The Trump administration, because it’s required to do so by law, released the fourth National Climate Assessment in November. It was released the day after Thanksgiving, in hopes we were still too stuffed with turkey to notice it. When the American people noticed the report anyway, President Trump told reporters he didn’t believe in climate change. Since then administration spokespeople have been portraying the report as “alarmist and extreme.”
Meanwhile, we now have climate refugees in our own country. Thousands of former residents of Paradise, Calif., who lost their homes in the Camp Fire (a fire made worse by climate change) are still camping out in Central Valley towns, with no real idea of when they can return and rebuild. In Panama City, Fla., which was flattened in early October by Hurricane Michael (made worse by climate change), hundreds of people are still living in tents in a church parking lot.
In my view, it’s not the National Climate Assessment that’s extreme, what’s extreme is the continued denial of climate change. The report is sobering, yes, and scary, but it’s better to face challenges head-on then deny them. Denying the reality of human-caused climate change is like saying, when your doctor tells you you have cancer, “No I don’t doc, it’s only a cold.”
The national climate report emphasizes in our region, the most severe effects of unmitigated climate change will be to our water supply, ecosystems, energy, food production, and health. Think about more catastrophic wildfires like last summer’s Martin Fire – the biggest fire in state history. Imagine Las Vegas’ struggle for water when the Colorado gets so low the city can’t withdraw water from Lake Mead. Think about our Sierra ski resorts with more precipitation coming as rain than as snow. Imagine the threats to our wildlife as ecosystems are stressed from heat, drought, and fire.
And since our region isn’t an island, we’ll also be affected by what happens to the entire world as a result of climate change: changes to our food supply, the increased spread of tropical diseases with warming temperatures, challenges to political and economic systems from drought, agricultural losses, catastrophic storms; challenges to our national security from refugee crises and resource wars. “In the absence of more significant global mitigation efforts, climate change is projected to impose substantial damages on the U.S. economy, human health, and the environment. … It is very likely that some physical and ecological impacts will be irreversible for thousands of years, while others will be permanent.”
Scary, yes. But rather than burying my head in the sand by denying the reality of climate change, I’m thinking about what the report calls mitigation — what to do about it. Here in Carson City we can make a big difference by supporting clean energy legislation slated to be introduced in the upcoming session of the Nevada Legislature. The more we switch to renewable energy, the less carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere.
Assemblyman Chris Brooks plans to introduce a bill similar to Question 6, just passed with almost 60 percent of votes, to require 50 percent of the electricity sold to Nevada customers will come from renewable sources by 2030. This would eliminate the need to wait another two years before Question 6, as a proposed constitutional amendment, must again go to the voters. And according to an article in the Las Vegas Sun, State Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson has said he plans to “introduce a bill that may be as high as 100 percent renewables by 2050.”
So what am I personally going to do about climate change? I’m going to get myself down to the legislature and support 100 percent renewable energy.
Anne Macquarie blogs about clean energy and climate change in Nevada at nevadanscleanenergy.org.