It is of enormous significance that President Barack Obama is coming to Florida for Earth Day. He can go anywhere in the county, or world, and yet he chooses to come here and underscore the biggest challenge facing the US and the world. On Wednesday, he will visit a Florida icon – the proverbial ‘canary in the coalmine’ of climate change, Everglades National Park – to speak about how global warming threatens the U.S. economy.
In his weekly radio address last weekend, the President stated, “There’s no greater threat to our planet than climate change.”
He went on to stress that, “The effects of climate change can no longer be denied or ignored – 2014 was the planet’s warmest year recorded, and 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have happened this century. Climate change poses risks to our national security, our economy, and our public health.”
What the President is simply saying is that we are all paying for it.
The Everglades ecosystem is vital to the millions of people living in Florida given the barrier it creates between fresh and salt water. Everglades defender and advocate Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who I had the distinct pleasure of meeting in 1988, coined it “The River of Grass.”
The President sees the Everglades as a symbol calling it, “one of the most special places in our country. But it’s also one of the most fragile. Rising sea levels are putting a national treasure – and an economic engine for the South Florida tourism industry – at risk.”
As scary and daunting as this crisis might be, the good news is that we have solutions that can really begin to reduce the harmful levels of carbon pollution while protecting crucial water resources. Florida – known as The Sunshine State – is the ideal place to speak to another one of our state’s resources: the sun.
President Obama noted in his weekly address, “Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008.” That is powerful.
The costs for solar have some down exponentially. Earlier this year, Duetsche Bank predicted that solar will be at grid parity in most of the world by the end of 2017. That’s because traditional electricity prices are rising across the world, and solar costs are still falling. They predict solar module costs will fall another 40 per cent over the next four to five years.
What’s more, solar is creating jobs nearly 20 times faster that the overall US economy.
What’s stopping it? That’s clear. It’s the people who make money – the fossil fuel industries – spewing carbon pollution for free. Yet, subsidies for fossil fuels outstripped those of renewables by a factor of 5:1 in 2013.
Due to the enormous influence of big monopoly utilities, Florida is one of only 4 states that still expressly prohibits by law for third parties to provide electricity.
There is an opportunity now in Florida through an effort called Floridians for Solar Choice where Tea Party conservatives, the Christian Coalition, The Republic Liberty Caucus of Florida, The Evangelical Environmental Network, The Florida Retail Federation – which represents stores like Walmart and Publix – along with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and traditional allies like the Sierra Club and the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association are trying to open up the sale of electricity to solar in The Sunshine State.
One way that each and every one of us can take action is to support efforts to open Florida’s solar market. If you live in Florida, you can sign the petition. No matter where you live, you can consider a contribution or volunteer spread the word. Do it today even if you do nothing else to acknowledge Earth Day.
I’ve been working on climate and energy issue since 1999. It’s heartening to know that the President will bring much needed attention to climate change and the Everglades tomorrow. It’s key that we focus on the readily available solutions so we don’t make things worse and that we do it quickly, preferably yesterday.
Like Marjory Stoneman Douglas said and I believe, “You have to stand up for some things in this world.”