Sky - image: Climate and Ecosystem Change Adaption, cc 2.0


I’m worried about inflation and rising interest rates just like everybody else. But I don’t want to lose track of the forest for the trees. I also worry about the impact of climate change on the world my kids will inhabit. As a mother, I would do anything to protect them. I know that the decisions our leaders make today will have a resounding impact on their future.

So, it’s astonishing to me that many environmentalists don’t vote! In Nevada, there are over 95,000 registered voters who care deeply about the environment or climate change, yet they have never voted in a mid-term election according to the Environmental Voter Project.

That’s a huge number of non-voters, nearly 10% of all the ballots cast in 2018. The margin of victory in that senate race was roughly half that at 48,869 votes.

We must vote for climate champions. Candidates who support the status quo instead of charting a path to a net zero future are simply unacceptable.

Climate change is real. More and more Americans are experiencing the threat of climate change firsthand or know someone who has:

  • We thought we’d gotten through the summer without incident when the Mosquito fire broke out near Grass Valley on September 6th. Remember last summer? It seemed like Reno and Sparks were marinating in wildfire smoke for two months! Wildfires no longer have a season; they happen year-round, fueled by climate change-induced heat and drought. Besides millions of acres burned every year and billions of dollars in damage, smoke from these fires makes people sick and sends them to the hospital.
  • It’s hot out there, and climate change — caused by heat-trapping emissions pushing temperatures higher — is increasing the severity and frequency of heat waves. Reno and Las Vegas have the dubious honor of being the two fastest-warming cities in the US. Of all the weather-related deaths in the U.S. each year, heat is the biggest killer.
Poppies and Joshua Tree – image: Rennett Stowe, cc 2.0

Ignoring the threat of climate change will not make it go away. It has been clear for decades that we are using more water from the Colorado River for agriculture and cities than the river has to give. The Colorado River reaches the Pacific Ocean in Mexico but so much water has been diverted that the delta at the mouth of the river dried up decades ago. Now Lake Mead is at 28% of capacity threatening not just the availability of water but also of electricity generated by the dam. We are facing tough choices.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority saw the threat and put together a plan that was approved in 2015. As a result, they spent millions on Las Vegas’ third straw into Lake Mead. Some thought it was unnecessary to build that low-level pumping plant and intake valve. Now it looks like good planning because it will allow Las Vegas to keep accessing water if the reservoir drops below the point where water can pass through Hoover Dam, also known as “dead pool”. For Lake Mead, dead pool is at 895 feet. The water level is currently expected to drop to around 990 feet by July 2024.

Autumn – image: Bark, cc 2.0

Can the US respond to the threat of climate change? Only if our leaders step up. They’ve done it before.

Consider WWII. The US economy transformed in just a few years to supply an astonishing volume of goods to supply the war effort, including war planes, tanks, landing ships, guns, bullets, trucks and jeeps. Industrial productivity went up 96 percent, 17 million new civilian jobs were created and the economy was at full employment. After-tax corporate profits doubled. At the same time, the transformed economy resulted in a fairer distribution of income

Today, Nevada has a tremendous opportunity to lead the transition to a clean energy economy. According to Deloitte, one of the premier accounting, tax, and consulting firms, the US economy will gain $3 trillion if we decarbonize. That’s a lot of money! For Nevadans, it means good-paying jobs and cost savings on our energy bills.

After WWII, all it took to transform the economy was public outcry and political will.

WWII was a dire threat to democracy. The threat of climate change to our planet is at least as severe. Where is the public outcry? Where are the voters who care enough to demand effective action to address the threat of climate change?

I urge you to look closely at all the candidates in the local, state, and national races this November. Do they understand the problem? Do they have a serious plan? For incumbents like Senator Cortez Masto, look closely at their record on climate action.

Then vote like your children, your grandchildren, and the planet depend on it. Because they do!

Michelle Hamilton is a marketing consultant in Reno and the co-group leader of the Reno/Sparks Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a non-partisan grassroots organization working to create the political will to address climate change.

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