During the blustery days of February, it’s easy to think that global warming isn’t such a bad idea. What’s an extra degree here or there? But consider these warnings:
• If local industries continue to pollute at high levels, New Haven shoreline areas could see a rise in sea level of 10 to 24 inches, increasing the chances of shoreline flooding, soil erosion and massive property damage.
• Rising temperatures increase the odds of a major hurricane hitting the Long Island Sound, which could destroy up to $20 million of property.
• Warming temperatures could totally eliminate lobsters from the Long Island Sound by 2050 — and besides being delicious, lobsters bring in $3.8 million a year for the Connecticut economy.
• Connecticut already has the third-worst air quality in the nation, which will only get worse with higher and higher carbon emissions. A temperature increase of four degrees Celsius would cause smog increases of 20 percent, leading to more respiratory problems such as asthma and chronic bronchitis.
These statistics show that you don’t have to live on a polar ice cap to feel the impact of climate change. Global warming will affect our lives right here in New Haven. And as young people, we should be particularly worried because we are the ones who will have to live with this planet long after many of our current leaders are gone. As the future stewards of the environment, we have a unique responsibility to speak up now, before the problem gets any worse.
Like many other states, Connecticut is beginning to recognize the severity of the threat of climate change and consider legislative action. Following the lead of states like California and New Jersey, and in partnership with a statewide nonprofit, the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, state legislators have introduced a bill that would cut emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 percent by 2050. The bill would create mandatory caps on emissions across the economy and use a cap-and-trade system to create market incentives for efficiency: Businesses that lower their emissions more than the law requires would be able to sell their credits to other firms. It would also lower fuel efficiency standards for transportation fuels, update building codes, create new appliance and equipment efficiency standards and encourage carbon offsets for land development.
While a small state like Connecticut cannot reverse climate change on its own, its participation in a regional cap-and-trade system and a genuine effort to cut its carbon emissions can make a big difference. Just as importantly, Connecticut has a long history of pioneering good policies, particularly on the environment: The federal government has followed the Nutmeg State’s lead on such recent initiatives as energy efficient standards for appliances and water pollution permits, to name just a few examples. The more that individual states, such as Connecticut, address this issue on their own, the harder it will be for the federal government to ignore the problem.
This bill’s good ideas are a start. But there is no shortage of good bills in Hartford — the trick is calling attention to this bill and shepherding it through the obstacle course of committees, hearings and votes until it becomes law. For that, we need your help. Connecticut Fund for the Environment, which is heading up the Stop Global Warming in Connecticut Campaign, is partnering with YSEC, Climate Campaign and the Yale College Democrats to lobby the state legislature to make this bill a priority. Last night, at our kickoff event, we wrote letters to the General Assembly’s leadership to tell them that this bill should be a top priority. Over the course of the semester, we will be writing more letters, making phone calls, holding rallies and traveling to Hartford to keep our legislators focused. We need all the help we can get to keep climate change at the top of the agenda.
It will be our generation that lives with this planet and our generation that chooses whether to heal it or let it continue on the path to crisis. The responsibility is ours, and we cannot afford to wait another day. Get involved. Your home is at stake.
Abby McCartney is sophomore in Branford College. She is the lobbying campaigns coordinator of the Yale College Democrats.