09/03/2014 09:58 am ET Updated Nov 03, 2014

The New Field of Dreams

If we act now at the polls, we can build the energy future we want.

As a Californian, I feel lucky to live in what is truly the Golden State -- a place of sunshine, agricultural bounty, natural beauty, technological innovation and boundless optimism.

And when it comes to the challenge of tackling climate change, California is one state that leads the way. In 2006, Californians stood together to pass landmark climate legislation; in 2010, we fought off the oil industry's attempt to dismantle those efforts; and today, California continues to be a national leader in clean energy deployment.

But I also know this: California may be a leader, but it is no outlier. As California goes, so goes the nation, and people in every state have stepped up to the climate challenge in new, remarkable ways. Today, we're seeing a growing advanced energy economy. Consider this:

The United States now has more solar workers than coal miners. In many states, wind power is now cheaper than fossil fuels. And so far this year, renewable energy sources have provided more than half of new power generation in the United States.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: American business and technology are our greatest assets in the fight against climate change -- and they are carving a path toward a clean energy future for this country.

But building a clean energy future is about more than investment and innovation: it's about people. Climate change is here, and it is already affecting communities across the nation.

In 2013, the people of Colorado suffered $2 billion in property losses from flooding alone -- to say nothing of intensifying wildfires sweeping across the state.

In Maine, a dramatic decline in shrimp stock, caused in part by ocean warming and carbon-induced acidification tied to climate change, has already caused the state to ban shrimp fishing for the 2014 season.

In Florida, 2.4 million people, 1.3 million homes and 1.8 million acres of land are at risk as sea level rises.

What's more -- the cost of climate change is projected to increase a staggering 40 percent for each decade that passes without us taking action to curb carbon emissions.

Climate change isn't tomorrow's problem -- it is today's. With our homes, livelihoods, health and children's future on the line, we cannot afford to wait any longer.

What more can we do? Well, the science is settled; 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is real and human-caused. And the policy solutions are available: We can cut carbon pollution, invest in clean energy solutions, and find local and regional solutions for states to reach their climate goals.

What we need is political action. We need to make it clear to our leaders at every level of government that with human and economic costs rising each year, we need to address climate change now. We need lawmakers willing to heed this call, who have confidence that new ideas can supersede old ways of doing business. We need our government to support and prioritize the energy and policy innovations already taking place in states across the nation. And we need Americans who are impacted by climate change to turn out at the polls, and cast their vote.

Today, the conversation on climate change is shifting in real time for a very simple reason: Climate change is no longer an abstract issue. Families are feeling the effects in their communities every day, and they recognize the serious threat it poses to our kids. But to go the distance, this generation must get involved in the political process. They must make it known that failing to take action on climate is not an option -- and that candidates who deny science and hide from facts will be held accountable at the polls.

This is an opportunity that we cannot let slip through our fingers -- too much is at stake.