Submitted by Matt DesChamps
The costs of inaction on climate change are already being paid by the citizens of Greenwich and many other coastal towns in Connecticut and the United States. Costs are incurred every time a storm tears our community apart. Flooded streets, schools and basements, downed power lines and polluted waterways are expensive to repair and insure, and insurance premiums will continue to rise for home and business owners , if the insurance remains available. School, business and beach closures are having a negative impact on our economy, our health and our quality of life. Additionally, heat waves, drought and other extreme weather conditions will continue to strain our local resources and economy. And, yes, our most vulnerable citizens and communities — communities of color, seniors, and low-income people — suffer from these hardships disproportionately.
The best science shows that the damage caused by climate change is already severe and could range from serious to catastrophic. A risk of this nature requires an immediate and expedited response from the municipal government. Individual citizens can take action to protect their homes and businesses, but our government – federal, state and local – is best positioned to provide the necessary investments and coordinated leadership to prepare our city for the rising level of sea and the increased frequency and severity of storms and the damage they cause. Unfortunately, our city government is moving too slowly and is mired in a political game rather than creating the large-scale, comprehensive and strategic response the moment needs.
Ultimately, the climate crisis is a problem of risk management. Greenwich needs to approach the climate issue through this lens, not through a political lens. Indeed, taxpayers are already paying a significant sum
amount in our budget for climate-related spending without a concrete plan, and now is the time to invest in the critical infrastructure we need to prepare for the future. In any risk management problem, time is the scarce resource and we waste it. Although we managed funds from the American Rescue
Plan (federal funds made available to the city for Covid relief) for sewage and flood mitigation, this is not enough and is not considered part of an overall strategic plan on climate change. If we have enough time, recognize the problem, and dedicate ourselves to responding to the urgency of the moment, we can mitigate many of the potential risks. And the thing is, we don’t know how long we have before we cross the tipping point where the atmosphere can no longer absorb carbon emissions. When this line is crossed, the costs of solving the climate problem will be catastrophic for the budget, the economy and the standard of living of our city. The costs of inaction increase every year as climate risks grow.
Fortunately, many cities, states, corporations and businesses are quick to act, they are preparing. Global scientists, CEOs, national security experts, and finance professionals are recognizing climate change and the dangers that come with it and are taking concrete steps to prepare for and mitigate the risks. Even major oil conglomerates recognize the risks of stranded assets and are pivoting their business models to profit from a post-carbon economy. Capital markets around the world are creating carbon-related products ranging from cap and trade and carbon quotas to carbon offsetting to impact investors providing intellectual and financial capital to fund major carbon sequestration projects and alternative and renewable energies. Many of the world’s leading carbon and climate scientists and business professionals live right here in Greenwich, and the city should create an advisory council to harness their expertise. The climate risk we face demands that government and private industry work together and simultaneously to address the problem.
But here is the very good news that should give us hope for the future. Young adults understand the problem and the risks we pass on to them. Indeed, they will inherit a warmer and more inhospitable planet. They want action to be taken and they expect policy makers to tackle the problems now. A small local group of dedicated and thoughtful young climate activists recently proposed a draft resolution for consideration by city leaders, the Climate Emergency Resolution.
While some have chosen to politicize their efforts and criticize their language, we should instead accept their challenge as a call to action. It is up to leaders in all branches of local government – the Board of Selectmen, BET, P&Z and RTM – as well as private businesses and citizens to move beyond rhetoric, half measures and forged documents. .. now is the time to act. A comprehensive climate action plan is needed for Greenwich to address the risk we all face as a community and society. Future generations are counting on this generation to do our part to protect our community and our planet from the risks of looming climate change.
Let’s get to work!