As a result of global warming, young Americans today are growing up in a different climate than their parents and grandparents experienced. It is warmer than it used to be. Storms pack more of a punch. Rising seas increasingly flood low-lying land. Large wildfires have grown bigger, more frequent and more expensive to control. People are noticing changes in their own backyards, no matter where they live.
Pollution from burning coal, oil and gas is the primary cause of global warming. Without urgent action to reduce global warming pollution, children born today will grow up in a more dangerous world.
We can protect our children from the most harmful impacts of global warming by reducing carbon pollution and shifting to cleaner sources of energy. The United States has a critical window of opportunity to lead the world in this effort.
The use of solar power is expanding rapidly across the United States. By the end of 2014, the United States had 20,500 megawatts (MW) of cumulative solar electric capacity, enough to power four million average U.S. homes. This success is the outcome of federal, state and local programs that are working in concert to make solar power accessible to more Americans, thereby cleaning our air, protecting our health, and hedging against volatile electricity prices.
Year after year, polls show that more Americans are concerned with the pollution and quality of our waterways more than any other environmental issue. And after toxins in Lake Erie left 400,000 Toledo, OH residents unable to drink the water coming out of their taps last August, the need to protect our waterways is clear and present.
Wind power is on the rise across America. The United States generates 24 times more electricity from wind power than we did in 2001, providing clean, fossil fuel-free energy that helps the nation do its part in the fight against global warming.
American wind power is already significantly reducing global warming pollution. In 2013 alone, wind power averted 132 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions – as much as would be produced by 34 typical coal-fired power plants. But with the United States and the world needing to move toward a future of 100 percent clean energy in order to prevent the worst impacts of global warming, America must do much more.
If America were to take advantage of just a fraction of its wind energy potential to get 30 percent of its electricity from the wind by 2030, the nation could cut carbon emissions from power plants to 40 percent below 2005 levels. That much wind power would help states meet and exceed the carbon dioxide emission reductions called for by the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft Clean Power Plan, and help the nation meet its commitment to cut U.S. carbon pollution by 26 to 28 percent by 2025.
Power plants are the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. By implementing policies that increase the production of wind energy, both on- and offshore, America can help put the nation – and the world – on a course to prevent the worst impacts of global warming.
As international leaders prepare for the United Nations Climate Summit next week in New York, a new study shows America’s power plants dump as much carbon pollution into the air any other country’s entire economy except China. Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center pointed to the report as evidence for why the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal for the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants is a critical step in the international fight against global warming.
Environment Oregon Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.