“It has been frustrating that Governor Cuomo has been ignoring the connection between Lake Ontario flooding and climate change.
As it turns out, climate change is not just impacting Long Island and NYC. Climate change does not just raise sea level and worsen hurricanes, but is creating more variability and more extreme weather events everywhere in New York.
As Meagan McDermott and Steve Orr’s July 5th article, “Lake Ontario flooding: Your Plan 2014 questions answered” points out, extreme rainfall is becoming more common due to the warming climate. Warmer air holds more water vapor so more water falls down as rain. Although they also note that it is not clear how much of the current problem is attributable to climate change, it is the second-wettest spring season on record and climate models predict that the northeastern US will continue to be impacted in this way as warming continues.
Of course Lake Ontario is also impacted by what is happening on the other side of the border, the Canadian experience has gotten scant coverage in our news but as noted in the Globe and Mail article “What you need to know about the Flooding in Quebec and across Canada”, Ontario and Quebec’s April rainfall was double the 30-year average. The intensity and frequency of recent rains are breaking records. When three dikes collapsed, Montreal declared a state of emergency. Thousands of homes were flooded and lives were lost.
Governor Cuomo’s claim that the International Joint Commission is putting commercial shipping interests above the health and safety of communities is callous and inappropriate. The D & C article noted that the IJC acted to prevent more water from flooding into Montreal, and that increasing the discharge would only lower lake levels an inch.
The D&C editorial on June 24th, “Stop Blaming the International Joint Commission” rightly acknowledges that our politicians need to start focusing on the facts. Instead of blaming others, Governor Cuomo could get serious about defending the health and safety of communities by making bold climate action a top priority in next year’s executive budget. After all, we can’t stop the rain but we could develop resiliency and reduce emissions.
Governor Cuomo could start by supporting the Climate and Community Protection Act, which would legally require NY to hit 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, while protecting workers and getting resources to frontline communities like those on the shores of Lake Ontario.
We can expect flooding to occur again, and possibly to get worse as warming continues. But, a comprehensive framework for mitigating the impacts of warming and the financial resources to defend all who are on the front lines would go a long way towards protecting our communities.
Susan Hughes-Smith is a member of the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition leadership team.”