The Trump administration’s pursuit of policies to reverse or supplant environmental laws that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions has made combating climate change difficult. But where the federal government refuses to lead, state governments will. For the sake of our future and the future of our children, it is time to put aside partisan interests and get to work.
Today, nations from around the world are in Poland working on a common set of rules that will govern the implementation the Paris climate agreement and report on their progress. The citizens of Maryland and Virginia, as well as all those in other states across the country, have a stake in ensuring that the agreement succeeds. The difference between continuing to emit carbon at current levels and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), as a recent U.N. report on climate change recommended, is millions of lives and billions of dollars.
We are already experiencing the negative impacts of climate change, as the recent National Climate Assessment from 13 federal agencies made painfully clear. The impacts differ by location, but whether it’s stronger storms and rising seas, or hotter heat waves and more intense wildfires, every state is grappling with the effects of a warming climate. This new report from the federal government confirms what we already know: Climate change can hurt public health and cripple our economy.
Climate change hits Democrats and Republicans alike. This is why a bipartisan group of governors joined to form the U.S. Climate Alliance. After starting with three governors, the alliance has now grown to 17 state leaders who have committed to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris agreement. We are united in our belief that smart, coordinated state action can ensure that the U.S. continues to contribute to the global effort to address climate change. Together, we are taking action to implement a range of climate policies such as lowering the cost of renewable energy and promoting the use of electric vehicles.
In our home states of Maryland and Virginia, we are experiencing rising seas, more extreme weather events, regular high-tide flooding and a changing Chesapeake Bay. That’s why Maryland has become a leader in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and passed a law to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 40 percent, creating a model for others to follow. And just to the south, Virginia has begun the process to reduce carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent by 2030 and recently announced its intention to significantly reduce emissions of methane — a greenhouse gas that is more than 80 times more damaging than carbon dioxide in the short term.
Our states will continue to develop our clean- and renewable-energy supplies. We will reduce emissions from fossil fuels. And we will make plans to adapt and protect our citizens and our coastlines.
But we need help. We call on leaders of all political persuasions to get to work and cooperate across aisles and across borders — both national and international — to meet the challenge of climate change.