The World Meteorological Organization announced this week that climate change pollution has reached record levels. Carbon pollution alone -- one of the most potent greenhouse gases -- had its biggest spike in 30 years. These measurements tell an alarming story about what is happening in our atmosphere. To understand what they mean here on earth, we just have to look outside the window.
When fifth-generation Iowa farmer Matt Russell gazes out over his farm, he sees cycles of intense drought and rain that threaten his crops. "Scientists have been telling us what climate change looks like. As farmers, we're living it," he said.
Jimmy Strickland, a small business owner in Norfolk, Virginia, has watched three powerful storms swamp his office in 10 years. Each time, he had to close for two months of repairs and send $250,000 in bills to his insurance company. And Kim Crouch of Detroit sees bad air days -- made worse by warming temperatures -- that increase the risk of her son ending up in the ER with an asthma attack. "Something like that -- your child having to be hospitalized -- totally changes your perspective," she said.
The signs of climate change are visible across the nation, from the drought-stricken fields of Central California to the flooded streets of Michigan. Extreme weather is turning people's lives upside down and costing communities millions of dollars in damaged infrastructure and added health care costs.
That is why Americans of all walks of life are calling for climate action.
When I started working to combat climate change two decades ago, it was a topic largely for environmentalists and scientists. Now business leaders, former Republican officials, public health experts, religious groups, and ranchers have joined in. The issue has gone mainstream, and the vast majority of Americans are no longer debating climate change; they are looking for solutions.
Seventy percent of Americans view climate change as a serious problem and support federal efforts to reduce global warming pollution, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll.
Support runs deep and wide. More than two-thirds of residents in 11 purple states including Georgia, Louisiana, and Arkansas say the Environmental Protection Agency should limit carbon pollution from power plants. That includes 53 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of independents and 87 percent of Democrats, according to a poll conducted by Harstad Strategic Research.
In June, the EPA proposed the first-ever national limits on carbon emissions from power plants -- our nation's largest source. The proposal calls for cutting carbon pollution by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. It also puts states in the driver's seat and gives utilities and consumers the flexibility they need to get the job done in the most cost-effective way possible.
Done right, cutting carbon pollution from power plants could stimulate $52 billion to $121 billion in cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy between now and 2020, and could save US families and businesses more than $37 billion on their electricity bills by the same year. That's about $100 a year in savings for the average household. NRDC analysis shows the Obama Administration's plan could do even more to protect our future from climate change. The plan, though, lays the groundwork for real pollution reductions.
But even as America begins to cut carbon emissions here at home, we must also move forward in the international arena. On September 21, hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens will gather in New York City for the Peoples Climate March. We will take to the streets just as world leaders arrive in New York for the UN Climate Summit. Our presence will demonstrate the groundswell of support for cutting carbon pollution. And together, we will demand global action on climate change.
The march will draw record numbers because people recognize the urgency of the climate threat. We see it with our own eyes today, and we know we can create a better future.
This post is part of a month-long series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with a variety of events being held in September recognizing the threats posed by climate change. Those events include the UN's Climate Summit 2014 (to be held Sept. 23, 2014, at UN headquarters in New York) and Climate Week NYC (Sept. 22-28, 2014, throughout New York City). To see all the posts in the series, read here.