As a result of global warming, young Americans today are growing up in a different climate than their parents and grandparents experienced. It is warmer than it used to be. Storms pack more of a punch. Rising seas increasingly flood low-lying land. Large wildfires have grown bigger, more frequent and more expensive to control. People are noticing changes in their own backyards, no matter where they live. Pollution from burning coal, oil and gas is the primary cause of global warming. Without urgent action to reduce global warming pollution, children born today will grow up in a more dangerous world. We can protect our children from the most harmful impacts of global warming by reducing carbon pollution and shifting to cleaner sources of energy. The United States has a critical window of opportunity to lead the world in this effort.
The use of solar power is expanding rapidly across the United States. By the end of 2014, the United States had 20,500 megawatts (MW) of cumulative solar electric capacity, enough to power four million average U.S. homes. This success is the outcome of federal, state and local programs that are working in concert to make solar power accessible to more Americans, thereby cleaning our air, protecting our health, and hedging against volatile electricity prices.
America’s major cities have played key roles in the clean energy revolution and stand to reap significant benefits from solar energy adoption. As population centers, they are home to the largest electricity markets and can have an important influence on the way we power our grid. Many cities are already benefitting from smart policies that encourage investment in solar energy.
As of the end of 2014, 20 cities – representing just 0.1 percent of U.S. land area – account for 6.5 percent of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in the United States. The 65 cities in this report have installed 1.3 gigawatts (GW) of solar PV capacity – more solar PV than was installed in the entire country at the end of 2009.
Year after year, polls show that more Americans are concerned with the pollution and quality of our waterways more than any other environmental issue. And after toxins in Lake Erie left 400,000 Toledo, OH residents unable to drink the water coming out of their taps last August, the need to protect our waterways is clear and present.
Despite Progress, Pollution Remains
More than half of America’s rivers, lakes, and streams aren’t safe for fishing, swimming, or drinking.
Industrial facilities still reported dumping more than 206 million pounds of toxic pollution into our waterways in a single year.
Fortunately, Americans are taking action to urge decision-makers to protect our waterways. In a public comment period ending last fall, everyday people submitted more than 800,000 public comments in support of the Obama Administration’s plan to restore Clean Water Act protections to smaller waterways across the country, far outnumbering those opposing the plan.
Many polluting industries and their trade associations, however, oppose these and other safeguards for our waters and our environment, and these entities are deeply involved in our political system.
Indeed, many of the same industrial polluters dumping millions of pounds of pollution in our waterways spend millions on elections and lobbying decision- makers every year.
Using “fracking,” gas companies are drilling near our communities, polluting our air and water and risking the health of our children and other vulnerable populations. Fracking involves injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressures deep into the earth, breaking up underground rock formations to release natural gas. Blowouts and fires can occur at well sites, and drilling and extraction can contaminate our air and water, putting the health and well-being of nearby residents at risk.
Gas drilling companies are rapidly working to exploit the resources found in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, which extend beneath much of Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, West Virginia and western Maryland. Gas companies have already drilled and fractured more than 10,000 wells in the region, and states are issuing permits for thousands more. In this five-state region, permitted well sites exist within one mile of more than 400 day care facilities, schools and hospitals.
American wind power already produced enough energy in 2013 to power 15 million homes. Continued, rapid development of wind energy would allow the renewable resource to supply 30 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2030, providing more than enough carbon reductions to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan.
Environment New York Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.