Opinion: Tackle the Climate Crisis and Fund a Resilient Future in Our State

Climate
Paddy O Sullivan/unsplash.com.

It is far from an understatement to say that we are truly running out of time to take serious and bold action against the climate crisis. The disastrous effects of rising temperatures and sea levels are already being felt across Maryland, including prolonged and deadlier heatwaves, public health risks from pollution and the increased intensity of climate disasters.

What is more, these impacts are highly disproportionate along racial and socioeconomic lines – pollution-inflicted health disparities have become a reality in our state and nationwide, affecting overwhelmingly African-American communities. The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis that has followed equally overburden our communities of color, and it is way past time that we act to correct these overlapping systems of climate and racial injustice.

Fossil fuel companies have ignored these warnings and continued to put profits over people, and our current statewide emissions goals do not do enough to stop the accelerating impact of climate change.

What is more, Maryland pays out-of-state energy and fossil fuel companies nearly $22 billion every year, which is bigger than our entire retail industry, and more than the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodations, food services, agriculture and mining industries combined. It is time that we retake our economy and ensure a future that is resilient, safe and more equitable.

Maryland has the opportunity to become a national leader in tackling deadly climate change, while generating the funding so crucial to help our communities bounce back from this crisis through education, green development and local job creation.

The Climate Crisis and Education Act, introduced in this year’s legislative session, incentivizes the reduction of carbon pollution emissions, and its passage would put Maryland on a common sense, practical pathway toward a sustainable, vibrant economy.

The bill – sponsored in the House by Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo, and in the Senate by Sen. Ben Kramer – sets new statewide, greenhouse gas emission reduction goals of 60% by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2045. It also generates billions of dollars for investment in clean energy infrastructure and education, while providing protective benefits to Maryland’s trade-exposed small businesses and its most economically vulnerable populations.

The World Health Organization said that air pollution kills seven million people a year, that was 1 in 5 deaths worldwide in 2018; 4.2 million of those deaths are due to ambient, or outdoor, pollution. It is abundantly clear that the climate crisis and the pollution that caused it is already, and has for a long time, been a present and deadly threat to us and our communities. The COVID-19 crisis has revealed that now more than ever we need real solutions that address existing inequalities and hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for the damage they inflict.

The Rebuild Maryland Coalition recognizes the sensitivity of this issue and is committed to fighting for the passage of this bill and the path forward in which we can provide a safe, clean and resilient future for our state.

–WANDRA ASHLEY-WILLIAMS

The writer is the regional director for Climate Xchange.