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Do You Agree with this Statement?

It's good news that so many Americans of all political stripes support investing in a clean energy economy. But the time is now!

"The U.S. needs to be a clean energy technology leader and it should invest in the research and domestic manufacturing of wind, solar and energy efficiency technologies."

According to a recent poll from the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute,  more than three out of four Americans (77%) agree with this statement, including 65% of Republicans, 56% of Tea Party members, 75% of Independents, and 88% of Democrats. 

The study reports that more than two thirds of Americans (69 percent) including 59% of Republicans, 73% of Independents, 78% of Democrats and 48% of Tea Party supporters think it would be a “bad idea” for the U.S. “ to ‘put on hold’ progress towards cleaner energy sources during the current economic difficulty.” 

In other words, Americans do not see more clean energy as a roadblock to economic recovery. 

It's good news that so many Americans of all political stripes support investing in a clean energy economy. But the time is now!  

Experts at Columbia, Cornell and CUNY just delivered a major report that analyzes the impacts of climate change (or what I prefer to call climate disruption) on New York State.  I'll quote verbatim just a few highlights on what kind of climate impact we can expect in the Hudson Valley:

  • Heat waves will become more frequent and intense, increasing heat-related illness and death and posing new challenges to the energy system, air quality, and agriculture.
  • Heavy downpours are increasing and are projected to increase further. These can lead to flooding and related impacts on water quality, infrastructure, and agriculture.
  • Summer drought is projected to increase, affecting water supply,  agriculture, ecosystems, and energy production.
  • Coastal flooding due to sea level rise and storm surge will increasingly put lives and property at risk. Health, water quality, energy, infrastructure, and coastal ecosystems are all affected.

The only good news is reported as follows:

  • Opportunities: Climate change may create new opportunities related to a longer, warmer growing season for agriculture, and the potential for abundant water resources.

But that longer growing season comes at a very steep price. One quarter of New York is farmland. But our farmers will no longer be able to grow the same crops as well as they have for centuries.

Some of New York's most beloved apples–Empire and McIntosh varieties–will no longer prosper under warmer, wetter summers.  

The lobsters you love to eat will no longer inhabit Long Island coastal waters as they move further northeast in search of colder water.

Our dairy farms may see a decline in milk production as heat-stressed cows put out less milk?  Maple syrup may grow scarce as the maples themselves suffer from warmer winters.

The poll about clean energy also shows that Americans do make a connection between extreme weather events and climate change.

Fewer than one in five Americans (17 percent) think that “climate change is not a factor” in “at least 10 weather related disasters caused by so called extreme weather – (that) have occurred so far in 2011 involving $1 billion or more each in damages – now totaling about $45 billion.”

Fewer than half (45 percent) of Tea Party members fall into the climate change denial camp on this question.  

In other words, more that four out of five Americans agree that climate change is a factor in the extreme weather that we have experienced so far in 2011. 

Sources: The poll and related work is available at Civil Society Institute. The whole report, "Responding to Climate Change in New York State," is available at NYSERDA and the result of several years of work. For a discussion of climate adaptation, see this article at the Encyclopedia of Earth. 

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Ian November 20, 2011 at 11:45 AM
Absolutely. Climate change is a serious problem. I'm depressed that America can't get a good plan in place to reduce carbon emissions. We need to address this for our long-term security.
Leo Wiegman November 21, 2011 at 10:09 PM
Thanks, Ian. The impacts of climate disruption are real (as you know) and emissions reduction is important. The lowest hanging fruit in lowering emissions is energy and resource efficiency measures. It is important to focus on what we can. We have already locked in warmer winters from the past 80 years of activities. So adapting to the baked in changes will be important as well. The prospects for adaptation are outlined in the new "Responding to Climate Change in New York State" report.
Peter Marengo November 22, 2011 at 02:19 AM
Gents, I am for the research and implemenation of alternative energy through the market place but am not convinced that we should sacrifice jobs and opportunities and prevent industry from exploration. While Mr. Wiegman is not necessarily supporting this, the DOE appears to want to alter our economy just for the sake of researching alternative energy sources. Aren't our factories, roads and machinery much cleaner than 15-20 years ago (remember the smog in our cities in years past)?
Leo Wiegman November 22, 2011 at 03:23 AM
Research, development, demonstration, and deployment of new clean energy technologies creates jobs and new market opportunities for private sector. For example, http://www.stateenergyreport.com/2011/08/01/stretching-state-dollars-to-catalyze-the-clean-tech-sector/

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