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Commentary: On Climate Change, States Must Take The Lead

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Mike Tidwell is founder of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a grassroots nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness about global warming.
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Mike Tidwell is founder of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a grassroots nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness about global warming.

The year 2012 was the hottest ever recorded in our nation's capital. We had a winterless winter; a flaming-hot summer. Indeed, of the six warmest years on record in DC since 1871, half half have occurred in the last 36 months: the years 2010, 2011, and 2012.

In Maryland, Virginia, and the rest of the country? Similar warming trends.

Scientists say the solution to this climate change is to adopt policies that reduce carbon emissions. But with Congress in gridlock, states must take the lead. California is moving forward with its own cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases. And this week, as the Maryland and Virginia general assemblies kick off their 2013 sessions, our region has a special chance to fight global warming.

First, lawmakers in Richmond will consider reforming the state s currently weak and broken clean electricity standard. Current law allows Dominion Virginia Power to collect millions of dollars in controversial bonuses without building a single utility-scale wind or solar farm in the state. Environmental leaders are proposing changes that could finally unleash huge new sources of carbon-free power in Virginia, including the state s first offshore wind farm.

In Maryland, meanwhile, a historic bill incentivizing wind farms off the coast of Ocean City appears likely to pass this year, thanks to the leadership of Gov. Martin O Malley. Maryland legislators will also be asked to mandate extensive new studies related to hydraulic fracturing or  fracking  a contentious form of drilling for natural gas.

There will be other big issues in Richmond and Annapolis this year: transportation, gun control, education. But honestly, none of these issues will achieve their long-term goals unless we also succeed on climate change. We could get rid of guns completely but we won't have peace if monster hurricanes like Sandy continue to strike. We could build new roads and transit only to watch our pavement, bridges, and rails buckle, crack, warp, and collapse from extreme heat, flooding and winds.

Our climate is changing. The evidence is all around. But so is the evidence that we can do something about it. 2013 should be a banner year for state-based, bottom-up solutions if elected officials heed the call for a cleaner, better, cooler world ahead.

Mike Tidwell is director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.  We'd like to know what you think. Tell us at WAMU.org/commentaries.

 


 

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