Good leadership is important. It can make or break a community, a nation, even our world. As citizens we depend on leaders to establish policies and standards that make our community safe. They must balance the immediate needs of many while keeping an eye on long-term trends that will shape our future. It’s not an easy task and there are more opposing opinions (some with very loud voices) that you can shake a stick at.
It takes an active citizenry to help inform its leaders about important issues. After all, elected officials are simply citizens who’ve chosen to serve and won the approval to do so. They don’t get a crystal ball when they take office, so making important decisions that will affect society far into the future can be a daunting task.
There are some key issues currently under consideration that will affect us all, especially homeowners, for many years to come. The adoption of new building codes, energy efficiency programs, renewable energy standards and creative financing tools are all on the table, or perhaps, the chopping block. It really comes down to how we make, use and pay for energy. Since we live in the most energy-intensive culture on the planet, this is a big deal.
Let’s be honest though, no one really cares about energy itself, except for the cost of course. We care about the things that energy can provide or enhance: food, security, comfort, health, mobility. The basics of life if you will.
What is at Risk?
And therein lies the rub! The basics of life are at severe risk, paradoxically due in large part to way we have used energy. In fact, the risk from our changing climate is far more acute than most people realize. Here is but one example:
The latest scientific reports confirm large releases of methane in the Arctic, both from now-melting permafrost as well as from rapidly-warming shallow seas. It is one of many positive-feedback mechanisms that scientists have warned would result from a warming climate. Averaged over a decade, methane is over 100 times more potent than carbon-dioxide as a greenhouse gas, and gigatons of it have been safely locked in the frozen Arctic for millions of years – until recently. Like a runaway train that might still be stopped, correct and decisive action could save the day as well as our future.
If methane release from Arctic sea floor hydrates happens on a large scale — and this year’s reports suggest that it will — then this situation can start an uncontrollable sequence of events that would make world agriculture and civilization unsustainable. It is a responsible alarm, not alarmist, to say that it is a real threat to the survival of humanity and most life on Earth.
- Scientists’ warning, Arctic Methane Emergency Group
The fact is that many of the positive feedback mechanisms predicted by scientists over the last few decades are now happening. This is not regularly reported in the mainstream media.
A Post-Carbon Culture
The only action that will matter is a rapid reduction in the release of carbon into the atmosphere. We must move away from all fossil fuels as if our lives depended on it – because they do! Nevada must do its part.
Building codes that promote efficiency will enhance our community and provide the overall lowest cost of ownership. Don’t roll them back Las Vegas! Strong building codes contribute to the growing global image of the valley as an increasingly green community. We have been reinventing ourselves in a very positive way. Let’s keep up that momentum!
Renewable energy technology can and must replace dirty fossil fuels. Like coal, the artificially low cost of natural gas is only temporary, due to an unsustainable fracking boom that is both the mother-of-all-bubbles and the destroyer of community water supplies across the nation. We can no longer afford to ignore the impacts on the real world. Fossil fuels have long-received billions in government subsidies, but it is the massive environmental subsidies that are literally killing us, real costs that have become much too high to bear. We must ditch coal ASAP, but let’s not replace it with a commitment to burn yet more fossil-fuel in the form of natural gas. Given the information we have regarding our climate, such a move would be ecocidal.
Strong energy efficiency programs are key to the transition to a post-carbon economy (which is really the only economic option). We have the technology, the workforce and certainly the need. This is one of the most important steps we can take to stopping the runaway train. We need legislative leadership to make it happen. Put people to work building a future we can live with!
Creative financing options can accelerate the cost-effective adoption of clean energy and efficiency for homeowners. Let’s adopt them right away and empower citizens who want to do the right thing.
Policymakers are rightly concerned about the cost impact of their decisions, but there is much more to consider. Headlines declare that jobs and costs are at the heart of the debate. The real heart of the debate is our future existence. Extinction trumps all else, including the economy. I know we can commit to making Nevada a carbon-neutral state and thrive in the process. That is my challenge to leaders everywhere: local, state and beyond.
There is no crystal ball, but there is an overwhelming abundance of scientific knowledge that provides all we need to know about making decisions regarding energy policy. Good leadership is important. It can make or break our world. Please don’t break it.