGI cap-and-trade program between northeast and mid-Atlantic states, led effort to reduce RGGI’s carbon emission cap by 45 percent in 2014 and recently called for an additional cap reduction of at least 30 percent between 2020 and 2030.
  • Reforming the Energy Vision: Established a comprehensive energy strategy to make the vision for a clean, resilient and affordable energy system a reality, while actively spurring energy innovation, attracting new jobs and improving consumer choice.
  • Clean Energy Standard: Established the most comprehensive and ambitious clean energy mandate in the state's history, requiring that 50 percent of electricity in New York come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030.
  • Clean Energy Fund: Established a $5 billion fund that is jump-starting clean-tech innovation, mobilizing private investment, capitalizing the nation's largest Green Bank and helping eliminate market barriers to make clean energy scalable and affordable for all New Yorkers.
  • Coal-Free New York: Committed to close or repower all coal-burning power plants in New York to cleaner fuel sources by 2020.
  • Offshore Wind: Approved the nation's largest wind energy project off the Long Island coast in 2017 and made an unprecedented commitment to develop up to 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030.

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