Climate change is the single greatest threat we face. We are already seeing its effects. From the fires and historic droughts in the West, to the floods of the Midwest, to the hurricanes in the South, and the rise of never-before-seen tornadoes in the East. According to NOAA, in each of the last four years, we have suffered more than $100 billion annually in damages due to climate disasters. And climate change is just getting started.
Here’s the good news. We can solve climate change. We know what we have to do — electrify everything and eliminate fossil fuel use. Solar, wind, batteries, smart grids, and electric vehicles have already been proven to make financial sense. Much of the rest will get there soon. We just need to move fast enough. According to Project Drawdown, one of the leading plans on solving climate change, globally, there was about $600 billion invested into climate solutions in 2019. To be on a path to avoiding catastrophic warming, humanity needs to invest closer to $5.2 trillion per year into climate solutions.
This is why it is so critical that we pass the climate provisions of Build Back Better. At $555 billion, we would be closing the climate investment gap. President Biden must make good on the pledges he made at COP26, and many business leaders are relying on the BBB’s clean energy investments to make good on their own climate commitments. This legislation dramatically improves our path to rapidly scale the decarbonization of our economy — and to ensure that America is leading in developing, manufacturing, and selling of critical technologies that will be the foundation of a cleaner economy.
The world where we solve climate change is simply better for Americans. It’s more than just saving us from catastrophe, it will make our world better than it is now. With locally sourced renewable energy providing most of the country’s energy needs, we will enjoy a level of energy independence not seen since the early 20th century. We will no longer need to put up with the blatant corruption from fossil fuel-propped governments and organizations, from Russia to OPEC. With combustion-free engines moving us around and clean electricity powering our industry, we’ll get to breathe truly clean air. According to the World Health Organization, 7 million people die due to air pollution annually and 99% live in a place with air pollution. The haze from our cities will disappear, asthma rates will plummet, and lives will be saved.
One of the government’s roles is to set the rules of the playing field so that private investors can fulfill this critical need and get us back on track. The renewable energy tax incentives included in the 2008–2009 budget paved the way for solar to go from the most expensive form of electricity to the least expensive — in just 10 years. Imagine what we could do for the country and planet with a far greater investment.
Energy Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Energy & Sustainability writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.
Zach Stein is the cofounder of Carbon Collective, home of the Climate Index, an online investing platform that encourages long-term investments to fight climate change simultaneously.