Saturday, August 03, 2013

Climate Change enters Rochester, NY mayoral race, one way or another


2013CCraceThere are three candidates running in Rochester's mayoral race--Lovely Warren, Alex White, and the incumbent Tom Richards. Two represent the Democrat Party and one is the Green Party candidate. There is no GOP candidate and it’s probably just as well because their unscientific position on Climate Change has rendered their usefulness to the public null and void.

At this writing, the issues surrounding the race are economic troubles (like many cities, Rochester is in deep financial trouble), schools/education, gender discrimination, tax assessment, economic development, public safety, neighborhoods, and jobs. However, because the local media does not mention Climate Change, does not connect the dots of local incidences with Climate Change predictions for our region, the public is mostly blind to the most critical concern of this race. The issues mentioned above are important, but unless they are viewed through the lens of Climate Change, attempts at solution will fail as soon as the consequences of Climate Change steal away our finances, our public health, and our future. Already, the money printed to address Hurricane Sandy will probably never be paid back.

The city of Rochester under Mayor Richard’s leadership has adopted a Climate Action Plan and subscribed to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)’s Climate Smart Communities. But it’s all very milquetoast, meaning that the measures to lower greenhouse gases, boost energy efficiencies, and reduce municipal transportation are not mandatory. Nor do they compel the public and businesses to comply—which is to say the largest sectors of our population aren’t even aware of the programs. It’s milquetoast because whatever is happening to alleviate Climate Change is occurring too slowly to matter and happening too quietly to engage the public.

Local information from the Green Party includes no position on Climate Change. However, their idea “to use acres of empty land which dot our city for Urban Agriculture” in Green New Deal for Rochester holds promise. If any one of the mayoral candidates were really insightful, they’d consider the big picture and prepare our city for the wave of climate refuges that will be coming to our water- and soil- rich area. As much as those in the South and West hate our cold weather (which is not so cold anymore) they must have water and good soil. Industries have to consider their ability to get water in their long term planning. If it had strong leadership on Climate Change, Rochester could leverage its rail, canal, and industrial wizardry to become a major player in the dicey world ahead. That’s as long as we don’t Frack-up our fresh water.

Admittedly, it would be politically risky for any of the candidates to put forward addressing Climate Change as their top position. It would take leadership. It would display a profound understanding of this worldwide crisis and the courage to combat the dismal tide of denial that has plagued this issue for several critical decades. (As a result, the consequences of warming have put our children’s future at risk.) The challenges ahead for any mayor will be daunting, and manageable only if they are addressed in the context of Climate Change.

Whether addressed or ignored, Climate Change is key in this election and all elections henceforth. It is, after all, a result of our putting greenhouse gases into our atmosphere at a maddening pace for the last two and a half centuries. Physics.

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