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Syracuse needs to take climate change seriously – The Daily Orange

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The atmosphere continues to warm every year. Despite images depicting evidence of the threat of climate change caused by people, in Syracuse, seasons still seem to come and go. This fall, while fires raged across the Sierra Nevada, Syracuse was greeted with vibrant sunsets and near-perfect fall weather. Additionally, as Texans recover from an extreme polar vortex, Syracuse has faced a relatively average winter in comparison. 

This contrast is dangerous. It creates an illusion to Syracuse residents that we have time to combat climate change. In reality, we do not.

In regions such as central New York, residents have faced a false climate reality: the climate we currently experience in Syracuse is not necessarily the climate we will experience in the future. Though climate change may be mild where we live, that doesn’t mean we can dismiss the evidence a consensus of experts have compiled about the existence of climate change caused by humans

Yet, climatologists and climate experts are confronted with the question: How do we convince people that climate change must be mitigated when they have not experienced its harshest realities?

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A changing climate is not some far-off fairy tale, it is presently decimating ways of life. Without solutions, it will become increasingly worse. Mitigating climate change will require bipartisan support. However, the messaging regarding climate change has been aimed at those already experiencing or sold on its existence.

We need to understand people’s individual experiences to mitigate global warming. While residents in central New York and other northern regions of the nation have experienced mild changes in their climates, many more face a sharp contrast of apocalyptic climate warming. For example, residents of California already face extremes of harsher wildfire seasons and multi-year droughts. 

Historically, money and location have brought freedom from climate hardship. Those in financially burdened nations and households disproportionately face the effects of climate change compared to their wealthier counterparts. Additionally, those in higher-income communities have faced a different reality than those in low-income neighborhoods. Financial situations create warped senses of urgency in responding to climate change. 

For many, their lack of experience with climate change makes climate disaster seem like any other Americanized view of hardship – some far-off and forgettable problem that relies on GoFundMe’s to solve. 

“It (climate change) is going to increase the frequency of weather-related disasters, and those disasters are really costly,” said Ethan Coffel, assistant faculty professor of geography and the environment in Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. “We’re going to have to spend more and more resources dealing with natural disaster cleanup.” 

What was once far-off will hit home economically, and it will hit home soon. Eventually, the chickens will come home to roost in Syracuse. This is why it’s important to communicate the ways that quality of life in sheltered areas such as Syracuse plays such a big role in getting climate mitigation policy passed.

While many do not see fires burning near their homes, natural disasters burn through their budgets. Natural disaster cleanup costs the U.S. economy as a whole, not just the economies of disaster areas. Additionally, extreme weather alters agricultural yields and energy usage. The extreme cold weather that caused the Texas backouts cost lives and interrupted national economic productivity. These climate disasters contribute to less-than-optimal economic situations within the country. 

Those who live away from disaster areas need to understand that climate change caused such extreme situations. Messaging regarding climate change must prove to those in sheltered regions that their finances will be heavily affected by any further warming of the climate. This method is proven to garner political and private sector support.

Until recently, environmentalists used horrific images depicting polar bears floating on single pieces of ice to further their message. Now, environmentalists are finding it easier to shift to pressuring pockets to mitigate climate change. 

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The Sierra Club, an environmental organization, points to major banks halting future investments in fossil fuel development as one of several examples proving that a financial advocacy campaign can help mitigate climate change.

“The work that I personally lead at the Sierra Club is our work around the financial sector and pushing for big banks and Wall Street firms to stop investing in fossil fuels and shift their investments towards clean energy,” says Ben Cushing, the senior campaign representative of the Sierra Club’s Financial Advocacy campaign. 

Focusing on the proper messaging for the proper groups of individuals works in regards to climate advocacy, and it can help those who have not experienced the direct threat of worsening natural disasters. In a warming climate, more money will be spent by all U.S. residents, regardless of where the disaster is.

Quality of life and the economy will continue to be altered by a changing climate. While residents of Syracuse have faced minimal visible effects of climate change, it is unreasonable to assume our climate will stay unaltered in the future. The current threats of economic damage for the whole economy prove there must be bipartisan support for climate mitigation policy. In turn, the sheltered American perspective of climate change must be accountable for those most vulnerable to global warming.

Harrison Vogt is a sophomore environment sustainability policy and communication and rhetorical studies dual major. His column appears biweekly. He can be reached at hevogt@syr.edu. He can be followed on Twitter at @VogtHarrison.

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