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Tune into WAER this election season for comprehensive coverage of local and statewide races. It's the information you'll need to make educated decisions on the races that could have an impact on your life.

The Climate Crisis on Minds of CNY Voters in Your Election Blueprint

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James Corrigan/WAER News
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The recent hot and dry summer in Central New York mirrors the shift in climate patterns across the country.  Fires in Western states, and storms and flooding down South have also brought more attention to the issue this election, even during a pandemic.  Our listeners told us it was among the most important in WAER’s Election Blueprint.  How is it affecting people in CNY and in the campaigns?

Central New York farmers don’t need a rooster to remind them to wake up early. Brian Luton owns the Stone’s Throw farm in Nedrow, growing an assortment of vegetables in addition to the occasional egg.

His growing year, however, was thrown for a loop by something even more unpredictable than COVID.

“We had snow on the ground in the middle of May and then flip of a switch we are into the 90s and had one of the hottest dry summers that we've had in a number of years.”

It was in fact the third hottest summer ever recorded in Central New York, throwing a $350 million agriculture industry in Onondaga County a curveball. As a result, some of Luton’s crops were left out to dry.

“The broccoli, cauliflower and early cabbage and particularly, they need, you know, moist, sort of growing conditions. I think our early broccoli crap we harvested probably 10% you know if that.”

As the climate continues to become less certain, Luton’s plight won’t be uncommon. Colin Beier, Associate Professor in the Department of Sustainable Resources Management at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, says farmers rely on predictability in order to grow their crops.

“Farmers get accustomed to a certain amount of precipitation, right. And we don't irrigate our crops very much in New York State compared to many other parts of the world, because the climate provides ample and relatively predictable precipitation. And so when you have drought conditions, if you don't have the ability to irrigate or provide water to crops, they're very vulnerable.”

The climate issue is affecting not just Central New York, but the whole of the country. Western wildfires have grown worse each year. Hurricanes and tropical storms have become so common, Greek letters had to be used to name them this year after the number of storms outpaced the letters of the alphabet. And the UN Secretary General warns that the Earth could soon reach the point of no return on climate.

This election, climate has remained in the conversation even during a pandemic and economic crisis. President Trump has denied man’s role in climate change in the past,  but touts his record on clean air and water. He also pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate accords. 

Joe Biden has pledged to invest 2 trillion dollars into research and development in his first term alone, with the goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. He has also said he would rejoin the Paris accords, which the Obama administration first entered in 2016.

In Central New York, Congressman John Katko has acknowledged man’s role in climate change, and has supported zero emission solutions such as Nuclear energy, including at the Syracuse.com debate.

“Nuclear energy is something I very much support. We helped save the nuclear industry in central New York and western New York, and it’s 100% carbon free emissions.

His Democratic opponent Dana Balter aligned herself with Joe Biden’s priorities at the same debate.

“One of the most important things we have to do is make major investments in renewable energy to end our reliance on fossil fuels because that’s a huge driver of the climate crisis.”

KATKO & BALTER ON CLIMATE CRISIS AND POLICY

John Katko (R):

  • Acknowledged that climate change is real
  • Supports a goal of global reduction in carbon footprints
  • Opposes the Paris Climate Agreement
  • Voted to support R&D for renewable energy
  • Played a role in saving the James A. Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego, which he believes is part of a lower emission future.

Dana Balter (D):

  • Modernizing the power grid as part of an infrastructure plan using federal incentives to make it easier for homes and busiesses to adopt renewable energy.
  • Improving energy efficiency, including retrofitting old buildings
  • Adopting sustainable agricultural plans to lower emissions but preserve farm family life.
  • Must recommit to the Paris Climate Agreement
  • crating a carbon fee and divdend program, in which carbon emittors pay a fee, while the revenue goes to ratepayers to help with energy bills.  

22nd District Congressman Anthony Brindisi said at a Spectrum debate that investing in infrastructure is the key to solving the climate crisis.
“We have a very old energy grid in this state. I'd like to see major investments in upgrading our energy grid so we can get more renewable energy on the grid.”

Brindisi calls cliamte change a threat that has to be acted upon now

His opponent, former congresswoman Claudia Tenney, is taking an all-encompassing approach.

“I think what the President's trying to do is something that hasn't been done before is look at in all of the above strategy.”

Tenney says science on climate should be followed, while also supporting natural gas drilling for both economic and environmental reasons.  

Libertarian Keith Price is also in the race and does not favor any taxes based on carbon footrpint. 

For Central New York farmers like Luton, time may be running out. This election pits two different philosophies and limits on fossil fuel to combat climate change. Luton’s concern is not just for himself, but for generations beyond.

“We've got young kids imagining how things will be 20 years, 40 years, 60 years from now, I think we all have responsibility to do something today.“

In short, Luton says it’s time for our leaders… to wake up.