“If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute!”
That’s a common joke when it comes to dealing with the tempestuous nature of spring in Connecticut. But the reality is that climate change truly is changing the weather in the state, and all over the world, faster than anticipated. In one of their latest papers on the topic, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that it’s “now or never” to take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions and keep the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over the next century. Even that level of warming will cause major problems, but as the report notes, temperatures beyond that could lead to an unmitigated climate disaster.
Therefore, it’s reassuring that our state leaders have taken actions to combat climate change and protect the environment overall. Four different bills that aimed to fight pollution became law on May 10th. The most sweeping is the Connecticut Clean Air Act which sets requirements on electric vehicle and zero emission fleets, incentivizes purchasing EVs for regular consumers, and adopts some of California’s vehicle standards. The other bills set a zero emissions target for Connecticut energy production; makes solar energy more affordable and attractive; and offers cheap financing for commercial properties to make climate related improvements.
The impacts of climate change in Connecticut may not be as dramatic as the mudslides in Germany or the wildfires in Brazil, but the results are just as real. Connecticut could face sea rise levels up to three feet by 2100, which projected to lose up to 24,000 acres of land due to sea level rise. And it’s more than just the coastline facing challenges. Parts of the I-95 corridor, railroads and airports will also face increased flooding, even without storms.
State and local leadership are critical on this issue, because the federal government cannot always be relied upon to make the right decisions on climate change. During the Trump administration, the United States left the Paris Climate Agreement and doubled down on a fossil-fuel driven energy policy by promoting projects such as the Keystone Pipeline. Even now, while the current administration provides money and rhetorical support to stop climate change, the United States is the largest oil producing country in the world. The United States is also the world’s largest producer of natural gas; another fossil fuel whose emissions are key in driving climate change. So the messaging about climate change is often contradictory on the federal level and there’s no guarantee either that the next presidential administration will honor previous commitments about reducing fossil fuel usage and greenhouse emissions. That means it’s up to the states and other localities to push hard for change.
Connecticut now joins other states like California as an example of how state leaders can work in a bipartisan way to make the future livable for our descendants. With the lack of action coming from the federal level, we’re fortunate that local elected officials have taken on this massive challenge.
Fortunately, Connecticut is not a place where we have to convince people that climate change is real, but there is still work to be done to show how serious the situation is. Decreasing carbon emissions and making a more serious effort to shift to renewable energy sources are now a matter of our survival.
Jamil Ragland is a writer from the Hartford area. His work deals with politics, race and culture. Jamil lives in Hartford with his son.