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Climate Discussion Takes Over New Castle Town Hall

NEW CASTLE, N.Y. – Climate change expert Jessica Haller came to New Castle Town Hall on Wednesday night with a simple message: do not ignore reality.

“Something scary is coming over the horizon. Something that we don’t know how it’s going to affect us,” said Haller, a speaker with Al Gore's Climate Reality project. “We probably do what most people do when they’re faced with challenging times. We get tempted to push it away. We’re tempted not to accept the reality.”

That reality, according to Haller, is that climate change is forcing hotter temperatures, bigger rainstorms, more floods, longer droughts and heavier winds. She said that the Earth is facing a “new normal,” where “once in a 1,000 year storms” are occuring more frequently.

“We are increasing the chance in which all extreme weather occurs,” said Haller. “In addition to loading the dice, we’re painting extra dots on the dice. So now you can roll 13s and 14s. We’re going off the charts here.”

She used Tropical Storm Irene as an example of an extreme, out of the ordinary storms. Haller said that many areas are not prepared to deal with such natural disasters, since they have never occurred there before. “People in Nashville didn’t have flood insurance,” said Haller, about families who lost their homes to a flood. “And it wasn’t their fault, they weren’t in a flood plane. There have never been floods there before.”

Haller then turned the conversation on New Castle residents, asking them to chip in and do their part in combatting the climate change. She said while reversing the damage may seem impossible, individuals can make an impact just by speaking up and facing reality.

“Speak to people, use social media, get out there and talk to people about a) this is the reality we are facing and b) there is stuff we can do about it,” said Haller. She said that change will not occur overnight, but getting the conversation going will have an impact down the road.

Haller compared today’s climate change movement to John F. Kennedy’s 1960 proclamation that America will land on the moon. According to Haller, the average age of NASA engineers when that goal was accomplished eight years later was 28.

“When they heard this goal, when the goal was set for them, they were in or finishing college,” said Haller. “The people listening to the challenge now are gonna be most equpped to get us to the moon in eight years.”

New Castle's Sustainability Advisory Board will continue the climate change discussion in the coming weeks. The board's chair, Beth Sauerhaft, invited those in attendance to come to her house on Saturday when she having a home energy assessment done. The board is also hosting a meeting on Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.

"We are having a meeting to sort kick off a new phase of sustainability here in town," said Sauerhaft. "We are canvasing community leaders and community members on 'what are your priorities for sustainability here in New Castle and how do those tie in to regional activities that are also going on?'"

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