Sustainable Westchester Launches

Sustainable WestchesterI was honored to be chosen this month to join the founding Board of Directors for Sustainable Westchester, an inter-municipal consortium focused on positive environmental and planning practices.  The launch of Sustainable Westchester completes a merger of two organizations that had previously worked separately in the southern and northern portions of the county.  As a unified entity, Sustainable Westchester presently includes thirty-seven municipalities representing more than 80% of Westchester’s population.

The founding Board of Directors has twelve members, about evenly split between elected officials and others with relevant experience in business, advocacy, or the not-for-profit world.

I hope that we can serve as a useful resource to Westchester’s cities, towns, and villages, as we all work together to ensure a sustainable future.



Westchester Climate Change Summit on Sept. 12

FCWC LogoPace Law and the Federated Conservationists of Westchester are teaming up on Friday, September 12th to host a Westchester Climate Change Summit.  The day’s events will include remarks, presentations, and panel discussions from scientists, experts, and policy-makers. I plan on attending at least a portion of the summit.

There’s more information at this site, and you can register here.



Business Climate

Risky BusinessThe argument against climate action (at least among those who admit that climate change is real) usually boils down to economics; it will cost too much.  That’s why this new report is so valuable.  Entitled “Risky Business,” it describes in painful detail the economic cost of inaction, and it does so in terms that will be persuasive to leaders in business, finance, and insurance.  Addressing climate change is both a moral and an economic imperative, fully justified by any serious evaluation of costs, benefits, and risks.

The report was spearheaded by Henry Paulson, Mike Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer – a Republican, an Independent, and a Democrat – and it’s attracted support from across the political spectrum, including from GOP stalwarts like George Shultz.  That’s good news, because de-linking the issue of climate change from partisan politics would make it much easier for the United States to take effective action.

If you can’t read the full report, there’s a good summary in the New Republic.


Promoting “Green” Jobs

Envirolution LogoMore and more property owners are retrofitting homes and businesses for energy and resource efficiency.  At the same time, new buildings must meet higher efficiency standards.  This growing demand for “green” construction translates into new job opportunities, but only for workers who have the proper skills and credentials.  That’s why “green” job training should be an important priority.

To address this challenge locally, the City is working with Envirolution, an organization that provides training, mentoring, fieldwork, and job placement.  Envirolution has been active in New York City and is looking to expand into Westchester, with New Rochelle as its first stop.  The City will help promote Envirolution’s programming and will provide scholarships to qualified residents.  The College of New Rochelle has also signed on as a partner.

City Council Member Jared Rice deserves credit for spear-heading this initiative.  Green business development is also a goal within New Rochelle’s Sustainability Plan.



Power PlantThe President’s proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants is a big step forward.  Today’s editorial in the New York Times says it well:

The greenhouse gas reductions required by the Obama administration’s proposed rule on power plants will not get the world to where it has to go to avert the worst consequences of climate change. But they are likely to be enormously beneficial: good for the nation’s health, good for technological innovation, good for President Obama’s credibility abroad, and, in time, good for the planet and future generations.

Here’s more on the proposed rule from the White House.

As you consider the inevitable counter-arguments, which will be fierce, ask yourself whether opponents of the rule have an alternative strategy, aside from denial that the problem of climate change exists.


Latest Climate Report Says The Same Thing As Every Other Climate Report

Climate OceanRight on the heels of unsettling UN reports that examine the impact of climate change world-wide, a new National Climate Assessment describes the effects and risks of climate change here in the United States.

From torrential rainfall in the northeast, to beetle infestations that are killing millions of acres of forest in the northwest, to drought conditions across the southwest, human-induced climate change is already taking a toll on America’s ecology and economy.  It’s here.  Now.   And without a sharp and swift reversal in greenhouse gas emission trends, it’s going to get much, much worse,

Here’s the full assessment.

Is there anything really new in this latest tale of woe?  Not as far as I can tell.  The National Assessment pretty much confirms the findings of every other credible report.  As the studies pile up over the years, the only things that change are the confidence scientists have in their conclusions, which goes up, and the time remaining before catastrophic effects become unavoidable, which goes down.

Despite the downbeat tone of this post, I’m actually hopeful that the weight of evidence is beginning to change the dynamics of the political discussion, and starting to get us past the phony, partisan debate about the fact of human-induced climate change.  When you’re standing in a burning house, it’s hard to keep arguing about whether the fire is real.