Transcript: Remarks by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on climate change at a Hurricane Sandy press briefing

Transcribed and edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript: Remarks by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on climate change at a Hurricane Sandy press briefing on Oct. 31, 2012:

“When I talk about we have to learn from this, I think given the frequency of these extreme weather situations that we’ve had – and I believe it’s an increasing frequency – for us to sit here today and say, ‘Well, this is a once in a generation and it’s not going to happen again” – I think would be shortsighted.

“And I think we need to anticipate more of these extreme weather-type situations in the future, and we have to take that into consideration in reforming and modifying our infrastructure, our built-in environment.

“This city, this region is very susceptible to coastal flooding. It’s not something that we’ve had to deal with historically with any frequency whatsoever. So we’re not built it a way that has the built-in protections. Other parts of the country live with flooding, live with flooding of rivers or coastal flooding, and they design their space that way. We have not done that.

“I think it’s a longer conversation but I think part of learning from this is the recognition that climate change is a reality, extreme weather is a reality. It is a reality that we are vulnerable.

“And if we’re going to do our job as elected officials, we’re going to need to think about how to redesign – or as we go forward – make the modifications necessary so we don’t incur this kind of damage.

“You know, the tunnels – once the water is over the banks – and I was out there that night and the Hudson River was intent on meeting the East River and it was coming right across Manhattan – it fill all the infrastructures that we have in this city. All this great infrastructure – which is below ground and, in many cases, was an engineering marvel that helped build the city – now becomes a liability because it all fills with water. We don’t have any built-in pumping capacity in the tunnel system. The electrical equipments in many cases is in the tunnel system. And now you have a serious problem, which is what we’re experiencing. And we’re going to do a great job building out from that.

“But I would expect a situation like this to occur and I think we need a systemic solution – long-term – because this is really a long-term issue.”

“Climate change is a controversial subject, right? People will debate whether or not there is climate changes, whether or not it’s a cycle, whether there’s global warming. That’s a whole political debate that I don’t want to get into.

“I want to talk about the frequency of extreme weather situations, which is not political. The frequency of extreme weather situations is way up. All right? We just went through Hurricane Irene just over a year ago.

“And there’s only so long you can say, ‘Well, this is once-in-a-lifetime and it will never happen again’ – and then it happens again. Then you say, ‘This is once-in-a-lifetime and I really – for sure it’s not going to happen again,’ and then it happens again.

“I joke that every 2 years we have a 100-year flood. The frequency is way up. It is not prudent to sit here – I believe – at this point and say, ‘Well, it’s not going to happen again.’ I believe it is going to happen again. I pray that it’s not; I believe that it is.

“And once you cross that bridge – if you will – once you have that recognition, then what are you doing about it? What design changes, what construction changes are you making to deal with it?

“It is a reality that, I think, has become clear – becoming clearer and clearer to more and more people everyday. But do believe the nation has arrived at this as a consensus? No.”

“We’re going to go through an exercise after this where we all sit down and go through a debrief and sort of lessons learned – just on that level.

“But my main point is a fundamental re-thinking of our built environment and long-term modifications that you might need to make…

“Protecting this state from coastal flooding is a massive, massive undertaking. It has to be thought through. It has to be planned. But it is a conversation that I believe is overdue and a conversation that should begin.”

“I think we all agree that this has been a very difficult period for this state, but as New Yorkers we’ve gone through dark times before and we know struggles and we know crises.

“And we come back – and we come back even stronger. We work together. We work as a team. We work coordinated.

“And the challenge here for us is not just to build it back but to build back better than before. And we’re going to do that. We’re going to learn from this. I believe we can improve the city, the state from this. That’s our goal and we’re all committed to that.”



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  1. Pingback: World Banks warns of dire global food & water scarcity, major economic disruptions due to climate change | What The Folly?!

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