Men with Cabot Oil and Gas work on a natural...

Men with Cabot Oil and Gas work on a natural gas valve at a hydraulic fracturing site on Jan. 18, 2012 in South Montrose, Pennsylvania. Credit: Getty Images

New York will host the People's Climate March on Sunday -- a globally coordinated effort to demand action to confront climate change. It is fitting that it will happen in New York, a state that understands the threats of climate change better than most.

Just a couple years removed from superstorm Sandy, New Yorkers -- particularly Long Islanders -- know all too well that we're already seeing the effects of climate disruption. Weeks without electricity. Homes flooded or washed away. Lives lost. And many scientists and experts insist that without immediate action, the worst is yet to come.

While many climate marchers will focus their energy on President Barack Obama and the international community, there is also a hometown leader who can take bold action now to stem climate change. It's our own Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has yet to decide whether to allow the controversial gas drilling method known as fracking in the Empire State. He says he's awaiting results of an ongoing health study before deciding.

Evidence shows that fracking contributes to global warming. If the process were banned in New York, Cuomo would become a national leader on climate change, and he'd send a clear message to the world that a future free of polluting fossil fuels can begin now. But he has delayed a decision on fracking -- the state's moratorium is in its seventh year.

Natural gas has been seen by some as a "bridge fuel" that might slowly transition our society away from antiquated habits of the past, but science now confirms otherwise. A study from Cornell University demonstrates that fracking for gas is at least as harmful to our climate as burning coal. Additional analysis from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading international authority on climate change, identifies two primary reasons for this. First, methane, the main component of fracked gas, is 87 times stronger in trapping greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Second, alarming and widely underestimated amounts of methane leak into the atmosphere throughout the fracking process -- from drilling, to gas compression and storage, to pipeline transport, to eventual consumer delivery.

We cannot dodge the climate crisis by swapping one dirty fossil fuel for another. We must reject fracking for natural gas and turn decisively toward truly clean, renewable energy sources. Thankfully, we already have the technology to do so. What we lack is the political will. This is where Cuomo comes in: He is still undecided, saying only he "will let the science decide." Governor, the science is in, and it isn't pretty.

Our state is at a crossroads. Millions of people throughout the world, concerned about climate change and the health and safety of our planet, are carefully watching Cuomo's deliberations over fracking. As thousands descend on Manhattan this weekend, they will be calling for a safer and healthier planet. By banning fracking in New York, Cuomo could move the world decisively in this direction while helping to protect our coastlines and communities here at home.

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Alex Beauchamp is the northeast region director at Food & Water Watch, a Washington-based advocacy group.


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