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19. Because Our Governor Isn’t Afraid to Talk About Global Warming.

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Illustration by Matthew Woodson  

There were more urgent matters, like restoring electricity to millions. But Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped back for a few minutes to confront the ominous big picture. “People don’t want to accept climate change,” he said, sitting in his midtown office 36 hours after Sandy had ruinously flooded his state. “But it is real. I believe it’s been coming for twenty years. We’ve denied it, and I’ve heard the same thing—‘No, it’s once in a lifetime. It’s never going to happen again.’ ” A disgusted shake of the head. “The frequency is going like this.” An asymptotic line traced by his right hand. “My father was governor twelve years. I can count on one hand the number of weather incidents he had. I’ve been here 22, 23 months, and I think I’ve had more than my father already.” A Democratic politician in New York calling global warming a reality hardly qualifies as a profile in courage. Yet it was heartening to have Cuomo, in the national spotlight, come down emphatically on the side of fact. Our mayor has been in the environmental-common-sense camp a long time, and has backed up his beliefs with pioneering policy and an endorsement of President Obama. But the governor will have much of the short-term responsibility for fortifying New York. “They say, ‘We’ll build a wall.’ Battery Park City with a ten foot wall?” Cuomo says, chuckling darkly. “Yeah—‘Let’s go walk along the promenade—we’ll call it the prison march!’ But there would be other things you could do.” Exactly what is a debate for another day. But if Cuomo sticks to his plainspoken approach on global warming—and follows through with smart, difficult action—then he’ll be doing more than protecting his home turf. He’ll be showing the country that Andrew Cuomo knows how to combine the political arts with hard science.


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