NEW YORK (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday joined government leaders worldwide in signing an agreement to help combat global warming and keep the Earth's average temperature from rising dangerously.
The Under Two MOU, a memorandum of understanding signed by more than three dozen government leaders, affirmed New York's commitment to helping keep the Earth's average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius and committed the state to working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions about 40 percent by 2030. Cuomo said he hoped New York would be able to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by then.
"Climate change is an issue of society's sustainability. To deny that climate change is real is to defy reason ... denial is not a survival strategy," Cuomo told an audience of a few hundred people at Columbia University before signing the agreement.
The memo comes ahead of the United Nations' climate negotiations in Paris in December. Former vice president and environmentalist Al Gore sat next to Cuomo on stage. He said he hoped New York's commitment would send a strong signal to world leaders and encourage others to make the same pledge.
Cuomo said to ignore climate change "is gross negligence by government and irresponsible as citizens." He reaffirmed New York's commitment to address global warming and climate change amid projections showing a rising sea level that could eventually wipe out parts of the state.
"Current projections estimate that sea levels will rise 1 to 4 feet by 2100," the governor said. "If that is true, New York State would be devastated, it's that simple. Even at a fraction of that rise, Manhattan as we know it would be gone."
Gore said Superstorm Sandy in 2012 was able to gain strength because it passed over ocean waters that were about 9 degrees warmer than normal.
"The cumulative amount of manmade global warming now traps as much extra heat energy every day as would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs exploding every 24 hours," he said, adding that most of the energy goes into the oceans.
New York state also plans to bring solar energy to 150,000 more homes and businesses and aims to include solar technology in every one of the 64 state universities by 2020.
"Now is the perfect time for the state's aggressive climate commitments," said Kit Kennedy, director of the energy and transportation program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmentalist group. "The U.S. is tackling power plant pollution nationwide, countries like China and India have made groundbreaking commitments to tackle their climate emissions, and the international climate talks in Paris are fast-approaching."