Mayor Compares Threat of Global Warming to Terrorism

The New York Sun | February 12, 2008
By Benny Avni

UNITED NATIONS While he acknowledged that scientists are unable to predict its consequences, Mayor Bloomberg yesterday compared the scourge of global warming to the threat of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Although it is a "long-term" fight, he said, reducing gas emissions may save the life of "everybody" on the planet, the same way that fighting terrorism and its proliferation saves lives in shorter terms.

Addressing a U.N. climate change conference, the mayor also announced a new plan to reduce the use of tropical hardwoods by New York City and told delegates that the city plans to host a meeting in June of leaders from 20 major world cities to discuss ways for the largest municipalities to reduce global warming. Other participants in the conference called for a "war" against climate change, in which the United Nations would serve as a front-line combatant.

Mr. Bloomberg renewed his call, made first late last year, for taxing countries such as America that emit large amounts of carbons, which are believed to cause changes in the planet's climate. "So long as there's no penalty or cost involved in producing greenhouse gases, there will be no incentive" to meet targets set by international institutions, the mayor told the General Assembly. "For that reason, I believe the U.S. should enact a tax on carbon emissions.

"Terrorists kill people. Weapons of mass destruction have the potential to kill an enormous amount of people," Mr. Bloomberg told reporters after addressing the U.N. General Assembly, but "global warming in the long term has the potential to kill everybody."

Like smoking, Mr. Bloomberg said, these are preventable killers. "We should go after terrorists every place in this world, find them and kill them, plain and simple," he said. If weapons of mass destruction "get out of the hands of the countries that have them and get into the hands of terrorists, the potential is just mind-boggling," he added. And while global warming "is a much longer-term thing," he said, it "has all of the same potentials of destroying the planet that we live on. No scientist knows for sure what's going to happen, but you don't want to wait to find out."

Mr. Bloomberg announced that in addition to his initiatives to convert the city's taxi fleet to hybrid fuels, devise a plan for congestion tax, "green our buildings," and plant more trees, the city would curb the use of tropical hardwoods, which it purchases to the tune of $1 million a year, causing rainforest deforestation. The city will immediately reduce by 20% the use of such hardwoods, which are used in park benches, ferry landings, beach boardwalks, and the Brooklyn Bridge walkway. A new design study would devise ways to replace them altogether in the long term, the mayor said. The two-day conference, titled "Addressing Climate Change: the United Nations and the World at Work," included, in addition to members of the General Assembly, such stars of entertainment and industry as film actress Daryl Hannah and Virgin Atlantic Airways founder Richard Branson. Mr. Branson called on governments to match his company's announced prize of $25 million to encourage scientists and inventors to find a technological solution that would "avert a catastrophe" to the environment. "We need a war room," he said.

On another issue, Mr. Bloomberg told The New York Sun that the Fire Department of New York has had access to the U.N. compound on First Avenue, and "we think we have plans if there were fire" there. "The United Nations is making progress," he added. "They're going in the right direction, they are not there yet." Specifically, he indicated, plans should be made ahead of the ambitious U.N. renovation plan this spring. "Construction is always a dangerous period, so we're going to have to work very carefully with them going forward."

Jurisdiction issues have hampered relations between local emergency teams and the United Nations. Most recently, the organization declined to notify local authorities when workers got sick after handling boxes from North Korea at a U.N. basement. After the Sun reported on the incident, FDNY officials were permitted to examine the boxes and determined that mold was the cause of the sickness. "We are not here to try to take their sovereign right to dictate what goes on, on their property," Mr. Bloomberg said of the United Nations. "But given the interaction with the emergency responders in the city, we have to work together."