Last year, as families across the country struggled through the coronavirus pandemic, a barrage of crises compounded their suffering: catastrophic megablazes out West, flash floods and hurricanes that decimated the East Coast, and heat waves that killed record numbers of Americans in the Pacific Northwest. Nearly 80 percent of all Americans lived through a heat wave last year, and four heat waves in Massachusetts broke records. Climate change costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year — and countless human lives. This is not tomorrow’s problem. It is our reality today.
In addition to exacerbating extreme weather, US dependence on fossil fuels affects Americans’ health, particularly in disadvantaged communities. Reliance on oil and gas has also fed violent conflict and the coffers of oligarchs around the world, constituting more than one-third of all of Russia’s revenue in 2021. That same revenue has empowered Russia’s horrifying and criminal war against Ukraine. And while global oil and gas price spikes have wreaked havoc on families’ pocketbooks, big oil executives have taken advantage by raking in record profits for their shareholders.
But this is not the end of the story, it’s the beginning of a clean-energy revolution.
The challenges we face today present an opportunity for change that will benefit families in urban and rural communities across the country. That’s why activists and advocates of every age are demanding that we confront the crisis head-on with a new clean-energy revolution that will help lead Americans to health, justice, and security. Some of them will gather Friday at Tufts University for a dialogue about climate solutions on local, national, and global scales.
Make no mistake: President Biden and Democrats in Congress have already taken major action to lower emissions, promote environmental justice, and create good-paying union jobs. In 2021, we deployed the most solar, wind, and battery storage in United States history and made the largest-ever investments in clean energy demonstrations, power grid upgrades, and climate resilience. Last year, the Biden administration rallied automakers and the United Auto Workers around the goal of 50 percent electric vehicle sales by 2030 and finalized strong passenger-vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards that will help us get back on track after years of delay. In addition, agencies took action to address super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons and to increase clean manufacturing. And together, Congress and Biden worked to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will make investments toward clean drinking water, fund 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the country, and help replace dirty diesel school buses with electric vehicles.
Much more needs to be done, but this climate progress proves that an American-made clean energy economy is within reach. American industry and households can be powered by turning our wind and sunlight into electrons that cost less and do more. Congress can pass Biden’s climate agenda, creating millions of good-paying union jobs, generating affordable energy, and delivering justice for Black, brown, and Indigenous communities which have long been overburdened and underserved. The path to climate security will be paved by the innovation and grit of American workers — from a Civilian Climate Corps that will put 300,000 diverse new servicemembers to work tackling the climate crisis, to tax credits and a national climate bank to invest in the technology of tomorrow, to decades-overdue investments to secure true environmental justice. We have never been closer to taking the transformational action necessary to protect ourselves and our planet.
On Earth Day, the president told the country that his pen is ready to sign transformational climate legislation. Let’s get it done.
Edward J. Markey is a US senator from Massachusetts. Gina McCarthy is White House National Climate Adviser.