Recipe for Disaster: Ignoring Climate Science

It is unfortunate that the Deepwater Wind plan to put power-generating turbines in the Atlantic has become politicized. But perhaps more alarming is that a substantial portion of the opposition comes not from commercial fishing interests legitimately concerned about the turbines’ proposed location at Cox’s Ledge, but from climate deniers.

None other than the United States government weighed in last week with a report pinning responsibility for our warming planet soundly on human activity. The National Climate Assessment was mandated by Congress and was the work of scientists from 13 federal agencies. They concluded, as have so many reports before this, that global warming is real, impacts are already being observed, and it’s our fault. 

Here in East Hampton, many of the effects of climate change will come hard and fast. Acidification of marine waters could harm fish and shellfish, some of significant commercial value. Greater and more frequent flooding will have its own environmental costs, while property owners have to deal with a host of new problems. Public officials will have to figure out how to respond as the coastlines change at an accelerated, incremental rate if not catastrophically in more-powerful hurricanes.

And then there is the matter of responsibility for other parts of our own country and to the world at large. Climate disruption is already putting some poorer nations into upheaval as resources and jobs have become more scarce, causing populations to shift. Indeed, the Pentagon counts the warming planet among the greatest risk factors ahead. The Lancet, a leading medical journal, published a report recently summarizing research into how climate change has even now begun to have negative health effects, including respiratory disease and malnutrition, for millions of people worldwide.

Wind power has to be part of the solution. Electricity generation is among the top sources of climate-heating greenhouse gases. Both East Hampton Town and New York State have set goals to shift to renewable sources of energy. Deepwater’s project, as well as others planned for sites off Long Island, will meet some of the demand for clean electricity.

While discussions can and should continue among regulators about how and where turbines and associated transmission cables are sited, such projects must be viewed in light of the most massive environmental crisis we have ever confronted. Ignoring the science by pretending that nothing is happening will hardly make the problems go away.