This summer, New Yorkers are experiencing what many Americans across the nation are feeling — heat misery. In New York City, with massive flash floods one week, followed by record-setting heat waves and emergency heat and health advisories the next week, the dangerous effects of the climate crisis on New Yorkers offer sobering personal challenges and urgency for our leaders in Washington to act. It is time to take aggressive and transformative actions to protect our health, save lives, deliver environmental justice, and accelerate the transition to clean energy. Each day of inaction costs us lives and dollars lost, and harm to our environment.
Extreme weather does not discriminate. Extreme heat hits and hurts everybody. But the burden of hurt is unequal. High temperatures and heavy pollution disproportionately impact the most historically overburdened New Yorkers and communities of color, especially those living in frontline neighborhoods in South Bronx, Western Queens, Washington Heights, and Brooklyn. Many Black and brown communities suffer from a legacy of a lack of investment in living spaces resulting in poor insulation, insufficient cooling and less green space, creating urban heat islands that suffer the most from extreme heat.
An average of 370 New Yorkers die each summer in New York City due to hot weather, and Blacks are twice as likely to die from heat as whites living in the city. The loss of life due to temperature rise is the highest price of climate change. Those losses are not nameless, faceless New Yorkers. They are my colleagues, friends, and family members. They are grandmothers, parents, siblings, children, and neighbors who live in the community of Harlem, ride the hot subways to work in Brooklyn, or take their families on weekend outings to the Bronx Zoo.
Thankfully, New York’s own Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took action to address the devastating high temperatures and high costs of the climate crisis by reaching an agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. This legislation will make historic investments in climate, justice, clean energy, and jobs, lower costs for families, and help slash climate pollution in the U.S. by an estimated 40 percent by the end of the decade.
For those who are often the least unable to recover from the impacts of year-round extreme weather, these climate and climate energy investments will help advance justice and protect our health and environment. This agreement will help the United States get closer to the president’s commitment to cut climate pollution in half by 2030, and with additional action from the Biden administration, we can achieve that goal. These solutions for pollution include reducing the burden of climate change, providing good-paying clean energy job training and jobs, and building more just, sustainable, and healthy frontline communities.
Summertime is usually a fun time. For many living in New York City, summertime means life comes alive outdoors — attending concerts in the parks, running Harlem Week’s 5K, and exploring neighborhood food festivals. But this summer will be different. Many will forego outdoor concerts for indoor cooling centers and run to public pools for relief instead of running in the 5K. Unfortunately, too many will forego food festivals to attend funerals of those we will lose to death by extreme heat.
Our leaders must heed the clarion call to confront the climate crisis. All they need to see are the images of flash fires in the city and on the faces of people leaving their apartments for cooling centers or losing their homes to flames as the country burns. Take the heat off the people. New Yorkers and millions of Americans living through this summer’s insufferable heat waves deserve climate action. From the White House to the halls of Congress, it’s time to act promptly with profound courage and implement just climate policies – there isn’t a second to waste.