The warning signs are present, but many people are not paying attention.
The last four years were the hottest in history, and winter temperatures in the Arctic have risen by 3 degrees Celsius since 1990. An increase in planetary temperature affects water resources, food supply, air quality, and can cause catastrophic weather.
By not acting now, we are increasing the crisis for future generations.
We do not need to look far to see the effects of air pollution on our children. The Bronx has among the highest rates of asthma hospitalizations in the nation. Asthma attacks are triggered and exacerbated by air pollution. Most air pollution is caused by energy use and production.
Air quality also is affected by climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions are currently the most significant driver of climate change. In New York City, approximately two-thirds of greenhouse gases are caused by stationary energy use from buildings. To reduce greenhouse gases in this sector, we must change the way that we heat and cool our properties.
Transportation energy from passenger vehicles creates approximately 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in New York City. This means that changing the energy source for passenger vehicles — or limiting the need for passenger vehicle use — can produce great gains in dropping greenhouse gases in this segment.
Renewable energy is the ideal zero emission energy source. Renewable energy sources include solar, wind, hydropower and biomass. One popular energy source is solar energy, which can be implemented on buildings, houses and carports. While many people have heard about solar energy, information about products, cost, implementation and incentives seems to be vague in our area.
Solar energy can be used to defray reliance on our electric grid, reducing stationary energy use in the production of electricity. It can also be used to generate power for electric vehicles.
The city also is trying to steer residents away from passenger vehicle use. New traffic regulations are making private vehicle use more frustrating. The MTA has begun outreach to redesign the bus system. Bike lanes are being placed across the city.
While these efforts are being employed, we must realize that New Yorkers are not giving up their cars. One reason is that transportation needs in the outer boroughs are different than those in Manhattan. To address this practical point, government must promote use of electric vehicles.
California is attacking greenhouse gas emissions by phasing out buses powered by fossil fuels. Last year, California regulators passed the Innovative Clean Transit rule: Starting in 2023, one quarter or new transit buses must be zero-emissions models. By 2029, 100 percent must be.
By contrast, the MTA has committed to buying 45 new electric buses in 2019.
In order to effectively and efficiently make an impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, government must create private-public partnerships to offer financing and create incentives to drive individuals to zero emission technology. Government must also engage the public in each neighborhood, making each community a partner in this initiative.
The city must establish relationships with renewable energy manufacturers and financial institutions to create financing for new technology. Tax incentives should be given to property owners to increase participation. Specific information must be disseminated in various forums in each community district to create awareness of the financial benefits.
New technology requires modifications to our infrastructure. This means physical changes in our communities. If our goal is to transform our antiquated energy sources, then we must engage the public in each district to plan for the future.
Residents and businesses know their communities best. In every corner of this city, communities must be brought in the process to learn about initiatives, give feedback, and offer valuable input regarding changes to their area.
Often people do not realize the importance of their health until one gets seriously ill. We cannot make that mistake with our environment.
The author is a candidate for city council.