By Frances Lamberts
Extreme weather events seem to happen so often now that the statistics on their consequences may no longer startle us. Last year they killed nearly 700 Americans in the contiguous U.S. and cost close to $150 billion in infrastructure damage.
Yet the heat-trapping carbon emissions which are steadily aggravating them went up by a significant 6%.
At its start, the new year seems to continue the trend. A freak wildfire around Denver gutted nearly thousand homes while, within the same first week, a winter storm trapped hundreds of travelers on ice-covered I-95 for almost an entire day in freezing temperatures, following some tractor-trailing accident.
New reports from the scientists at NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) reveal that 2021 and all of the past eight years have been the eight hottest years on record. The warming trend and its extreme weathers will be on “an indomitable march upward,” they warn, unless we stop increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mostly through fossil-fuel burning.
The context lets one appreciate many actions from the Biden administration to cut this pollution, seeking a 50 percent reduction by 2030 toward making the economy carbon free by 2050.
In one example, published in “The Hill” on Jan. 13, the Department of Energy will be hiring more than a thousand workers, a Clean Energy Corps, part of a “Civilian Climate Corps” the Administration would establish within its broader, Build Back Better framework.
The Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, had announced the new initiative, following an Executive Order from the President. It seeks, appropriately, to make the government itself lead by example through large emission cuts in the federal operations.
Consider that the government owns some 300,000 buildings and a fleet of 600,000 cars and trucks. The Clean Energy Corps workers will transition these to less consumptive – through insulation and efficiency measures – and less carbon-polluting green energy.
In all planning and execution, the Order states, the government will work with utilities, technology firms and other groups to assure that sufficient green-energy resources are available – and produced where needed – for the transitioning project.
It promises to be a boon to America’s workers. More importantly, given the federal government’s size and procurement power, it will be a crucial step in the fight to solve the climate crisis. As we have seen too often and again last year, there is no more time to lose.