The closing year brought mounting evidence that global warming is real, happening now, and requires bold action.
California endured its third year of devastating drought. Washington state was ravaged by wildfire. In August, severe floods submerged Detroit and much of the East Coast. The World Meteorological Organization predicted 2014 would turn out to be the hottest on record.
These are exactly the type of extreme weather events scientists say will increase and worsen due to unchecked global warming. What's more, a steady stream of scientific reports in 2014 revealed that seas are already rising, ice caps are already melting and crop yields are already decreasing -- all due to climate change. In the most emphatic terms yet, these reports predicted more dire consequences without bold action.
None of us wants to leave the next generation a world where drought, wildfires, flooding and superstorms are the new normal. That's why record numbers marched for climate action in September. And that's why, from the proposed Clean Power Plan to the most recent accord in Peru, the actions taken by our political leaders are beginning to match the demands of the climate crisis.
As we look to 2015, a December report from Environment America and the Frontier Group called More Wind, Less Warming shows how wind power can play a key role in averting the dangerous impacts of global warming that 2014 previewed. But that can only happen if U.S. leaders continue their march toward ever-bolder policies on climate.
Wind power is already growing rapidly around the country, generating enough electricity to power more than 15 million homes. If recent growth keeps up its speedy clip, wind power could provide 30 percent of the nation's electricity by 2030.
Our research shows that speeding wind power development in this way will slow global warming. The pollution reductions achieved would have the same effect on emissions as shutting down 254 coal plants. We would go above and beyond the Clean Power Plan, cutting power plant emissions 40 percent rather than 30. We'd be well on our way to fulfilling the commitment the U.S. made in its landmark climate agreement with China.
More wind doesn't just mean less global warming. It also means less of the air pollution that makes people sick, more of our increasingly precious water resources that can be saved, and more jobs across the country.
A rapid expansion in wind power is both feasible and affordable. The cost of wind energy is now at or below the cost of new natural gas power plants in regions with the best resources. More than a dozen reports by utilities, independent grid operators, the U.S. Department of Energy and other experts have found that the electric grid can accommodate much more wind energy than we currently generate.
Wind energy off our coast is also poised to make a major contribution to America's energy portfolio, providing enough electricity to power 17 million homes nationwide under a 30 percent wind scenario, more than is now created by all wind power projects in operation today.
To reach a vision of 30 percent wind energy by 2030, however, we need our leaders to act. We need support for the Clean Power Plan, the largest step ever proposed in the U.S. to cut global warming pollution, rather than the obstruction from Congressional leaders we've been promised. And we need a long-term renewal of the federal production tax credits that have been so vital to wind power's growth in this country to date.
Wind power can replace the dirty energy sources of the past, and move us to a future in which we're setting records for pollution-free energy, not global temperatures. That's what I want to be writing about on New Year's Eve fifteen years from now!