The sixth worst snow storm in New York City's history that crippled the Big Apple the day after Christmas is a cautionary environmental tale.
If global warming is left largely unchecked, the scientific consensus is that we shall experience a greater frequency of intense weather events that could conceivably dwarf New York's post-Christmas blizzard. In the worst case, even the best of local efforts to withstand such meteorological punishment would likely be overwhelmed.
Hence, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's travails with the recent blizzard hint of what could lie ahead. Here was a guy who was trying to do the right thing in our confrontation with climate change. His blueprint for the city included measures to reduce urban greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing significantly to the accelerated warming of the planet. Yet good intentions could not prevent his reputation from being buried under a mass of snow drifts.
Temporarily lost in the bad publicity was Bloomberg's professed goal to make New York City the first environmentally sustainable metropolis. He had drafted 127 proposals to bring about the desired change, some of which were already in effect. Certain downtown streets have been permanently or periodically closed to vehicles in order to reduce air pollution and encourage foot traffic. Corridors for bicycles have been widened and expanded to facilitate that "clean" mode of transportation.
Bloomberg is in the process of expanding renewable energy with the goal of New York City generating electricity primarily from that source. He has commissioned a study to determine how windmills, solar panels, and tidal turbines could be installed in and around the metropolis. On the fiscal front, he has proposed elimination of city sales taxes on hybrid vehicles, and the introduction of tax incentives for making roofs "green". [One of his most ambitious proposals, an eight dollar fee on any vehicle entering downtown Manhattan as a traffic decongestion strategy has unfortunately been shelved by a recalcitrant state legislature.]
Bloomberg is not alone in displaying prescient environmental tendencies. Governors of more than half the states and mayors of at least 142 cities have begun in varying degrees to institute mandatory measures to reduce polluting greenhouse gases.
What Bloomberg and these officials are doing is important, but it is only a first step. Their actions alone are not going to spare their constituents enormous grief from the elements unless part of a broader effort that is global in scope. It will take nothing less to counter a threat that knows no boundaries.