By Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City
The “Dust Bowl” started in the Midwest.
For much of the 1930s, drought and dust beset our entire region from Texas to Nebraska. Temperatures soared, crops failed, and skies blackened with rolling storms of soot. This environmental crisis affected Americans from coast to coast.
Few know that a Kansas City editor for the Associated Press coined the term, “Dust Bowl” [source].
Even fewer realize that this June was the hottest in U.S. history: breaking the record set in 1933 during the Dust Bowl [source].
We face a real threat. Climate change is happening all around us. Climate Deniers who chose not to believe the scientific evidence need only to turn on the nightly news and witness the weather mayhem in every corner of our globe.
Carbon pollution contributes to an increase in frequency and severity of extreme weather. Over the last 30 years, the U.S. has averaged five separate billion-dollar disasters a year. In the last five years, we’ve averaged almost 11 [source].
Kansas City is particularly at risk from climate change. But for us, it’s not rising seas but rising temperatures. Heat waves are expected to become increasingly common. And with the densely clustered, heat-trapping concrete structures that make up Kansas City’s skyline and highways, the threat is particularly impactful. Kansas City is expected to see 20 more days above 90 degrees than nearby rural areas [source]. This increase in temperature threatens the health of our more vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly.
The costs of carbon pollution and aftermath of extreme weather weigh on city and state budgets.
Carbon pollution has been linked as a trigger to asthma attacks and exposure to particle pollution can increase the risk of developing diabetes. Altogether, it is estimated that pollution in the U.S. can shorten one’s life by three years.
We face a real problem. But here in Kansas City, we have accepted the challenge to do our part in finding a solution.
That’s because climate action — like sustainability, clean energy and energy efficiency — does more than cut carbon pollution and combat climate change. It drives innovation, creates jobs and saves money.
Today, 52,000 Missourians work in clean energy—and that number is growing. In fact, Missouri is expected to be a national leader in clean energy job growth, with more than 8% growth this year alone [source].
That’s a huge boost to our economy.
Clean energy is also saving money. Thanks to investment in wind and solar power, KC Power and Light will save billions for consumers.
To help establish sustainability and clean energy for Kansas City, city hall has taken action. New benchmarking ordinances encourage municipal and commercial buildings to invest in energy efficiency. In Jefferson City, I am proud to lead the charge for more renewable energy throughout our state.
But while local action is incredibly important and valuable, national action is vital. Climate change is too big for any one city—no matter how great it is. That’s why the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan is so crucial.
Theodore Roosevelt took action at the turn of the 20th Century to preserve our national heritage by expanding our National Park system. It is time our generation to step up and once again discover the political will to address this crisis. The Clean Power Plan may not be perfect policy but it is the best shot we have to solve the problem.
Finalized one year ago, the Clean Power Plan sets the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from U.S. power plants and encourages investments in clean energy. Developed with flexibility so states can cut carbon pollution while taking advantage of their unique strengths, the Clean Power Plan is a big win for our public health and our economy. By 2030, the common sense, clean air standards will prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 asthma attacks in children—and generate $54 billion in public health and climate benefits a year.
There are forces in the country that demonize the EPA in hopes that they can damage public support for the agency in order to maintain the status quo. Industry interests – and their political allies – have tried to stop the Clean Power Plan from being implemented. The profits of polluters shouldn’t come before the health and wellbeing of our communities. The majority of Missourians and other Americans agree and are united in their support for climate action.
During the Dust Bowl, our grandparents and great grandparents faced an environmental threat. Today, we once again need to take action. We have the tools to address it, but we need to exercise the political will to meet the challenge. By promoting sustainability and clean energy we can drive innovation, create jobs, and save taxpayer dollars. We must act, otherwise, history may repeat itself.