Devastated by Hurricanes Sandy and Maria: It's Time for Action

10/11/2017 08:22 pm ET

Almost five years after my family lost our home to Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Maria devastated my extended family in Puerto Rico. On an island still lacking power and basic services, they’ve lost almost everything. And it’s not just my family that’s reeling from these disasters. Hurricane Harvey rocked Houston. Parts of Florida won’t come back after of Hurricane Irma. Just days ago, wildfires in northern California levelled whole communities.

Trump and the other climate deniers running the federal government pretend climate change isn’t real.  I say you can deny the existence of gravity too, but that doesn’t mean you won’t fall if you step off the side of a bridge.

Here’s the scary truth: if the U.S. and other countries don’t rapidly slash climate pollution, our planet will cook, destroying our collective future. We must cut climate pollution much faster than our policy makers are currently willing to entertain. 

My community knows firsthand that poor people, particularly poor people of color always get the worst in a climate disaster.  Some of us are still out of our homes after Sandy, and others deal with ongoing problems, such as severe mold. My daughter still has nightmares about Sandy.  At least we weren’t one of the 43 New Yorkers killed by Sandy. But now my family in Puerto Rico got flooded out, including my mother.

With the federal government effectively under the control of fossil fuel billionaires, it’s up to the states and cities to fight climate change.  Unfortunately, while they talk a big game, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Governor Andrew Cuomo aren’t enacting ambitious policies that protect our climate and communities enough, essentially ensuring that we’ll be hit by much worse storms in the future.

That’s why I’m helping organize the #Sandy5 march on Saturday, October 28th.  As we commemorate the upcoming fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, we will urge our elected officials to those most impacted by Sandy and push them to adopt bold, transformative policies to fight climate change.

New York’s elected officials have spent too long tinkering around the edges, failing to take on the entrenched corporate interests profiting from the status quo. Instead, our state and local elected leaders are offering only modest, incremental changes. That’s too timid and too slow in the face of the growing climate crisis.

For example, Mayor de Blasio recently announced his plan to tackle the top source of climate pollution: energy use in buildings, which is about 70% of the city’s pollution. He says climate change is an “existential threat.” Meanwhile, the Mayor’s plan cuts pollution by a grand total of 7% from this top source of emissions. He should adopt a far stronger plan.

Comptroller Scott Stringer says climate change is a “crisis.”  Yet the city’s pension funds put $4 billion of public money into oil and gas corporations like ExxonMobil that have spent decades lying to the public about climate change.  Comptroller Stringer must divest the city’s pension funds from fossil fuels, just as the city divested from the private prison industry. It makes absolutely no sense to hand over billions of dollars of public money to polluters whose business model leads to large parts of our city going under water.

Governor Cuomo, for his part, tells us “not addressing climate change is gross negligence by government.” Meanwhile, while the governor is facilitating some new investment in renewable electric power, wind and solar power combined currently generate less than 3% of the state’s electricity. Yet cars and trucks (as well as energy use in buildings) pump out even more climate pollution than electricity production. Our Governor has no real plan for these sectors. A comprehensive plan would make corporate polluters pay for the pollution they’re dumping into our air, and use those revenues to move New York rapidly to 100% clean energy, creating good jobs and improving air quality for our health.

This year’s hurricanes are just a taste of the volatile future we must do everything in our power to prevent. It’s past time for our elected leaders to step up. Let’s not just say we’re fighting climate change. Let’s actually fight.

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
CONVERSATIONS