Las Vegas Sun

May 17, 2021

Currently: 64° — Complete forecast

Where I Stand:

Time is running out to act on climate change

Editor’s note: As he does every August, Brian Greenspun is taking some time off and is turning over his Where I Stand column to others. Today’s guest columnist is former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.

Growing up in the Mojave Desert in the mining town of Searchlight, I never understood the sensitivity of the environment — even as mining ravaged the beautiful desert landscape.

There were holes everywhere. There were tunnels. There were shafts, some vertical and some at various angles. But each was a disturbance of the desert surface. And, to top it off, 99 percent of the diggings produced no gold or other precious metals. It was mostly for nothing.

It was only as an adult that I began to realize the fragility of my place of birth.

Click to enlarge photo

Senator Harry Reid speaks on the necessity of immigration law practice as UNLV formally launches the Edward M. Bernstein and Associates Children's Rights Program on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.

Today, the Nevada deserts — along with environments throughout the country and the world — are facing threats much greater than bulldozers, shovels and unscrupulous mining operations. That threat is climate change.

There’s no denying the disastrous effects climate change is having on every corner of Nevada, our country and our planet. Even the beautiful Joshua Tree forest 5 miles from my Searchlight home is in distress. In the last few years alone, we’ve seen record wildfires in the West, multiple 100-year floods and a drought that left Lake Mead 4 feet away from a federal water shortage.

I won’t be around to see the worst impacts of climate change, but my children, grandchildren and countless families around the world will be. They’ll suffer the brunt of this crisis. They’ll bear the burden of cleaning up my generation’s mess.

We can, and must, do better.

We have a moral obligation to work together to protect our natural legacy. The time has come for the executive branch and Congress to support common-sense legislation to reduce carbon emissions, protect our environment and grow a clean energy economy.

There is no time to lose. If we continue pumping pollution into our air, my grandchildren will live on a planet 3 degrees hotter when they reach their 40s. Three degrees may not sound like much, but it’s the difference between a livable planet and a West dried up from drought and communities wiped off the map by wildfires. It’s a future where Midwest farms wallow under crop-killing floods and residents of coastal cities are forced to flee from rising seas. It’s a future we must do everything in our power to prevent.

Nevada has set an example for our country, showing that protecting our natural environment can also boost our economy. So far, Nevada has invested $7.7 billion in renewable energy and generated more than 32,000 clean energy jobs.

Despite our disagreements, Nevada politicians – Democrats and Republicans – have recognized and embraced the opportunity of renewable energy to clean our environment, create jobs and power our state with resilient, locally produced and sustainable energy. From protecting treasured public lands and setting aside space for wind and solar development, to investing in renewable energy and transforming the state’s sustainability efforts, Nevada’s leaders have delivered for the state by working together.

In 2013, I collaborated with Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, the gaming industry and environmental groups to double down on renewables in Nevada and phase out coal. The legislation wasn’t perfect, but it got the job done.

I’m happy to see that work continuing.

Earlier this year, Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a bill passed unanimously by the Legislature that requires 50 percent of our state’s energy to come from renewables over the next decade. This makes Nevada’s renewable energy standards among the strongest in the country.

And in July, I was gratified to see Nevada’s Democratic senators, Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, partner with Nevada’s Republican Rep. Mark Amodei on legislation that continues a critical tax credit for solar and other clean energy technologies. Letting this credit expire would be an enormous mistake, costing renewable energy jobs and slowing our progress on addressing climate change.

This collaboration on clean energy solutions is not only good for Nevada, but the whole planet. But this alone is not enough. We must keep building on these efforts if we are to slow and stop the onslaught of climate change.

We are feeling the consequences of our changing climate today. We cannot leave our children our having done nothing. It will soon be too late to act.

Harry Reid served in the U.S. Senate from 1987 to 2017, and was the Senate majority leader from 2007 to 2015.