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Acting on Climate Change

From rising sea levels worsening the storm surge during Superstorm Sandy to the increase in extreme weather events, effects of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change are being deeply felt around the world with every passing day. But far from feeling helpless about a global situation, there are positive actions you can take, from the political to the personal, to point us in a better direction. In light of two New York City events, the U.N. Climate Summit this September 23 and the People’s Climate March on September 21, here is a consolidation of some resources on the topic.

To start, you can use NYPL to educate yourself on this environmental challenge.  One of the trailblazing commentators on climate change, Bill McKibben, is the founder of the influential environmental group He also authored 1989’s groundbreaking The End of Nature, the first book about climate change designed for the general public. NASA scientist James Hansen, who testified on climate change before Congress in the 1980s, is another important source. Other esteemed scientists such as David Archer have written valuable books describing the deep and lasting effects of our fossil fuel use.

NCA3 Climate Change Impacts in the United StatesIn addition, academic organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science release reports for the general public on global climate change. You may also search the NYPL’s databases such as EBSCOhost for the latest scholarly and general public-oriented reports. New York City has a lot to be concerned about from this issue and has released reports detailing the current and probable future effects of climate change on New York City and how the city is preparing for these effects. On a national level, the United States Government recently unleashed a website and official report with a tremendous amount of climate change information “to inform and prepare America’s communities, businesses and citizens.” President Obama’s recent proposal to regulate power plant emissions is the most important environmental legislation in decades, but more needs to be done.

The common statement “think globally, act locally” can apply to our choices when we buy things. How can our actions contribute to positive or negative change? We can understand how truly global this issue is when we look at the countries we import our goods from. China is a booming economy, but by being dependent on fossil fuels, it is also the number one contributing country to climate change. But the good news, as reported in Green Innovation in China by Joanna I. Lewis, is that China is also one of world’s green energy leaders, ahead of the United States in developing innovative methods and is the “leading market for clean energy finance”. Meanwhile, the United States has been reducing its financing of clean energy over the past couple of years. Why? Because many members of Congress do not accept the scientific consensus that global warming is caused by humans. So although solutions are being devised for the creation of environmentally feasible energy sources, this activity is occurring in fits and starts.

NPCC Climate Risk Information 2013 ReportOn a personal level, you can go to NYPL to find the resources to help support green energy projects in your home. Governments are also making attempts to do their share. New York State, one of the country’s leaders in green technology, is providing financial incentives for individuals and business who install renewable energy systems. New York City’s largest solar energy site is scheduled to open on was once the world’s largest landfill, in Staten Island, New York. And even though it’s not sunny California, New York City’s solar usage has risen 93% in the past year. Additionally, the practice of “shared solar,” which gives people who are unable to install solar panels the opportunity to invest in local solar power projects in exchange for a credit on their utility bill, is gaining traction in the New York Legislature. Interested in learning how to become a photovoltaic or wind turbine installer? For job hunters, the Green Jobs – Green New York program provides resources and training in green technology careers and energy efficiency for individuals, organizations and businesses. Need motivation? New York State is among the top 5 states for solar jobs.

As we enter hurricane season, the need for more independent, locally produced energy can become a real need. We all remember the extensive power outages resulting from Hurricane Sandy. Communities in New York, such as Red Hook, Brooklyn, and other locales are now stepping up and installing solar backup generators in their public centers.

There are other ways you can help reduce the effect of climate change. For one thing, you can eat more vegetables and less meat. And the health benefits of eating vegetables are a nice perk.

And don’t forget, one of the great ways to help reduce the effects of climate change is to visit libraries, which are masters of reusing, reducing and recycling.


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