This month is a pivotal moment in the fight against the climate crisis. Our leaders in Washington, D.C. are considering a $500 billion bipartisan bill to modernize our surface transportation infrastructure and a second bill that would spend up to $3.5 trillion over ten years in other critical infrastructure including addressing the climate crisis.
On the table is the single largest government investment in U.S. history to support our transition to clean energy, improve our drinking water systems, mitigate the impacts of wildfire on our state, and much more.
Once we get to 2022, we are counting down the months to the midterms.
I am here to tell you: This may be our only opportunity to pass comprehensive federal climate legislation during this presidency and we cannot risk delaying or watering down this package any further. We must pass these bills and make large-scale investments in addressing this crisis.
Scientists tell us that we only have until 2030 to prevent the most severe impacts of the climate crisis. And after years of continued inaction we are already falling behind on making progress towards this goal. We must move boldly and with great urgency now.
Politically speaking, our window of opportunity is small. We have both a pro-climate action president and Congress. This is incredibly rare and hasn’t been the case in over a decade. We have leadership in place that believes and recognizes that we are dealing with and already paying a heavy toll for a changing climate and wants to do something about it.
But once we get to 2022, we are counting down the months to the midterms. Realistically, it will become harder to pass the type of comprehensive legislation we need to address the scale and the size of the crisis we are facing.
Also at play is the redistricting process.
The climate crisis isn’t coming, it’s already here: wildfires, extreme heat, air pollution, drought, and more.
Every 10 years, the Census Bureau conducts a count of how many people live in the United States. This information is used to determine how many representatives each state is allocated in Congress. States then draw the congressional districts, deciding how communities are grouped together and represented in Washington. Only 17 states (including California) have a non-partisan process in place to determine these districts. In 33 states, the legislature leads the redistricting process and will continue to do so in a way that benefits political interests and ensures anti-environmental representation.
With redistricting taking place across the country before the 2022 midterm elections, we can expect the field to be very challenging for pro-environment, pro-climate action candidates. Redistricting will likely shift power away from environmental leaders and we will have to work very, very hard to keep these champions in Congress.
All of this is to say, we must seize this opportunity while we have it! After all, the climate crisis isn’t coming, it’s already here: wildfires, extreme heat, air pollution, drought, and more. Who can forget the day when the skies across Northern California turned orange last year? It was an apocalyptic scene that encapsulated for many the challenges we face.
But while the scale of the problem is daunting, the opportunity to reimagine our economy and infrastructure in a way that centers justice and equity is within reach. We can help our workforce transition away quickly and securely from fossil fuel industries to family-sustaining jobs in clean energy. We can fund projects that will help California communities mitigate the impacts of a changing climate like expanding solar and offshore wind generation, and we can address our urgent need for improved drinking water infrastructure.
Our country and our state has led the way on climate action before. We can and must do it again. That starts by passing bold climate legislation in Washington, D.C. now.
It must then continue with a decade of decisive and transformative action at the federal, state and local level.
Editor’s Note: Mike Young is the political and organizing director with California Environmental Voters (formerly the California League of Conservation Voters).