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North East’s (Climate) Smart CSTF

The Millerton News Editorial

This month, on July 8, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) made public news of a highly sought after designation by municipalities throughout the Empire State. Through the joint Climate Smart Task Force (CSTF) of North East and Millerton, the town of North East was formally awarded bronze certification by the DEC when announced as one of six new Certified Climate Smart Communities; Ancram was another.

The joint CSTF had been seeking the coveted designation for more than two years. The state created the Climate Smart Communities program in 2019. Its purpose was to encourage municipalities to come up with ways to mitigate and resist the extreme damage caused by climate change.

CSTF Coordinator Kathy Chow said the program was instrumental in aiding the town and village as it created a climate change mitigation and resiliency plan; in helping the town methodically check off 150 actions suggested on the state’s priority list (only 120 were required, which helped the town earn its designation; the village hopes to be bestowed with bronze certification in 2023); and in opening up the door to future funding, as bronze status promises to bolster any recipient’s chances of winning county and state grants, according to both Chow and North East town Supervisor Chris Kennan.

When learning the DEC had finally announced North East was among the six newly-Certified Climate Smart Communities named on July 8, this newspaper celebrated. We were thrilled the many thousands of man-hours its dedicated volunteers, helmed by Chow, spent pouring over notes, researching details and applying to the state yielded such great success.

The tangible results, as she noted in this week’s front-page story, will go beyond “bragging rights.” They will also help the town “take real steps toward climate resiliency and mitigation.”

While there are those who fall on both sides of the debate — people who believe passionately the dangers caused by climate change loom large, with weather and other natural disasters happening regularly — and people who insist the earth’s warming temperatures and rising sea levels have nothing to do with climate change — we chose to listen to science. We base our opinions on experts who have researched the facts, witnessed the evidence and concluded the planet is indeed warming.

According to The Royal Society, a fellowship of the most eminent scientists in the world and the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence based out of London, the Earth’s average surface air temperature has increased by roughly 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900.

If you want more proof, continue to focus over the pond at the U.K., where Britons had to deal with heat rising to 40 degrees Celsius — which translates to a record-breaking 104 degrees Fahrenheit — last week. While there were other spots around the globe where numbers exceeded that temperature on Tuesday, July 19, it was a first for the Brits, who were left wilted by the extreme heat wave.

For further evidence, let’s look right here in the U.S. and take a peek in our own backyard. Just this past weekend in New York’s Harlem Valley we experienced our own heat wave, with temperatures in the upper 90s, causing the heat index to soar into the low 100s. In fact, “a deadly heat wave shattered records in the Northeast,” according to AccuWeather, “after more than a dozen locations experienced record-challenging heat and [a] 100-degree heat [was recorded] for five consecutive days.” The old record was four days.

We can leave the climate change debate out of the conversation. Our purpose is not to convince anyone of anything. It is purely to recognize and congratulate the joint Climate Smart Task Force for a job very well done.

As Chow said pragmatically in her front-page interview, “It doesn’t matter [if someone is a skeptic], because severe storms are severe storms — whether they are caused by climate change or not — and we have to deal with it.”

Her assessment is spot on, for that is the reality regardless of whether one wants to accept the term “climate change” and its implications. We’re just pleased we have Chow and her devoted volunteers, and others like her and them in neighboring communities, working so diligently for the benefit of us all and our communities here in the Harlem Valley.

As Kennan noted, who himself is a liaison to the CSTF and has been a strong advocate of both the group and the statewide program, “Our contribution is microscopic, but if every town did the same thing the contribution would be significant.”

Like Chow, Kennan has zeroed in on the crux of the matter. His is exactly the type of mind-set everyone will all need to adopt — and adopt immediately — if humankind is to have even the slightest sliver of a chance at solving the ever-worsening climate change crisis. We’re all familiar with the approach: It often takes the smallest of villages to resolve the largest of global problems.

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