By Costa Constantinides
Special to the Eagle
Climate change is the largest existential threat of our lifetime — and all it got was a lousy 15 minutes total in two debates spanning four hours.
NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo dedicating a tiny fraction of its debate to the phenomenon that, by 2100, could bury John F. Kennedy International Airport and other parts of Southeast Queens underwater was a major disservice. The networks also squandered the opportunity to put this deadly threat on the national stage by shoving it in the second hour each night.
I’m personally upset — not to mention surprised — because I called on the network to ask at least three substantive questions about climate change during the debate beyond “Do you support a Green New Deal?” No Democrat should’ve been on that stage if they don’t support a massive mobilization against rising sea levels, violent weather and unprecedented economic disruption. Because, after all, we’ll start to really see these effects in the second term of any of the men and women running for the nomination — should they win the White House.
The Democratic National Committee has rejected Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s request for a debate focused solely on climate change, which I believe was a mistake. If we’re not going to dedicate a whole night, or two for that matter, on how the candidates will address this issue, then we’d better commit some serious time to climate change in the already scheduled debates.
I can’t overstate how high the stakes are. Queens, home to nearly 2.5 million New Yorkers, is the largest borough and thus will be the most affected by the regularly tidal flooding forecast to begin over the next few decades. The Pentagon was right to brand this a major national security issue. And we should all be bothered by the National Climate Assessment’s warning that New Yorkers might someday become climate refugees.
That’s why I’m calling on the networks hosting the remaining debates to ask the hard questions of every candidate that NBC News wouldn’t. First, how will each candidate make our electrical grid carbon neutral, and by what year does he or she believe it’s attainable? Second, how will he or she reduce greenhouse gas emissions from major emitters in transportation and real estate? Last, how will you protect at-risk communities like the Rockaways and Howard Beach from worsening storm surge?
If New York City can enact bold climate change-fighting policies, which we did earlier this spring, you can pass them anywhere. It’s time Americans heard how we’re going to create a brighter, greener, safer future.
Councilmember Costa Constantinides represents the 22nd Council District, which includes Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Woodside. He serves as chairperson of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee.