By Michael Gold
I went walking in a pot of thick soup as big as Westchester.
That’s what the heat wave felt like.
It was 95 degrees in Pleasantville one day at the end of June, according to Accuweather. That’s about 15 degrees above average.
If this is the new normal due to climate change, I don’t want any part of it. Our family hid in the house.
There are far too many people who cannot enjoy that luxury.
Not even someone as highly skilled at hiding out as me cannot stay in the house forever, although I have made many valiant attempts to do so.
In the house, I try to distract myself from the suffocating heat by reading books and newspapers, playing Twister by myself and praying for clouds the size of Jupiter to cover the planet. And rain, lots of rain.
You cannot attribute one single weather event to climate change. But leading climate scientists have pointed out that climate change makes heat waves far more likely and more intense.
Climate change also makes intense rainfall more likely. A few days after the sizzling soup-like heat, we saw millions upon millions of balls of raindrops that seemed to be thrown from the sky by microscopic Major League pitchers hurling 100 mile-per-hour fastballs. Each raindrop finished with a bang on the pavement in front of our house.
I have driven on the Saw Mill Parkway in torrential rain. The water feels like it’s rushing by the middle of my wheels, as the river charges out of its banks, angry and insolent, on a temper tantrum out of all proportion to its size.
The state is raising about a mile of the Saw Mill Parkway to avoid flooding, but nobody can predict what nature is going to do, especially if we keep handing it weapons to harm us.
So, we can’t hide from climate change in Westchester for very long, even if we build an air-conditioned dome over the whole county, which is about as likely to happen as the New York Jets winning the Super Bowl five years in a row.
Here’s what we can do:
- The easiest, cheapest thing to do is plant more trees, to absorb all that carbon we’re putting into the air. Pleasantville features a number of areas near the Saw Mill Parkway that have nothing but weeds. Why not consider planting dozens of small trees in these areas? I’m not suggesting giant oaks or elms, which could eventually grow so high they might hit somebody’s house in a storm. Also, Memorial Plaza could use many more trees, by the strip of land next to the railroad tracks.
- Homeowners can plant a tree on their front lawns, near the road. The village will pay for half the cost of the tree, and all the labor of planting, under its 50/50 tree planting program.
- Install a geothermal air conditioning/heating pump system in your home. You can get rid of your oil heating tank, and you won’t have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning in your house again. New York State and the federal government offer generous tax credits for installing geothermal. We installed a geothermal pump in our home last year.
- Buy 100 percent wind energy for your home. We’ve been using wind energy for about 10 years. It is somewhat more expensive than energy generated by fossil fuels, but you’re helping to keep the climate cooler.
- Install solar panels. Like geothermal, both the U.S. and state offer tax incentives for putting a solar array on your roof. In our house, we hope to install solar in 2022, which will reduce our electric bill.
- Buy an electric car. They are becoming cheaper and more plentiful by the day. We hope to purchase one in the next two years.
- Lobby state and federal government officials to move faster on addressing climate change. The wheels on both those vehicles move slowly, it’s true, but if we don’t yell, we’re leaving an even bigger mess for our children.
The other day I told my teenage daughter I was sorry she had to live through the terrible distortions we’re making of the climate. She said, “It’s fine. It’s what I know.”
These words were not heartbreaking, but they came pretty close.
Since we can’t gather up the megatons of carbon dioxide we’re generating every year, pump it all into rocket ships and send them to Mars immediately, we’re all going to have to move faster and more forcefully to cut our carbon emissions.
Michael Gold has op-ed articles published on the environment in The New York Daily News, The Albany Times Union, The Virginian-Pilot and other newspapers.