As Granite Staters peered up last week, their eyes were met with a hazy, copper sky from the smoke of Western wildfires that have raged for over a month.
More than 3.3 million acres have burned, an area four times larger than the entirety of White Mountain National Forest, while communities in the South simultaneously brace for yet another devastating hurricane season. While these plumes of smoke traveled over 3,000 miles to remind us of what’s happening to our friends and family out West, New Hampshire has been experiencing the damaging effects of climate change all summer and well before this year. No matter what any elected official may claim, the science is clear – and ignoring it has perilous consequences.
The Appalachian Mountain Club has documented how snowpack in New Hampshire is no longer as deep and melts much more quickly each spring. This rapid melting not only cuts our winter sports industries short and causes damaging flooding, but also means there is less water melting off the mountains and replenishing our waterways as we head into summer.
Now, nearly 75% of our state is currently experiencing severe drought conditions that have worsened throughout the summer after beginning in May. These dry conditions put enormous stress on our forests and our farmers, leading to lower timber harvests and crop yields, taking a bite out of their bottom lines. In particular, our dairy farmers who work along the Merrimack and Connecticut Rivers have seen water levels fall to record lows. Wells are running dry and towns across the state are imposing water use restrictions to ensure that communities can meet their basic water needs. From floods to drought, climate change is creating disruption with extreme weather events.
While the negative impacts of this summer’s drought are having visible and immediate effects on our state and economy, climate change has been altering our way of life in New Hampshire for years. The dramatic decline of our moose population has been attributed to several factors, including increased heat stress during the summer and increased mortality from winter ticks and other invasive species that have crept north with warming temperatures. Our iconic loons are increasingly having to abandon their nests as temperatures soar over the summer. These wildlife represent the New Hampshire climate that we have known and loved all our lives, and we cannot afford to lose them.
The evidence is right in front of us. Climate change is not some far-off concept; it is happening right now, in the West, the South and right here in New Hampshire. It will only become increasingly severe. The question that we must answer is, what are we going to do about it? Inaction is simply no longer an option.
This week, the House of Representatives will pass a sweeping climate bill, the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act, which represents our most recent effort to combat the scourge of climate change. This comprehensive bill would make critical investments in the deployment of clean energy technology, energy efficiency to lower home heating bills, workforce development programs to create good-paying jobs and clean transportation initiatives that have already been deployed in communities like Nashua. Importantly, this bill incorporates numerous proposals that enjoy broad bipartisan support in Congress and many that I prioritized in my Clean Energy Agenda that was released earlier this year.
This bold piece of legislation builds upon the historic actions the House has already taken this Congress, including passage of the Great American Outdoors Act that permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and the Climate Action Now Act, which would ensure the United States rejoins the global effort to reduce carbon pollution and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. And yet, the White House has already indicated President Trump would veto this bipartisan legislation, in a renewed effort to obstruct progress in combating climate change. It is long past time for the president and congressional Republicans to work in good faith to advance bipartisan solutions that will save our environment while creating jobs and opportunities in the clean energy sector.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our public health infrastructure and economy in unprecedented ways. We have the collective ability to rebuild an economy that has been halted by the pandemic and to invest in a clean energy future that protects the health of Granite Staters and our environment alike. Passage of the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act would be a critical step to achieving this future and is a testament to the efforts and advocacy of all Americans who are fighting to protect our planet. By working together and advancing these bipartisan climate initiatives, we can build a better life for future generations and protect our planet that we call home.
(Annie Kuster represents the 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.)