Today I’m honored to join thousands of Nevadans, hundreds of thousands of Americans, and many millions of people around the world in the first global Climate Strike.
The Climate Strike is intended to raise awareness of the looming climate catastrophe facing our planet. We aim to compel bold, immediate action by governments to dramatically reduce and eventually eliminate carbon pollution from our economy.
Nevada has a lot at stake in the fight against climate chaos. Las Vegas and Reno are two of the fastest–warming cities in the United States. The Colorado River, main water supply for more than 70 percent of Nevada’s population, faces a crisis of declining flows and overappropriation. And our wildlife populations, from the greater sage-grouse and the desert tortoise to our tiny beloved Devils Hole pupfish, face calamity from the changing climate.
Yet greenhouse pollution continues unabated. In 2018, global carbon emissions reached a new all-time high, increasing by 2.7 percent year over year, after a 1.6 percent increase in 2017. We are actively making the climate catastrophe worse. Today.
The younger generation won’t stand for it. Action on climate change has been galvanized over the past year by the emergence of the Sunrise Movement, an inspirational group of young people who have taken bold, direct action to raise the visibility of the harms of climate change and take the fight directly to policy-makers. Their signature climate policy, the Green New Deal, is an ambitious plan to radically re-orient America’s economy toward decarbonization, sustainability, and perhaps most importantly, equality and justice.
So today, we strike.
We strike because policy-makers, frequently beholden to the powerful interests that profit from carbon emissions, have taken only tepid action to cut planet-warming pollution.
We strike because the fossil fuel industry continues its campaign of disinformation and obstruction to block necessary action.
We strike because young people today will face truly dire circumstances as they get older. And only we — the adults who have power and influence right now — can save them.
And we strike in front of the Venetian Resort on the Las Vegas Strip, headquarters to Sheldon Adelson’s empire, because he is among the chief funders of the Trump climate denial machine.
The time has long since passed for politicians to say, “I believe in climate change” and call it an environmental policy. Instead, we need to boldly take immediate steps toward decarbonizing our economy.
And while the most significant target of the climate strike is the recalcitrant Trump administration, Nevada too could take more tangible steps toward heading off climate calamity. These are outlined in the Climate Strike demands.
For starters, Nevada needs a transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2030.
Nevada’s current law, recently passed, sets the bar at 50 percent by 2030. This is halfway there at best. And, unfortunately, a sweetheart deal for NV Energy means that destructive, carbon-emitting hydropower from the Hoover Dam and the Bonneville Power Administration counts as “clean energy.” Our state’s plan also intentionally excluded rooftop and distributed solar from counting toward the clean energy target, putting small consumers and communities at a disadvantage.
Nevada needs a plan for rapid and complete decarbonization — a clean energy standard where every megawatt generated by the sun or wind counts, but hydropower, nuclear power, and credit trading schemes don’t. In the end, only raw carbon emissions reduction matters.
Nevada’s climate hero state Sen. Chris Brooks passed legislation in 2019 instructing the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to develop such a decarbonization plan. We hope that our strike illustrates the desire and need for rapid action and broad community involvement as we chart a future toward a carbon emissions-free Nevada. We expect a plan completed and ready for action before the 2021 legislative session.
Another demand of the Climate Strike is to protect and restore biodiversity, specifically by protecting 50 percent of the world’s lands and oceans by 2030. Biodiversity is what gives us clean air, clean drinking water, and the food that sustains us. And scientists have warned that we’re in an extinction crisis, with up to 1 million species at risk of extinction.
Nevada has made advances in land protection in recent years, but only 9.1 percent of our state is protected as national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, wilderness, and state parks. We need to increase that by 41 percent — some 28,700,000 acres — in just the next 11 years. That’s an area three times the size of Clark and Washoe Counties combined.
While that sounds like a lot, Nevada boasts a huge amount of relatively undisturbed wild lands – ripe for the protection. My organization, the Center for Biological Diversity, will be putting forward proposals in coming months for the type of ambitious land-preservation agenda that Nevada needs to protect our biodiversity and climate.
Are these bold demands? They are. We are experiencing the climate crisis, right now. And we have one last chance to avoid the worst of this catastrophe, which could condemn future generations to a hellish existence unlike anything humans have experienced before.
We must act boldly, now, to decarbonize our economy, to empower communities through a just transition, and to protect huge swaths of our landmass to save biodiversity. So today we strike. We hope you join us.