Assembly Member Seawright: The Dangers of Climate Change Must Be Addressed

There is no doubt that climate change is a real threat to the environment and our local communities. We’ve seen the dangers posed by it most recently with Superstorm Sandy. We cannot waste any more time, and that’s why the Assembly Majority is taking immediate steps to combat the effects of global warming and climate change. This month, the Assembly announced the formation of the Climate Change Work Group, which will identify new policies on the state and federal level that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure our communities are better prepared. One of the byproducts of climate change is an increase in extreme weather events of all kinds. As we’ve seen, storms that used to be considered “once-in-a-lifetime” are now occurring with alarming frequency. In the last five years, New York has experienced at least three such disasters: hurricanes Irene and Lee and Superstorm Sandy. These extreme weather events claimed numerous lives, ripped apart homes and neighborhoods, and resulted in tens of billions of dollars in damages. Additionally, although it seems counterintuitive, global warming can result in more severe snow, ice storms and frigid temperatures,1 something New Yorkers are now becoming familiar with. Prolonged snow and ice throughout the fall and winter is more than just a nuisance; severe winter weather results in significant damage to infrastructure, steep costs on taxpayers and the economy, and even loss of life. Over the past 20 years, sea levels have increased twice as fast as in the preceding 80 years.2 The 10 hottest years in over a century have all occurred in the past 12 years.3 The ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica have decreased in mass, and glaciers are retreating across the globe.4 Even the U.S. Department of Defense has labeled climate change an “immediate risk to national security” and is taking measures to prepare for rising temperatures, increasing sea levels and more extreme weather patterns.5 Today, nearly all scientists agree that human activity is the major factor driving our changing climate. Pollutants like carbon dioxide and methane gas are released into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, transportation and industry. These greenhouse gases trap heat and cause temperatures to rise. As your representative in the state Assembly, my commitment to you is that I will continue doing everything in my power to support policies that combat the effects of global warming and climate change. The Assembly’s work group will make recommendations for changes to our current laws and regulations that will lead to greater preventive measures and a higher level of preparedness for our communities. Ensuring that regions across the state are better prepared for future extreme weather events will help save untold numbers of lives and taxpayer dollars. We owe it to our communities, to our friends and neighbors, and most of all to our children, to address this issue head on. As always, if you have questions about this or any other community issue, please don’t hesitate to contact me at or 212-288-4607. _________________________________ 1.