Could Western New York turn climate change into an economic advantage?

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(WIVB) – As more of our lives are caught up in the effects of climate change, there is growing evidence that Buffalo could come out better than other cities that are confronting this force of nature.

Location seems to be a major factor.

Scientific models of weather patterns are showing the Great Lakes Region as a force for moderating climate change like no other in the country.

That is leading public officials to link cities such as buffalo to terms such as “Climate change sanctuary” or “Climate refuge.”

It is a rare moment that Western New Yorkers have to concern themselves with nature’s most destructive disasters – hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, massive floods – but scientists are predicting climate change will take a less destructive toll here.

“What we are expecting to see is more extreme weather, possibly more lake effect snow, more windstorms, flooding, heat waves,” said Professor Holly Buck of the University at Buffalo.

Buck is a professor of environment and sustainability at UB. She told us that the absence of drought, which has led to emergencies in other parts of the country, could provide an opportunity for Western New York, and other cities on the Great Lakes.

“This would be a great area for manufacturing in terms of electric vehicles parts, batteries, hydrogen,” Professor Buck said. “We are going to need to build so much stuff to try to transform our systems, and buffalo could really be at the center of that.”

A growing number of public officials believe we are already seeing evidence of that, such as Buffalo and Erie County’s first population growth in 70 years.

“I guarantee you, it is going to continue to grow,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Monday during Sen. Chuck Schumer’s announcement that Western New York could be in line for a piece of the billion dollar Great Lakes Initiative. “Why? Because we have the water.”

Poloncarz and others are predicting Buffalo becoming a “Climate refuge” or oasis.

“In the 1970s Lake Erie was considered a dead lake, and 1970 was the last time that Erie County’s population had actually grown,” he said. “The Great Lakes support more than 51 million jobs, between the U.S. and Canada, generates billions of dollars in wages throughout the U.S. and Canada, and we must protect them,” Sen. Schumer said.

Buffalo has advantages over other Great Lakes cities for “Climate refuge” because it is on the far side of the Great Lakes Basin, keeping temperatures down.

The Queen City is also far from rising sea levels unlike the cities along the sea coasts.

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