Waterfront real estate on the North Fork is worth millions. The coastline of the East End is perhaps its most important asset. This is a conversation with Don Matthason, the local head of the Citizens Climate Lobby, a non-partisan advocacy organization focused on policies to address climate change.
It is uncomfortable and almost taboo to talk about climate change. Why do you think this is true?
People find it impossible to focus on a problem for which they see no solution. Solutions are becoming clearer but disinformation campaigns pose the fake proposition that addressing climate change will require big sacrifices. That is largely not true, or overblown, especially compared to the consequences climate change poses to civilization.
What is the latest news on climate?
NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and corresponding British agencies confirmed 2016 was the hottest year in history, surpassing 2015, which surpassed 2014 (the first time three consecutive years were record breakers). Two alarming facts from those reports are that temperatures were 20 to 30 degrees above normal IN THE ARCTIC, and, from 2013 to 2016, worldwide temperature increased by 1/2 degree Fahrenheit. Scientists say the planet becomes unable to support half the world’s population 4 or 5 degrees hotter, so that is a very scary trend.
What do you say to people to illustrate how important an issue this is?
More facts, more science, will not change minds. People must connect climate change with something they care about or agree with. For a mother, a livable world for her child; for a Veteran, the defense departments statement climate change is a major strategic threat; for an industrialist, that China, Netherlands, and Germany will own the major industry of the future and we must buy it from them.
What are the consequences for those of us who live on the East End of Long Island?
Sea level rise is already evident during routine storms. Look at downtown Montauk beach. As storms intensify more of that will happen. Thirty percent of CO2 emissions end up in the ocean. CO2 acidifies the ocean. This melts the shells of sea creatures, including phytoplankton, the base of the marine food chain. Seafood is the major source of protein for the world and a major source of income for fishing in Montauk.
What is being done that is positive and gives you hope?
195 countries committed in the Paris Climate Accord to major reductions in carbon emissions. The technology exists. The impediments to clean energy are purely political. However, states, cities, and companies worldwide are making the commitment. The transition to renewables and efficiency amounts to a second industrial revolution and will require everyone’s participation right away. China announced scrapping 85 coal plants, and investing $250 Billion into renewable energy. India recently opened the largest solar plant in the world. Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and even GM, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Hasbro and Mars have committed to 100% renewable energy. Bill Gates organized 20 billionaires to work on solutions. Texas has more wind energy in operation than any other state. Iowa is making a lot of money on wind power and selling it to surrounding states. The congressmen of many ‘red states’ see the price of solar dropping and are becoming proponents. Governor Cuomo directed LIPA to commit to a wind farm off Montauk, which will supply more than 100% of energy used in East Hampton. A much larger offshore wind facility is proposed. East Hampton and Southampton have Energy Committees working towards the Towns commitments to 100% renewable energy by 2030. Commitments like these are happening all over the country. Studies abound that efficiency and renewable energy is a boon to our economy, not a threat. There is only one outlier: our own United States Government.