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Climate Change a Difficult Issue for Some New Yorkers

A house damaged by weather and flooding is seen in the Broad Channel neighborhood of Queens in New York City, U.S., November 2, 2019. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs
A house damaged by weather and flooding is seen in the Broad Channel neighborhood of Queens in New York City, U.S., November 2, 2019. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs
Climate Change a Difficult Issue for Some New Yorkers
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New York’s Broad Channel neighborhood is an island in more ways than one. Politically, its population actively supports U.S. President Donald Trump -- in a liberal city.

But Broad Channel is also an actual island that rises over the waters of Jamaica Bay.

New York City officials believe that climate change is likely to affect the Broad Channel area. Yet most residents there are not worried about the United States’ decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had informed the United Nations of the decision. He described the agreement as an “unfair economic burden” to the U.S. economy. The process of withdrawal will take one year.

In 2012, Superstorm Sandy nearly destroyed much of the Broad Channel neighborhood. Since then, large houses have been lifted up. People move cars every day to avoid rising waters.

But many residents see the flooding as a way of life, and not a climate change problem.

“When we were kids, I had a friend on 12th Road, the tide would come in and out of her house,” said 59-year-old Marty Feeney. He is a former New York Police Department detective.

Feeney has been a Broad Channel resident all his life. He said he supported Trump and that climate change was not a worry for him.

His beliefs are like many others on the island of about 3,000 people.

“It would cost us so much money to do things we are already doing, to be in this Paris climate (agreement),” said Nicholas Pierro. He is also a 59-year-old retired New York police officer and a Trump supporter. Pierro added that he plans to vote for Trump again in 2020.

During the presidency of Barack Obama, the United States promised under the Paris agreement to take steps to slow climate change. Obama agreed to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

Trump has changed all that. He has celebrated growing U.S. gas and oil production. He has also taken steps to reduce rules on energy companies. He says these are just two economic benefits of leaving the 2015 agreement.

Changing currents

Events like tidal flooding are expected to become more widespread over the next 100 years in coastal areas because of climate change, said a report released earlier this year. The New York City Panel on Climate Change produced the report.

By the year 2099, “the entire neighborhood of Broad Channel will likely be completely submerged by monthly high tides,” said Philip Orton. He is a research associate professor at Stevens Institute of Technology and was one of the writers of the report. He added that now there is just regular flooding at the lowest part of the island.

Other residents who have lived with years of floods say they believe climate change is a problem. They say Trump’s decision to leave the Paris accord is a mistake.

“I think it’s definitely global warming,” said 62-year-old Patty Kissane. She explained how rising high tides have forced her to change where she puts her car every day.

Kissane said she supports the president’s Republican Party, but is not a Trump supporter.

“I totally disagree with him,” she said. “We should be fighting global warming.”

But some residents said they did not want to pick a political side.

“It’s kind of become a team sport, politics,” said 43-year-old Michelle Green. She is involved in local efforts to improve Broad Channel’s future. “If that’s your guy, you’re going to go with everything he says,” she added.

I’m Susan Shand.

The Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

burden – n. a weight that causes a problem

tide – n. the regular upward and downward movement of the level of the ocean that is caused by the pull of the Sun and the Moon on the Earth

emission – n. the act of producing or sending out something such as energy or gas from a source

detective – n. an investigator

benefit – n. a good or helpful result or effect

panel – n. a group of people who answer questions, give advice or opinions about something, or take part in a discussion for an audience

submerge – v. to make something go under the surface of water

global – adj. involving the entire world

regular - adj. happening over and over again at the same time or in the same way : occurring every day, week, month, etc.

residents - n. someone who lives in a particular place​