My work at NRDC has brought me to the front lines of the climate crisis. I have flown over the massive tar sands strip mines in the boreal forest. I have visited the homes of people coping with frack pads and wastewater ponds in their backyards. And I have helped my neighbors recover from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy.
But I have also witnessed the clean energy revolution that has taken hold in our country and across the world. I have celebrated wind energy with steelworkers in Gary, Indiana, seen solar arrays displayed across states from Massachusetts to California, and talked with business owners and city leaders who welcome the millions of dollars saved by investing in energy efficiency.
Never in my lifetime have the challenges been greater than those we face from climate change. Never have the solutions been more clearly at hand. We know how to defuse the climate threat. We just have to act now.
That is why I have written a new book, The World We Create: A Message of Hope for a Planet in Peril, with my NRDC colleague Bob Deans. American families, communities, and economy have so much to gain from confronting climate change and expanding clean energy. I wanted to help chart the way forward.
The book is a clarion call for the United States to become carbon neutral in our lifetime—to ensure that even as our economy grows, our fossil fuel pollution does not rise, and instead, decreases at an accelerated rate.
It’s time for us, as Americans, to state as a national goal that we’ll hit fast-forward on efforts to clean up our carbon pollution, invest in energy efficiency and shift to renewable power so that we will become a carbon-neutral nation that no longer contributes to climate change.
That means reducing our reliance on coal, gas and oil. It means cutting our carbon footprint. And it means strengthening our forests and wetlands so that we offset every pound of carbon pollution we produce by adding to our natural capacity to absorb it.
We have already begun slashing climate change pollution. More than 3.4 million Americans are on the job every day helping to clean up our dirty power plants, get more electricity from the wind and sun, manufacture more hybrid and electric cars, and cut energy waste in our homes, at work and on the road.
In the book, I lay out why we need to accelerate this progress now. I start by sharing my own path to environmental awareness and climate advocacy. I relay my firsthand experiences with the enormous toll fossil fuel development takes on our communities. I describe the Iowa farms, Detroit assembly lines, and high tech headquarters where clean energy is taking root.
And I make the case that the United States can shrink our carbon footprint to less than one-fifth its current size by 2050.
Now is the time to commit to that achievable goal. We’ve arrived at a hopeful moment of national convergence. We have a president who understands the stakes for the country, a widening business community that grasps the opportunity for prosperity and change, and a new generation of environmental steward united around the need to act.
The modern environmental movement exists for one purpose: we’re here to change the world—to become a place where we care for the natural systems of the Earth as if our very lives depended on them, because they do. That is not yet the world we live in. It is the world we must create.