You don't have to stretch the adage about all news being local to understand the implications for Long Island of big things happening on the climate change front.
Center stage was President Joe Biden's momentous infrastructure announcement, which included lots of ammunition for the fight against rising temperatures and seas. The president proposed spending billions on building electric cars and charging stations, offering tax credits for clean energy and transmission, making infrastructure more resilient from climate ravages, weatherizing millions of buildings for greater energy efficiency, and good old-fashioned R&D. That was in addition to other moves to step away from fossil fuels and embrace green energy like offshore wind, where Long Island will be a major player.
It's all good stuff that will have impact — over a lot of time. That's not unexpected. Turning the tide on climate change will take years. After all, it took years to create this mess.
The help probably won't come fast enough for communities already under siege, places like Montauk and Mastic Beach and Dune Road. Or the hundreds of individual properties where homeowners are erecting sea walls and revetments that protect their properties but destroy the beaches in front of their homes. Biden's infrastructure plan doesn't address immediate peril, other than a phrase promising "relocation assistance" for "the most vulnerable tribal communities."
Make no mistake: Relocation will be necessary in some places and assistance will be welcome.
Look at southeastern Louisiana, where rising seas are gobbling up so much coast that the state divided the area into low, medium and high-risk zones. The idea is to move people out of high-risk zones and farther inland to long-term safety — like the $48 million plan to relocate a few hundred residents of the vanishing village of Isle de Charles.
Look at the Florida Keys, where officials recently studying one three-mile stretch of road found they'd have to raise it 2.2 feet by 2045 to keep it dry. The cost: nearly $43 million per mile. Needless to say, they decided that was not doable.
Look at North Carolina's Outer Banks, where some communities with beaches disappearing at a rate of 14 feet per year have jacked up property taxes to replenish beaches but — what do you know — the sand keeps washing away. One tiny town, Avon, is wrestling with this existential question now. To keep its main road from being wiped out, Avon is mulling a property tax hike of nearly 50% on some homes. Some homeowners want the federal or state governments to help, but that's not happening; no one likes to throw good money after bad.
On Long Island, we need to be clear: The difference between us and them is that they are ahead of us on the curve. But it’s the same curve.
Long steps are necessary. Climate change is continuing apace. The loss of tropical forests and their carbon-storing power is accelerating. More heat records were shattered last year, and we experienced a record hurricane season. Two of those storms, Eta and Iota, ravaged Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, ruining corn and bean harvests and leaving millions facing food insecurity. That will only swell the numbers of migrants seeking to cross the southern border, many of whom have sought refuge in the U.S. from a decade of economy-wrecking climate-induced drought, many of whom end up on Long Island.
So we do need to win the long game. But we have to be ready to play the short game, too.
Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday's editorial board.