Michael Mann & Flora Cardoni: Moving Pa. to clean-energy powerhouse
Global climate change devastation hit hard in 2018.
From Hurricanes Florence and Michael decimating the Carolinas and Florida to deadly, unprecedented wildfires in California, those were just three of the 10 costliest climate-driven, extreme weather events of the year that killed thousands of people and caused nearly $85 billion in damage.
Damages from climate change were also felt in ways big and small across the commonwealth.
Extreme downpours drove flash flooding, impacting homes and businesses.
2019 is sure to be another banner year for climate change impacts.
Sadly, for the past century, Pennsylvania has had a major role in contributing to this climate crisis. For generations, the commonwealth has been home to a long legacy of fossil-fuel mining, drilling and burning for energy production, and today, Pennsylvania is the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the United States. Now, we need to change course and make Pennsylvania a leader in the clean-energy solution to the climate problem.
Fortunately, experts know what we need to do. We must transition to 100 percent renewable energy, with net zero emissions of global warming pollution, by 2050 (at the latest) to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. And even better news is that we have the science and technology available at our fingertips today to accomplish this task.
A 2015 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) showed that the United States has the technical potential to meet its current electricity needs more than 100 times over with solar energy and more than 10 times over with wind energy. This is one of many studies showing similar outcomes.
There is widespread public support to make this transition a reality. Recent polling shows that over 70 percent of Pennsylvanians support transitioning to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030, with similar levels of support nationwide.
That broad-based support is turning into action. California, Hawaii and New Mexico have all passed leglislation requiring their states to get to 100 percent clean energy. Here in Pennsylvania, some of our biggest cities and businesses have committed to 100 percent renewable energy as well. Now, it is time for the state, and country, to follow their lead.
Not only will going to 100 percent renewable energy help stave off the worst impacts of climate change, but it will also lead to cleaner air and water, safer communities, and improved public health. It is estimated that moving to 100 percent renewable energy would also create more than 380,000 good-paying jobs in our state and would save each Pennsylvanian more than $12,000 a year in energy, health and climate costs by 2050.
We envision a commonwealth where everyone has solar on their roofs, where wind offshore is powering our businesses, and where we all have a safe and livable climate to live in, free from harmful air pollution. This vision can be our reality. We have the technology, policy proposals and public support.
But the million-dollar question is: Do we have the political will to preserve a livable planet?
Flora Cardoni is the climate defender campaign director with PennEnvironment (pennenvironment.org). Michael Mann is distinguished professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State.