Climate

New York Governor Cuomo: ‘I Don’t Want To Get Into A Political Debate’ About Climate Change

CREDIT: AP Photo/Mike Groll

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he thinks climate change is real. Beyond that, he won’t say much else.

According to a Capital New York report, the politically savvy governor has historically refused to talk about the scientific link between extreme weather events and climate change, citing a desire to avoid contentious debate. He most recently did this on Sunday, when asked about the climate connection to Buffalo’s massive lake-effect snowstorm, and the worry of flooding because of rising temperatures.

“I don’t want to get into a political debate at this time about climate change causes, et cetera,” Cuomo reportedly said. “Forget the causes. Is it global warming? Is it reliance on fossil fuels? Forget the causes. What is inarguable is the result.”

The issue with these comments — and arguably all modern political rhetoric about climate change — is that the debate over extreme weather and global warming is not inherently political. It is scientific. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international body that provides comprehensive updates on climate science, says that man-made warming increases the severity of heat waves, wildfires, and heavy precipitation events. Some scientists have even tied Buffalo’s massive snowstorm to climate change, citing the increased moisture held in the atmosphere as a result of warming temperatures.

Instead of acknowledging this, however, Cuomo’s position is that it doesn’t matter whether climate change is causing extreme events. And it’s not the first time he’s made the claim. In a 2012 op-ed for the Daily News, where he pledged increase storm preparation measures in the face of Superstorm Sandy.

“Debating why does not lead to solutions — it leads to gridlock,” Cuomo said at the time. “The denial and deliberation from extremists on both sides about the causes of climate change are distracting us from addressing its inarguable effects.”

The issue with that stance, however, is that it focuses solely on adaptation to extreme weather events, and does not acknowledge the need to reduce carbon emissions to reduce the likelihood of those extreme events happening in the first place. That’s bad, considering the latest IPCC report says the effects of climate change — including extreme weather — could be irreversible if decisive actions aren’t taken to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. And those impacts will only get worse as future carbon emissions rise.

To Cuomo’s credit, he has pushed both adaptation and mitigation efforts in the state, including a $1 billion solar power investment and stricter emissions reductions under RGGI, the Northeast’s regional cap-and-trade agreement program.

But Cuomo’s willingness to play ignorant on why that’s important — something he has done with fracking, too — is still harmful. The New Republic’s Rebecca Leber does a good job explaining why:

“As long as fossil fuel consumption continues to rise globally, the impacts of climate change will grow worse,” she writes. “And as long as Democrats and Republicans ignore this, the U.S. will fall short in cutting carbon pollution.”