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Andrew Cuomo Just Made a Huge Mistake by Playing Dumb on Climate Change

Mario Tama/ Getty Images

In the wake of superstorm Sandy in 2012, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo led the way in linking a rise in extreme weather to climate change. “The denial and deliberation from extremists on both sides about the causes of climate change are distracting us from addressing its inarguable effects,” he wrote in an op-ed after the storm. But Cuomo has been notoriously silent on what’s causing more extreme weather. On Sunday, he did it again. 

After a press conference, he linked last week’s catastrophic snowstorm in western New York to extreme weather, but he dodged what he called a "political debate" on the causes of climate change. 

"I don't want to get into a political debate at this time about climate change causes, et cetera," he said. "Forget the causes. Is it global warming? Is it reliance on fossil fuels? Forget the causes. What is inarguable is the result." 

Cuomo has avoided discussing the causes of climate change in the past, too. In that same post-Sandy op-ed, Cuomo scarcely mentioned fossil fuels. As Capital New York notes, Cuomo also avoided how human activity plays a role in his memoir. “There's debate over global warming, but surely we must all agree that extreme weather patterns have developed,” he says. “And most scientists believe these will accelerate in the coming years.”

Republicans regularly cast doubt on the science that human-driven pollution is behind climate change. Cuomo’s comments are no better. 

Climate change is not a political debate, after all. It is science. It has become politicized by special interests with a financial stake in greenhouse gas emissions—and by conservatives philosophically opposed to government meddling with big business. 

Rhetoric aside, there are still major differences between Cuomo and his Republican gubernatorial counterparts who won't acknowledge climate change. He’s helping the state prepare for climate change by investing in adapting its energy and transit infrastructure. He has invested heavily in clean energy like solar. He has even advocated for a more aggressive cap on emissions through a regional cap-and-trade agreement.

But Cuomo is still doing harm by ignoring the role humans play in climate change, because it’s impossible to discuss solutions without addressing its causes. As long as fossil fuel consumption continues to rise globally, the impacts of climate change will grow worse. And as long as Democrats and Republicans ignore this, the U.S. will fall short in cutting carbon pollution.