Climate Change & Doubters

Rockaway residents are no strangers to the whims of Mother Nature. Superstorm Sandy devastated the peninsula's shores and quite literally, uprooted the lives of thousands. Just last month, an iceberg the size of Delaware broke off from an ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula and many scientist are claiming that global warming could be a factor. Climate change poses a serious threat to coastal areas, like the Rockaway Peninsula and increased temperatures can make tropical storms and hurricanes more intense and more dangerous. Storms like Sandy could become more commonplace than desired if concentrated efforts are not dedicated to mitigating climate change. For New Yorkers, and especially Far Rockaway residents, climate change impacts their livelihood so when politicians denounce global warming and take measures to move the country backwards, their anger is understandable.

Earlier this year, Donald Trump drew the ire of many across the country by declaring his intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement is a commitment between members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to mitigate the effects of global warming. Trump rationalized his decision by saying it would be better for American businesses to withdraw and that it would save American jobs, especially within the coal industry. However, Trump’s claims are misguided at best. Data shows that solar energy is the second largest energy job provider behind oil, but is far ahead of coal. Trump’s dated allegiance to the coal industry threatens to hinder the United States’ advancement when it comes to renewable energy technology.  Currently, solar energy can provide significant percentages of power for countries like Germany and is already becoming cheaper to produce than climate harming energy sources such as coal and oil.

In New York City, residents have a lot to lose by ignoring climate change and current infrastructure projects already take into account the impact of rising sea levels.  For example, coastal communities like Far Rockaway and Broad Channel are already devoting resources to outfit their neighborhoods to better withstand rising sea levels. These improvements include elevating existing homes and raising street levels. In Edgemere, the Resilient Edgemere plan seeks to de-densify areas near the waterfront to reduce damage when, not if, flooding occurs.

For Rockaway residents, Trump’s refusal to acknowledge climate change brings into question his commitment to keeping this community safe. Currently, a $4 billion Army Corp of Engineers plan to reinforce the Rockaways is on the table, however, securing the funding in Republican congress seems unlikely to many. Right now, there's $400 million attached to the project which seeks to build and extend beachside jetties, build reinforced dunes, and add more sand to extend the beachfront to mitigate potential storm damage.

As a whole, the nation’s reaction to Donald Trump’s dismissal of climate change is inspiring, but it puts the onus of climate change accountability onto the individual, instead of the nation. In the wake of the announcement, several states and corporations came forward in their commitment to fighting climate change and declared their solidarity with other signing countries of the Paris Agreement. Even former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged to donate $15 million to the United Nations to make up for lost funding if the U.S. withdraws. These instances of resistance show that even in the face of resistance, individuals understand the implications of climate change and do their part in counteracting it, even if the government won’t.