For the first time in over a decade, climate change activists are optimistic that we have a President who may be willing to make the difficult decisions necessary to address the serious and unprecedented effects of climate change. In last week's inauguration address, Obama devoted a significant amount of time and attention to the need to address climate change saying, "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations." While it is the case in Washington that policy goals are easier said than done, just the fact that Obama spent several sentences discussing climate change may signify a change in direction. Climate change was not a major priority in Obama's first term and was barely mentioned by either candidate in the election campaign.
However, as we witnessed last Fall from Hurricane Sandy, Long Islanders have strong reason to worry about the change in the planet's climate. In addition to major storms, we can expect significant amount of land erosion if current trends continue. New York has over 10,000 miles of coast which leaves us particularly susceptible to loss of land. Rise in sea level could cause significant flooding, beach erosion, loss of wetlands and drinking water contamination. The value of the property damage in the Long Beach area alone could be as much as $6 billion in the next decade.
While it is certain that Obama will face opposition in his effort to minimize climate change, now is certainly the time to take action. He has a short window of opportunity to act before he is viewed as a lame duck. Let's hope that his inauguration address reflects a political sea change to match the climate sea change.