Last Friday, the U.S. government dropped perhaps the most consequential and report of the year. For all President Donald Trump’s huffing and puffing and threatening to “shut it down” over his fear-mongering of immigrants, the top national security threat isn’t actually at the border. Rather, the threat lies in our homes, our cars, our power plants, and our ongoing struggle to face the brutal reality of climate change.
Remember that U.N. report? Now, the U.S. government officially agrees.
Last month the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that we only have 12 years left to keep the global average temperature rise at 1.5°C (or 2.7°F), or else risk catastrophic levels of permafrost and polar ice cap melting, extreme heatwaves, species loss, and additional threats to our very survival. Despite this dire warning, Trump and his administration have continued to deny the reality of climate change and promote policies that will exacerbate rather than mitigate this disaster.
Needless to say, last Friday’s report from the federal government was incredibly awkward for the White House to acknowledge. For one, the new National Climate Assessment completely contradicts Trump’s talking points in explaining how unchecked climate change may cause greater damage to the U.S. economy by 2100 than the Great Recession did ten years ago. And just hours after Trump himself tweeted that cold weather somehow disproves climate change (a claim that was long ago debunked), the report concludes that the global average temperature may rise by 5°C (or 9°F) or more by the end of this century without significant action to cut fossil fuel emissions.
In addition, the new report notes how the Trump administration’s preferred approach to climate change (as in, pretend it doesn’t exist while exacerbating the underlying problem of fossil fuel emissions) will cost Americans over $500 billion per year in sickness, death, property damage, loss of worker productivity, and additional damages. We’re already getting a taste of this as California suffers another horrifying wildfire season and the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard face greater threat from more intense hurricanes, so imagine how our country will be affected by even worse natural disasters becoming “the new normal” in the next 80 years.
What can we do about it?
With Democrats set to take control of the U.S. House in January, progressive environmental activists are already turning up the heat on Democratic leaders to make climate action a top priority. Yet while House Democrats will have a more powerful platform to advance climate solutions (should they choose to use it), there’s probably only so much they can actually pass into law with Trump still occupying the White House.
This is why environmentalists are looking to state and local policymakers to make a difference. Here in Nevada, voters showed how interested they are in taking action by passing Question 6 by a hefty 18.56% margin. If it passes again in 2020, Nevada will update its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to require that utilities provide at least 50% renewable sourced electricity to consumers by 2030.
However, there’s a chance that the Nevada Legislature will jump ahead of Question 6 and pass their own RPS bill next year. In addition, the Legislature may consider additional bills to update the state’s energy efficiency standards and expand access to community solar programs.
As both the U.N. and U.S. government reports now confirm, climate change is a very real problem in need of very real solutions. While it remains to be seen whether the federal government acts on its own report in the next year, Nevada and other states have the opportunity to take action sooner. And considering the increasing severity of our climate problem, time probably won’t be a renewable resource.