Environmental leaders in New York are looking at January 20th with great trepidation; the day Donald Trump assumes the Presidency of the United States, making America one of the few nations on earth led by someone who denies climate change.
President-elect Trump has called the science of climate change a "Chinese hoax." He has threatened to renege on the Paris Climate Change Agreement, even telling supporters he intends to abolish life-saving clean air protections further harming communities bearing the brunt of climate change.
On Thursday, a coalition of 100 organizations and concerned citizens rallied for Governor Cuomo to turn his rhetoric into action by opposing the President-elect on climate change. In speeches, Cuomo has offered New York as a refuge for people who feel under attack in Trump's presidency.
Lorraine Pierre-Destine, a member of the New York State Nurses Association, says "Trump refuses to believe in climate science and its deterimental impacts." Pierre-Destine invites the President-elect to join her at work - for one day - so that he can see firsthand the impacts that dirty air has on children and families. "Air that isn't safe to breathe makes kids feel like they are being suffocated," says Pierre-Destine and warns that "air filled with toxic pathogens causes a lifetime of chronic illness and premature death." She believes Governor Cuomo can be "a hero for the families" that she takes care of. "Trump may have won the White House, but Governor Cuomo can win the fight against climate change," suggests Pierre-Destine.
Meanwhile others are calling on Cuomo to take up the cause of climate change to help blunt the potentially harmful impact of Trump's presidency on the environment. Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr., President of New York's Hip Hop Caucus, urges Cuomo to seize the opportunity and "send a message to the millions concerned about the future of our climate and air that he is ready to be the leader we need." Yearwood says the stakes are simply too high: "We cannot afford further damage to our health or our planet."
Yearwood and a growing number of environmentalists are recommending that Cuomo incorporate the New York State Climate and Protection Act, the most aggressive climate legislation in the country, into the Governor's 2017-18 executive budget proposal. Travis Proulx of Environmental Advocates says that by taking such action, Cuomo will "solidify his climate and clean energy goals by placing the State Energy Plan into law, creating the pathway to a future powered 100 percent by clean, renewable energy." And, Yearwood points out that transitioning away from a fossil-fuel based economy, ensures the means to create more good-paying jobs with fair labor standards.