Earth Matters: Long Island must prepare for climate change

Dr. Hildur Palsdottir

The will to act is a renewable resource in itself.”~Al Gore, 2016

Humanity must gather around a common cause, the climate crisis. Civilizations before us have collapsed, but never before has the global economy and our collective survival been at stake. Our systems are designed to meet 20th century weather events. We are not equipped for 21st century’s climate change. We must adapt quickly to the changes and act appropriately.

Extreme, unheard of weather events have now become everyday occurrences. Because of global warming there’s more moisture in the air, causing unexpected weather patterns with a devastating impact on communities worldwide.

Here on Long Island, we’ve experienced firsthand that the current power supply grid isn’t well-equipped to serve us in extreme weather. Remember Superstorm Sandy? My household was in the dark for two weeks after Sandy. Proactive risk management is needed to prepare for the next storm. We’re better off investing in the needed changes now rather than paying with lives lost and irreparable damages later.

Despite decades of warnings, Texan electric grid operators weren’t prepared for extreme weather, and recently millions lost power and access to clean drinking water. This climate catastrophe cost too many lives and we’re left wondering why The Lone Star State was unprepared despite warnings about it’s aging infrastructure. How could this proud energy state lose power? Had they heeded warnings and winterized their wind turbines as recommended, their governor would not have blamed renewables for the blackout.

We may feel powerless toward the changes ahead, but the truth is there’s public power in awareness and right climate action. We must act now to prevent the worst of the consequences of climate change. But where do we start? Scientists agree that decarbonization of the electric grid is the most efficient path forward. And it’s not too late.

Even Vice President Al Gore, whose spoken to deaf ears for decades about how greenhouse gas emissions are causing climate change, dares to feel optimistic that we still have time to curb the worst of the climate crisis. While he has observed inconvenient truths unfold, he has also witnessed how the improbable has become imminent. In Gore’s TED talk (2016) “The Case for Optimism on Climate Change,” he shares that the best predictions for wind capacity in 2000 were surpassed by a factor of 14.5 times in 2015. Likewise, predictions for solar efficiency exceeded 2002 estimates of 1GW per year in 2010 by a factor of 68 times in 2016.

While wind and solar met skepticism at first, we find today that these zero carbon technologies are both affordable and practical as renewable energy sources. They must be accompanied by other means, including alternative energy sources such as waves, hydroelectric and geothermal energy. We have most of the technology at hand to replace fossil fuels, but do we have the willingness to make the necessary large-scale changes in energy infrastructure and distribution? This systemic change is going to cost for sure, but who can put a price tag on human lives?

When we installed solar panels at my home, the initial cost was overwhelming. Instead of paying the utility monthly, we agreed to spend the same amount (actually slightly less) for the loan on the solar panels that we purchased. Once the panels are paid off, we will – like plant life – receive free energy. Moreover, we produce more energy than we need with solar. This is what the future could look like for all of us.

In order to mitigate the worst of climate change we must decarbonize the power grid as soon as possible and President Biden has set the ambitious goal to do so by 2035. A week into taking office, Biden promised, in his words, a “100 percent carbon pollution free electric sector by 2035.” He stated: “Transforming the American electric sector to produce power without carbon pollution will be a tremendous spur to job creation and economic competitiveness in the 21st century, not to mention the benefits to our health and to our environment.”

In this transition to clean energy sources you can help by voting for local climate leadership in governance and invest directly in zero carbon technologies.

Being part of a climate-conscious community is instrumental to finding the courage, confidence and care to make the necessary changes. Transition Town Port Washington ( in partnership with Landmark On Main is inviting all who are interested in climate solutions to join in a Climate Action Series on Zoom that kicks off Thursday, March 4, at 7.30 pm and wraps around Earth Day.

Sign up for this FREE series of climate conversations here In this five-part Climate Action Series we will introduce community-centered climate solutions while also promoting individual action.


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