Editorial: Effects of climate change will only get worse

The North Fork sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean and on a map resembles a bony, arthritic finger. Salt water is all around. You can see areas such as Hashomomuck Pond, where Long Island Sound is just yards away from the top of the pond, with the bottom of the pond emptying into Peconic Bay.

With rising bay levels in recent years, some parts of Jamesport, Cutchogue and New Suffolk and Orient routinely experience flooded streets and backyards with high tides that hit right at the full moon. Severe nor’easters in recent years have carved out tons of sand on the Sound side, from East Marion to the town beach in Southold.

Climate change and rising sea levels are no longer theories discussed by scientists in journals. Climate change is here, in our time, happening right before our eyes. The North Fork, because of its geography, is among those places in the Northeast that will experience significant property loss as sea levels continue to rise.

And they will. Those politicians who dismiss climate change as a Chinese hoax need to either be turned out of office on this one issue alone, or open their eyes, see the truth in front of them and act immediately in concert with the rest of the world. Willful ignorance is not a qualification for elective office.

In recent weeks, parts of the Arctic have experienced temperatures as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit. More than 500,000 people have been evacuated in California, Oregon and Washington during the worst fire season on record. More than 3 million acres have burned in California alone.

As this is happening, satellite images show that two huge glaciers in Antarctica are rapidly melting. Those two ice masses — one is 74,000 square miles in size — have already contributed to global sea rise; if they break off, which appears inevitable, and continue to melt, as they will, the resulting sea level rise worldwide will be measured in feet, not inches.

Last year in Greenland, in just one day, that land mass lost more than 11 billion tons of ice. This is why the saltwater around us is slowly rising.

It is too late to stop what has already happened, but action must be taken to keep it from getting worse. Think of the sharp rise in house prices in Southold and Riverhead with the rush of people away from New York City and calculate what it would cost if, say, 100 homes had to be relocated and major roads either moved or raised. And moved where, exactly?

When some politicians proposed a massive Green New Deal, critics said two things: The deal wasn’t needed, as the science on climate change is not definitive, and even if it were, the price tag for such a new deal would be too high.

Compared to what? The fires, the loss of hundreds of homes and entire towns, have already cost hundreds of millions of dollars, paid for by all taxpayers. Hurricanes that continue to slam the Gulf Coast add hundreds of millions more in costs to taxpayers, all of us. The price of these storms is already well into the billions — and hurricane season still hasn’t reached its peak. 

Climate change is another reason those who are eligible to vote this fall should vote en masse. Vote in person or vote by mail-in ballot if that fits your needs. But vote. Vote as if the fates of the North Fork — this beautiful land all around us — and, of course, the planet are on the line. 

Reject any candidate who pretends this is all a hoax, who politicizes science or supports someone else who does. The future depends on this.