New York has a way of making you grow up exponentially faster than you normally would.
Maybe it’s the fact that I’m living and taking care of an apartment, cooking my own food, and balancing work with school that has forced me to embody a more mature version of myself. Regardless of the reason, however, I now feel a (previously submissive) urge to stay up-to-date on everything going on in the world and in my city. This especially includes the pressing issue of climate change as introduced in my post, Why I Stopped Shopping.
Living in New York city, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the rising awareness of the climate change “movement.” There’s a growing number of people switching to reusable straws, bringing their own bags to the grocery store, and buying from more sustainable brands. As amazing as this is, these small changes alone are not going to dramatically reduce our impact on the atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, incremental changes are still so essential in order to guide people towards more sustainable lifestyles, but they don’t exactly tackle the issue of carbon emission into the atmosphere. According to NASA, the surface temperature of the planet has “risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century.” This has caused issues like rising ocean sea levels, melting glaciers, extreme natural events, and ocean acidification.
While this is a global average, the Department of Environmental Conservation reveals that the effects of climate change in New York are even more severe. New York’s annual average temperature has “risen about 2.4°F since 1970,” while the sea levels have “risen more than a foot since 1900.”
So if changing to reusable straws and buying environmentally-friendly clothing isn’t going to save the planet from the harmful effects of excess carbon, what is?
New York lawmakers have agreed to approve a plan to reduce carbon emissions in the city, requiring “New York to get 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar and hydro-power by 2030 and shift entirely to carbon-free power a decade later.” (The New York Times) . The primary target in the plan is large buildings, who account for “67% of the city’s emissions.” In a city globally known for being a ‘concrete jungle,’ it’s not difficult to see how NYC’s infrastructure is a huge contributor to carbon emission-i.e. the smog in the city’s air. To pinpoint the goal even further, the plan will cap “how many tons of carbon a building may produce per square foot, with different limits for residential, commercial and industrial buildings,” according to The Guardian.
While the specific means of achieving this set standard are ultimately left up to the building owners, some approaches that the lawmakers have proposed include replacing air and heating systems with more efficient models, installing insulation and windows, and using electricity from hydro-power and solar sources. As for enforcing the newfound plan, buildings who surpass the carbon caps will be fined $268 a year per every excess ton of carbon they emit.
The only drawback of a bill this ambitious is the inevitable cost of implementing these new technologies and sources, which will ultimately hurt building owners. Despite this, though, Mayor Bill de Blasio countered the arguments against this plan by stating that in order to truly have an effect on climate change, “We were going to need to do something very aggressive, particularly because the federal government is not doing their role.”
With every cause, there is an effect. And the cost of transitioning towards a carbon-zero city is significantly less than the cost of irreversible damage on the environment.
(Read here to find out more about what will happen if we don’t reduce our carbon footprint.)