Throughout 2020, we have seen the ill effects of climate change through many lenses, including the rise of a global pandemic, environmental racism and extreme weather events. If we do not take aggressive steps to limit man-made global warming within the next 10 years, our problems will worsen and future generations will pay dearly for our inaction.
That's why the 2020 election is arguably the most important election of our lifetime - and will have an extraordinary impact on future generations of Americans. The contrast between the candidates could not be starker, especially when it comes to their views on global warming and our responsibility to tame it.
In November, we must elect candidates at the federal level who have a climate action plan that addresses environmental racism and funds infrastructure projects to decarbonize our world. Put simply, our future depends on it.
Triple Threat: Climate Change, Racial Injustice and COVID-19
Before wildfires began to spread throughout the western part of the country, conversations about climate change took a back seat to dialogue about the pandemic and racial injustice. However, as skies began to redden and rain ash, climate change has once again become a top priority for many Americans. With so much turmoil happening in the country, people are beginning to discover how the three, complex issues are intertwined.
For starters, climate change might have led to the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic and exacerbated its impact on humanity. In fact, scientists have found that a loss in biodiversity, destruction of wild land and warming temperatures may be playing a role in allowing diseases like COVID-19 to explode.
Studies have also demonstrated that living in polluted areas increases susceptibility to contracting COVID-19. And, research shows that people of color are much more likely to live adjacent to plants and companies that emit hazardous waste and pollutants and breathe polluted air - a problem that can be described as environmental racism.
In response to environmental racism, many organizations and politicians have called for environmental justice, which ensures the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn and work.
Our Greatest - and Last - Opportunity for Change
Fortunately, we have the technology today to create a clean energy future and limit global warming. However, the challenge we face is mostly around policy and the politics driving our decisions, which are heavily influenced by the fossil fuel industry.
With the right mix of technology, financial resources and policy, we can launch a "moon shot" effort to fight climate change and save our grandchildren and their children from the most devastating impacts of climate change. While it is too late to completely reverse course, we do have a limited window of time to slow down the rate of global warming.
Federal funding is crucial to making widespread infrastructure improvements, especially in communities that need it the most. Former Vice President Joe Biden's climate action plan would direct $2 trillion toward decarbonization efforts in his first four years in office, which is critical to jump starting massive growth in renewable generation capacity and grid balancing. It is projected to create as many as 10 million new jobs. Biden's plan also sets a goal for disadvantaged communities to receive 40 percent of all clean energy and infrastructure benefits. Additionally, his plan makes explicit references to tribal communities and calls for expanding broadband access to tribal lands.
However, President Donald Trump has not released clean energy plans and remains skeptical about global warming and its effects. Instead, his plans continue to support expensive and dirty energy projects and technologies that are responsible for the high level of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. Ultimately, the choice could not be starker between candidates when it comes to protecting future generations from the harmful impact of pollution and global warming.
A Call to Action
The ongoing pandemic, protests over racial injustice and widespread fires have made it abundantly clear that climate change is present, and it impacts many different aspects of our lives. Although the situation may seem bleak, we still have a chance to help ensure the safety of our planet for future generations and promote environmental justice.
While people are at home, we should use our time wisely to urge our lawmakers to update the infrastructure in North Carolina and throughout the country, so that it is more environmentally friendly for everyone, regardless of race.
And, in November, we can vote for the candidates who will help secure the funding that will allow progress to happen.
Erik Lensch is the founder and CEO of Leyline Renewable Capital.