Las Vegas Sun

July 21, 2019

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We cannot afford to ignore climate science

As he does every summer, Brian Greenspun is taking some time off and is turning over his Where I Stand column to others. Today’s guest columnist is U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.

This month, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled its plan to reverse an Obama-era rule designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal fired power plants.

The Trump administration’s own analysis of its new plan states that it will increase carbon emissions and result in an additional 1,400 premature deaths by 2030 due to diminished air quality. Yet during a recent rally, Trump touted this new rule that leaves some of our country’s biggest polluters to regulate themselves or choose to not regulate their emissions at all. This is on top of the Trump administration’s announcement to roll back federal clean car standards that would reduce vehicle emissions and increase fuel efficiency for new vehicles.

There is an overwhelming consensus amongst scientists across the United States, and the world, that human contributions have magnified the effects of climate change and increased the risks it poses to humans and our planet. Nonetheless, this administration seems to have little respect for scientists, data, facts or common sense. Both the Department of the Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have disbanded their climate science advisory committees altogether, and there have been numerous disturbing reports of this administration attempting to hide climate science information from public view. Not heeding the findings and advice of scientists is unwise at best and at worst, it puts our planet and our children in danger.

In Nevada, we don’t need to read a scientific report to see the effects of climate change. It is already in our own backyard. Dozens of fires have raged through Northern California and Nevada this summer, producing a blanket of smoke in the region and contributing to some of the worst air pollution levels ever recorded. This unhealthy air quality reached the equivalent of smoking multiple cigarettes a day. The last three years have been the hottest ever recorded — and we’re on track to break that record again in 2018. The heat is causing earlier snowmelts in the Sierra Nevada mountains and is creating longer and drier wildfire seasons.

Yet despite the overwhelming evidence of the irreparable harm posed by climate change, the Trump administration has repeatedly shown that it is willing to ignore science and belittle hardworking scientists in favor of polluters that exploit the environment for profit.

If we wish to leave a safer, cleaner world for our children and grandchildren, we need to listen to those who have dedicated their lives to the science behind preserving our planet, and we need to recognize what their research is telling us; that we need to protect our air, water and public lands by moving toward a clean energy future.

Climate researchers continue to highlight the necessity of developing and utilizing renewable energy. For this reason, I have co-sponsored bills such as the Clean Energy for America Act, which will create new tax credits to incentivize renewable energy innovation across the board, and the Advancing Grid Storage Act, which aims to improve and accelerate deployment of personal energy storage technologies necessary to support intermittent renewable energy generators, like wind or roof-top solar.

Businesses across Nevada are showing the nation that investing in clean energy creates jobs and is good for our state’s economic development, while also helping move us toward more responsible solutions to better protect our environment. I also am proud to have supported a bipartisan measure that increased or matched funding for crucial environmental and science programs, protected scientists at federal agencies from buyouts and renewed important clean energy development and conservation grant programs.

I am committed to fight for common sense measures to support our scientific community and protect our common home. I am confident that we can protect our environment while also bolstering our economy and creating jobs through clean energy development, environmental tourism and conservation efforts. We have a duty to conserve resources, protect our public lands, preserve our beautiful natural wonders for future generations to enjoy, and fight to protect the most vulnerable and marginalized among us, who often bear the brunt of the effects of unchecked climate change. We cannot ignore the science of climate change and we should not trust those who tell us we must prioritize a few polluters over our health, our air and our clean energy jobs of the future.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016, and is the former attorney general for the state of Nevada.