My Turn: A greener outlook

For the Monitor
Published: 8/8/2021 9:30:10 AM

It’s been 51 years since the first Earth Day and the intervening years have witnessed a polarized and politicized debate about whether climate change is even a real phenomenon — and if it is, what the causes may be.

At long last, there is a growing acceptance of what scientists have been telling us for years about both. According to the most recent findings of the Yale Program on Climate Communication, “a majority of Americans, 57 percent, believe that human activities are mostly responsible for global warming.” That’s a 9 point increase since 2014.

It’s difficult to argue with what you can see with your own eyes. New Hampshire, as every region of the world, is experiencing first-hand effects of climate change, from one of the warmest summers on record last year with its attendant drought to the record-setting July rains this year with flooding and road wash-outs. Our skies and our air have been filled with particulate matter that has drifted over us from the wildfires of the western U.S. and Canada.

The impacts of climate change put our citizens and workers at risk of unemployment, severe health issues and forced migration. At particular risk is our tourism industry, the second largest contributor to our economy that supports some 70,000 jobs. Changes in weather patterns and snow production are already negatively impacting this important source of revenue and jobs in our state. If something is not done quickly, these risks will soon become reality.

Fortunately, we know how to mitigate the effects of climate change: clean energy. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan will put $100 billion in funding toward clean energy development. New Hampshire should make use of this opportunity and secure funding for our own energy purposes. It could help not only protect our environment but also create jobs and stimulate economic activity in local communities across New Hampshire. Clean energy is the future, and we cannot be left behind.

It’s no secret that New Hampshire has long been reliant upon fossil fuels for energy purposes, with many of our homes and buildings using natural gas and oil for heating. Our grid operators have been warning us for years about the reliability of this fuel source. It’s harmful to the environment and increasingly expensive.

In fact, New Hampshire has some of the highest energy costs in the nation. To move away from our reliance on fossil fuels (and lower expenses) we should look to instead build out renewable energy projects.

New Hampshire already has some clean energy facilities in operation, such as the Stevens Mill Dam facility, a hydropower station that produces approximately 7.4 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy in a typical year. If we continue to build out green infrastructure like this, we can consistently provide reliable, cheap, and abundant power, not to mention hundreds and thousands of jobs, to residents throughout the state, enabling them to both lower energy costs and use energy that is less harmful to the environment.

While I am pleased to see New Hampshire’s senators and congressmen support emissions targets and clean energy development, they cannot transition New Hampshire into a greener era alone. It will require support from communities and the private sector as well.

We have a unique opportunity to share our ideas for clean energy development with our federal delegation and to develop a plan that’s best suited to New Hampshire’s needs. Now is the time, before the grants from the American Jobs Plan are distributed, to contact our representatives to support funding for clean energy development for New Hampshire. There are options that include solar, wind, hydro and smart conservation. We should explore them all and begin a blueprint for implementing these options.

Through clean energy and other green infrastructure development, I believe that New Hampshire has a great opportunity to get in on the early stages of an emerging and critical market, enabling us to reap a host of economic and environmental benefits. If we’re going to save the environment, we should do so in a way that also creates jobs and lowers costs — so why not look at clean energy?

(Jackie Cilley is a former Democratic member of the NH House and a former member of the NH Senate.)

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