If you're a small blue planet on the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, 2016 was a pretty good year.
Yes, you were still breaking temperature records, but increases in the greenhouse gas emissions pushing your atmosphere to that breaking point slowed significantly and had been flat for two years. Renewable technologies made up 90% of new energy projects, with solar power alone growing 68 times faster than projected. And according to the Climate Reality Project, the cost of that solar was suddenly equal to or less than energy from dirty fossil fuels in 79 countries. We hadn’t won the day yet, but you could look at last year’s headlines and see that handwriting on the wall. That is until 2017 showed up with an incoming presidential administration that’s telegraphed a clear lack of interest in climate issues.
Faster than you can say “extreme weather event,” climate data was erased from the White House website, and a flood of presidential executive orders put the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines back on the table, lifted coal lease moratoriums on federal lands, and directed the EPA to rewrite electric utility emissions limits. Even international milestones like the Paris agreement to restrict greenhouse gases may be at risk.
And that was just the first month.
Today, an executive order was signed that directed the Environmental Protection Agency to start the legal process of withdrawing and rewriting the Clean Power Plan - a crucial step toward reducing carbon emissions in the United States. Its implementation is vital not only to fulfill the U.S.’s contribution toward the Paris Agreement, but also for moving the U.S. toward a clean energy economy, including the myriad investments and innovation that come with the advancement of a low-carbon economy. We’ve joined hundreds of other forward-looking companies across the U.S. in supporting the Clean Power Plan, and we hope that states will see the value of its successful implementation.
You don’t have to be a hardened activist to see that climate progress is suddenly in jeopardy and that those of us successfully fighting the good climate fight might not want to put our placards and petitions away just yet.
If these trends continue, our efforts to reverse them must endure as well. How else to defend the fresh water, food supplies, biodiversity, and other climate-dependent things that we depend upon ourselves? What other way to protect the communities of color, the elderly, young children, the poor, and those with chronic illnesses that the American Public Health Association (APHA) says will bear “the greatest burden of injury, disease and death related to climate change”?
None that we can think of. So back to work we go. And we go twice as committed to climate truth as we were before. Twice as dedicated to the climate cause. Twice as willing to do whatever it takes to protect our families, our neighbors, and our planet. Twice as hopeful that a bright clean-energy future lies within reach.
As forgiven as we all can be for feeling, shall we say, disappointed in the recent direction things have taken, that hope remains our greatest strength. It’s time to come together to gather that strength and marshal that hope for each other and the world we share.
Visit the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Climate Reality Project, and APHA to learn more about the inexplicable war on climate progress and help stop it in its tracks. And mark your calendars now because on April 22nd we all march as one. Keep yours eyes out for our team in D.C. And keep your eyes on the climate prize.