By Tom Last
Two weeks ago, as I watched the sky in New York City turn a strange orange hue, I could not help but wonder what was going on with our environment. It was quite upsetting to see an opaque sun during the afternoon, caked by the ashes from wildfire smoke that originated in Nova Scotia, about 700 miles away. This smoke condition caused New York City to have the unhealthiest air in the world for a couple of days. Consequently, all types of events were cancelled here in the Rockaways, such as Little League baseball games, beach-volleyball league play, and soccer practices, to name a few. It was sad to see people wearing face masks again to protect themselves from the harmful particles carried within the smoke that cause respiratory and cardiovascular health issues. All day, weather and health alerts received on our phones only added to the hysteria of the moment.
Extreme weather has happened in the past. The difference now is that these weather events are more powerful and frequent than ever before because of global warming. I cannot recall in my lifetime any situation like last Tuesday and Wednesday. Shortly before the fires in Nova Scotia started, there were additional wildfires in western Canada, extreme heat conditions in the northwest, flooding in Texas due to severe thunderstorms and several tornados touched down in Oklahoma. But experiencing the wildfires’ smoke here in NYC is a recent phenomenon and quite unsettling. Rockaway residents were deeply concerned about the health effects of the poor air quality caused by the wildfires and wondered if these types of conditions will be commonplace in the new climate change world.
Let’s be more optimistic and discuss how the government is combating climate change. The Inflation and Reduction Act of 2022 allocated 369 billion dollars to combat climate change. Most of these funds will be used to support renewable energy projects that will benefit both businesses and consumers by providing clean energy and reduced energy costs for all Americans, as well as the reduction of carbon emissions. Fortunately, the recently approved Debt Ceiling Bill legislation left most of the Inflation Act’s climate change funding intact, but legislation in the bill did include a very controversial natural gas pipeline called the ‘Mountain Valley Pipeline.’ Obviously, this approval of the pipeline was a political compromise, as scientifically it defies all logic. It is obvious the world needs to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources.
Another bright spot was the recent suite of new regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency that will help coal and gas plants reduce their carbon pollution by introducing renewable energy sources to power the plants. These new regulations along with the decreased costs of renewable energy, compared to both coal and gas, will help the U.S reach the goal of an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2040.
Hopefully, this latest climate change related catastrophe will motivate us all to help combat climate change. Here are some recommendations to get you started on becoming an environmental activist.
– Keep up to date on climate change news and related policies (government and business) and understand how these policies will affect you.
– Ask your politicians to support legislation that makes environmental sense (e.g., legislation that supports the fossil fuel industry should not be supported). It does not matter what side of the political aisle you are on, as we are all in this together, and we need to find a solution to climate change quickly.
Let’s hope the following lyrics are not a foreshadowing of our future skies here in the Rockaways.
‘I wanna see it painted black. Black as night, black as coal. I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky.’ (‘Paint it Black’ by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones)
Remember, there is no Planet B.