We are past the point in the conversation where we need to convince people that climate change is having an impact. We need to act, but there isn’t one solution to address the climate crisis. A problem this big requires a robust set of solutions, and we do not have the luxury of rejecting progress while we wait for all of them.
As I write this, we have uncontained wildfires in the Pacific Northwest, Lake Mead is at its lowest level since the Hoover Dam was built in the 1930’s, and sea level rise is causing sunny day flooding in Miami on a regular basis. The climate IS changing, and if we are to avoid the worst impacts, we need to sequester more carbon emissions than we are producing by no later than 2050. Getting rid of carbon in our economy is going to require substantial changes across all economic sectors, will touch down in a wide range of communities and require addressing complex, integrated challenges.
For example, if we’re going to change how we generate electricity and what kinds of cars and trucks we’re driving, we will need to improve the electric grid and other infrastructure to support those changes. Getting all those pieces to fall into place will require a mix of complementary policies.
Congress is considering a number of those policy solutions as part of the broader infrastructure discussion.
The Energy Infrastructure Act introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is one of those solutions. The bill was recently approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with bipartisan support. It contains a wealth of provisions needed to begin to tackle this enormous challenge.
For example, it includes:
- Making our electric grid more secure and more flexible so it is ready for a renewable energy-powered economy,
- Creating pilot efforts to use former mine lands as sites for future solar and clean energy development,
- Eliminating a source of methane emissions by plugging orphaned oil and gas wells,
- Advancing energy efficiency – which not only reduces the demand for electricity but saves consumers money,
- Providing valuable support to keep safe, zero-emissions nuclear plants operating,
- Investing in carbon capture and direct air capture technologies that will address the carbon emissions from processes that do not have readily available, non-emitting alternatives, and
- Making investments to enhance drought resilience, sustainable water supply solutions, and wildfire resilience that begin to improve the health of rivers and forests and help communities better withstand the impacts of climate change.
These efforts will all help reach our climate goals, and all of them should be included in the final infrastructure package that is sent to the president’s desk.
But that cannot be the end of it. We will need more. We should view this as a necessary step to give us further momentum rather than the end of a journey. Thankfully, Congress is working on additional proposals, such as a clean energy standard and addressing wildfire to scale, that we will need to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
We need to think expansively and inclusively about our climate solutions. Even as we celebrate progress, we must waste no time in immediately asking, “What’s next?”
Our goals to address the climate crisis are necessarily ambitious, and we will not achieve them without the full solution set.