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What's your climate hope for 2020?

Navah Stein, left, Saira Amar and Jase Bernhardt

Navah Stein, left, Saira Amar and Jase Bernhardt all weigh in on the climate change issue. Credit: Composite photo: Dianne Weinthal, left, Saira Amar and Beth Bernhardt

This decade is a critical time for the gathering climate crisis.

Scientists have said that carbon emissions must fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 for the world to have a higher chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additional warming beyond that, which is likely, will make impacts more severe.

Against that backdrop, the Trump administration has given notice that it will pull the United States out of the global climate deal on Nov. 4 and has rolled back environmental regulations.

Federal climate change funding increased $4.4 billion between fiscal years 2010 and 2017 to $13.2 billion, according to Office of Management and Budget reports. But the Government Accountability Office found few programs whose main purpose is addressing climate change.

Newsday asked people involved in the issue two questions: What's your climate hope for 2020? And what do you think must happen with climate change this year?

Here's a look at what they said — from a desire that "Long Island communities and regional leaders start planning and educating in more creative and holistic ways" to a belief that no matter who wins the presidential election in November, "There must be a commitment on the part of our government and public policy to take some sort of action and start leading a coordinated global response."


Saira Amar's climate hope for 2020 is about change on an individual level.

"My personal climate hope is to work toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals," said Amar, an Adelphi University sophomore who is the school's NGO youth representative at the United Nations this year.

The 19-year-old from Brooklyn will do that by buying more secondhand goods — such as going to thrift stores instead of "fast fashion" — recycling more, using fewer water bottles and "taking the train more, instead of driving."

What must happen is there should be more awareness of climate change this year, said Amar, who is an international studies major. "And that is why Adelphi, we're hosting our first-ever climate summit this year, on April 20."

It will bring together stakeholders such as the Adelphi environmental studies program, Food and Water Watch and NY Renews, with the goal of getting individuals to be better climate activists, she said. Climate change is an issue that applies to everybody "because we all live on this earth."

She said of her youth representative role, "It's been the craziest, most exhilarating thing," as she always has dreamed of working for the UN when she's older.


Navah Stein grew up in Huntington and has lived in Vermont for the past decade. During the warm months, she lives off-grid in a yurt with her partner, she said.

"My hope for climate for this year is that the Green New Deal gets passed, and that the president of the United States changes, and that we're able to move forward instead of 20 steps backward in the choices that our country is making and that the world is making," she said, adding that "it’s pretty embarrassing right now to come from the United States."

The 27-year-old was featured in social media posts by the Association of Young Americans, which said she cares about health care, immigration and climate change.

Her occupation is a little complicated: Stein teaches yoga, is a metalworker, public health researcher — and in June, she's starting a graduate nurse midwifery program.

She said the physical environment is obviously changing in Vermont. As she put it, "Loggers aren't able to do their jobs because the land isn't freezing."


"My Climate Change hope for this year: Long Island communities and regional leaders start planning and educating in more creative and holistic ways," Scott Carlin, an associate professor of geography at LIU Post, wrote in an email. He helped craft the thematic session on climate change for a United Nations conference in Salt Lake City last year.

"What must happen in 2020: For next fiscal year, New York State funds its new climate programs, defined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, with $1 billion in funding!" Carlin wrote. 


Miranda Massie is director of the Climate Museum, based in New York City, which seeks to create "a culture for action on climate" and inspire action on the crisis through its events, community engagement, and arts and educational programming. 

Massie said her climate hope for 2020 is that "as the global society, we align for the very fast, very ambitious climate action that is needed now."

"And what has to happen this year is a substantial uptick in civic engagement, and the reestablishment of American leadership on climate," she said. 

She added in an email, "Reestablishing American leadership on climate means more people voting climate, talking climate, and otherwise taking civic action on the crisis — in other words, more civic engagement. All of our programming this year is either specifically geared toward this outcome or strongly emphasizes it."

In the earlier phone conversation, Massie pointed out many people in the United States are worried about the climate crisis and think it's really important, "but aren't talking about it regularly or taking civic action on it."

"Readers should be encouraged to learn that speaking with friends and family members about the climate crisis makes a huge difference, and you don’t have to be an expert to do it. You just have to know that scientists agree, and that it’s not too late to make the changes that we need to make."

Miranda Massie


"My climate hope for 2020 from a political standpoint is that the Republican Party begins to shift its rhetoric to a more constructive climate action stance. And you’re starting to see that a little bit," said John Sweeney. Republicans in Congress just rolled out a climate action plan that has modest goals, "but it's at least something."

Sweeney, 33, is a New York City spokesman for republicEn, which advocates climate solutions from the eco-right. He's a party activist who is treasurer of the Metropolitan Republican Club, the preeminent GOP organization in Manhattan.

Climate denial or skepticism is common among Republicans. But there have been signs of change — one that Sweeney mentioned was Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, whom he described as deeply conservative and from the Rust Belt, supporting the formation of the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus. Braun formed it with Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons.

Sweeney said of the two parties, "We need to both come together, acknowledge that it is a problem, and have a public debate of who has the best solutions to deal with it."

A Tennessee native, Sweeney lives in Long Island City and works in real estate capital markets.

What does he think must happen with climate change this year?

"Regardless of how the election turns out, there must be a commitment on the part of our government and public policy to take some sort of action and start leading a coordinated global response," he said. "And whether that's President Trump doing it, or whoever becomes the Democratic nominee if he or she should win, that's what needs to happen."


Tela Troge of the Shinnecock Indian Nation said she hopes Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo funds the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, "and that indigenous people have a seat at the table as that legislation proceeds into a reality and a real action plan."

Troge said we all need to pay attention to what's happening with the water, protect our natural resources and mitigate the harmful things happening to our waterways. The 32-year-old is an attorney and activist from the Shinnecock Indian Nation who lives in Riverhead.

"We are a coastal-based nation, and we do see the effects of climate change, maybe more so than with other communities," as a small peninsula that's had erosion, she said.

"We are prone to flooding, we're prone to erosion, all these concerns that we have as a coastal people."

But the Shinnecock Nation has basically rebuilt its shoreline, including successfully planting sea grass, and can be a model for other communities who are facing similar damage from hurricanes and superstorms, Troge said.


Jase Bernhardt is an assistant professor of geology, environment and sustainability at Hofstra University. His broad climate hope for 2020: "I hope governmental agencies at all levels reassert the importance of environmental regulation and planning for a sustainable future."

In an email, Bernhardt outlined some important local stories to follow:

  • "How exactly will congestion pricing be enforced in Manhattan? Will it have a noticeable impact on those commuting in from Long Island and elsewhere?" The earliest congestion pricing can start is Dec. 31.
  • "Similarly, how will consumers react to the new statewide plastic bag ban starting on March 1? Especially Nassau [County], where paper bags will be provided for free instead, versus Suffolk and NYC, where there will be a 5 cent charge for paper." Suffolk's 5-cent fee for both plastic and paper bags resulted in 1.1 billion fewer plastic bags used in 2018, a report found.
  • "Developments in projects to improve mass transit including the Penn Station expansion, LIRR East Side Access, and proposed LGA Air Train."

Bernhardt concluded: "the general hope would be that these initiatives are successful and help change consumer behaviors such as less reliance on plastic bags and increased public transit ridership!"


Shweta Karmakar, who is part of the Sunrise Movement's hub at Stony Brook University, says her 2020 climate hope is to elect a president who will enact the Green New Deal.

"I want Bernie Sanders to get elected as president, since he is the champion of environmental rights and equity," the Stony Brook freshman said in an email. "The GND is one of the most promising environmental policies that I've seen so far. We need to take progressive action against climate change, and the GND achieves just that."

"I've seen really devastating statistics showing that we now have less time to halve our global carbon emissions," Karmakar added, saying she hopes that countries in the Paris Agreement "will do their part as well and cut down on their carbon emissions this year." While the United States will withdraw from the climate deal on the day after Election Day, a new president could recommit the country to the agreement.


Hildur Palsdottir of Port Washington is an environmental educator, mindfulness instructor and co-founder of ReWild Long Island, a group that replaces conventional lawns and landscaping with "life-supporting native plants."

"My climate hope is that governments [worldwide] start taking this crisis seriously," Palsdottir said in an email. She hails from Iceland, which does that. "Governments must start regulating and restricting corporations and industry in terms of CO2 emissions in order to ensure the shift towards renewables and fossil fuel independent economy."

"HOPE: we need enough political momentum to turn the tide on climate

ACTION: we need voters to express this need at the polls"

Hildur Palsdottir

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