Two days after Sandy struck, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) gave this statement on climate change, as excerpted by The Rachel Maddow Show.
Today, the governor struck a much stronger tone on the link between climate change and weather disasters in an opinion piece in the New York Daily News.
Extreme weather is the new normal. In the past two years, we have had two storms, each with the odds of a 100-year occurrence. Debating why does not lead to solutions — it leads to gridlock. The denial and deliberation from extremists on both sides about the causes of climate change are distracting us from addressing its inarguable effects. Recent events demand that we get serious once and for all.
We need to act, not simply react.
The governor outlined a series of ways in which the state can better prepare for climate change’s effects, including upgrading and improving infrastructure, increasing redundancy on critical systems like pumps and fuel distribution, improving cell-phone networks and the power grid, and improving business systems. One key point:
The next generation’s infrastructure must be able to withstand another storm. We must also reduce the energy consumption that contributes to climate change — which means, for starters, upgrading our building codes.
Cuomo reserved particular ire for the agonizingly slow pace of power restoration.
Power utilities are the equivalent of vinyl records in the age of the iPod: antiquated, 1950s-style institutions that don’t serve our current needs. …
To a large degree, the state and local governments are captive to the utilities in an emergency, just like their customers.
Yesterday, news broke that the state attorney general had subpoenaed two of the largest electricity providers to answer questions about their preparation for and response to the storm. On Tuesday, the chief operating officer of the Long Island Power Authority resigned his position; LIPA has been the target of particularly strong critique — with some reason. Yesterday, two Long Island residents filed their own suit against the agency for negligence and fraud.
While it is good news that Cuomo plans to better prepare the state for climate change — since the Obama administration isn’t exactly leaping into action — it is also very much overdue. In August, we looked at how New York and Boston were slowly moving to defend against rising seas; in September, we noted the New York Times’ critique of that progress.
Fixing these problems requires political will — which, at long last, seems to exist — and money. The governor is hoping the lame duck Congress will approve $30 billion to go toward Sandy recovery efforts, but it’s not clear if any of that money would go to storm preparation — if it’s even granted at all.
Andrew Cuomo is regularly mentioned as a candidate for the presidency in 2016. But he is already involved in a much more important race — the push to prepare the nation’s biggest city for a major storm before another such storm hits. If he loses that race, it’s safe to say that he’ll lose any race for the White House — and probably any future races in Albany as well.