By Sonia Rangel
Climate change is happening NOW, and it is making natural disasters worse.
Right at this moment, whether we want to believe it or not, it is threatening our health, our economy, and ultimately, our future. Much of what we love is at stake, from simple, pleasurable drinks such as coffee and beer to the ability to breathe fresh air or live in a coastal city.
But things don’t have to be this way.
The solution is to work as a society to shape a 100% clean energy economy that by 2050, produces no more carbon emissions than we can remove. This is truly possible and within our reach if lawmakers in Washington make it a priority.
Contrary to what most people think, a 100% clean energy economy — that is to say, an economy where we produce no more climate pollution than we can remove — is completely doable.
In the past decade alone, solar energy prices have been reduced by nearly 90%, and wind power is nearly 70% cheaper. Over 4 million Americans currently have jobs related to wind power, solar energy, energy efficiency, or other sources of clean energy. In fact, there are 160,000 more workers in the clean energy industry than there are in the coal industry.
And while a 100% clean economy should place heavy emphasis on the use of zero-carbon energy sources, science makes it clear that a 100% clean economy requires that we do more — that we also find ways to take climate pollution out of the air. That means everything from using innovative carbon capture technology to rewarding farmers for protecting forests, the major original carbon sinks.
The effects of climate change are real, and we experience serious consequences in this country day after day. In the past year alone, farmers and communities in the Midwest were severely affected by historic flooding that will cost at least US$3 billion.
In California, for example, we saw unprecedented wildfires last year; the Camp Fire took the lives of 85 people and left over 10,000 structures destroyed. Meanwhile, hurricanes decimated coastal cities throughout the South, making 2018 one of the worst years ever recorded. Hurricane Florence made landfall in the Carolinas, causing 52 fatalities and damages that exceeded US$60 billion.
In my home state of Texas, we can see the impacts of climate change firsthand, as well.
The city of Austin, where I lived in college, suffers from 40 more days with temperatures above 100 degrees fahrenheit than fifty years ago. And my hometown, El Paso, is the 9th fastest warming city in the country. Throughout our state, there are approximately 840,000 people who are especially vulnerable to extreme heat. The state’s economy runs on un-clean energy that will only put these innocent communities in a more precarious situation.
I must add that California is not the only state ravaged by wildfires.
The fluctuating periods of high precipitation and intense drought are linked to increased wildfire activity throughout the Lone Star State. Texas ranks 1st in many great things, but it is also first among U.S. states in the severity of widespread summer drought.
As if this was not enough, 192,000 people in the state are at risk of experiencing the impacts of what is known as the “100-year flood” for the second time from Tropical Storm Imelda this past week and 2 years prior with Hurricane Harvey.
Two major climate reports published in 2018, the United States National Climate Assessment and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report, established the serious state of our climate trajectory. We have limited time to work together and quickly move toward taking real action that will prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
Every day, women, children, minority communities, and low-income communities are disproportionately affected by climate change. A 100% clean energy economy will protect not only our collective future but also our most vulnerable neighbors, workers, and farmers, allowing the creation of an economy low in carbon that works for everyone.
Our planet cannot wait; the future and well-being of current and future generations are at stake. It’s time for Congressman Marc Veasy, Congressman Al Green, and Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher to support a 100% clean energy economy.
In fact, Congressman Donald McEachin plans to introduce a bill that would provide a way to transition to a clean energy economy throughout the United States by 2050. It is a realistic bill that deserves to be supported. The well-being and future of our families and nation depend on plans such as this.
Sonia Rangel, raised in El Paso, Texas, by Mexican immigrant parents, is the Chief Operating Officer at Corazón Latino, a conservation/environmental nonprofit based in Washington D.C. Rangel began her career working for grassroots nonprofits in El Paso which were dedicated to serving underrepresented communities. She holds a BA in History from the University of Texas in Austin and a MPA and Masters in International Relations at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.