Summer in North Carolina has always been hot. And while weather will fluctuate for many reasons, no reasonable doubt remains that our dependence on fossil fuels is to blame for the relentless rise of global temperatures we are witnessing.
According to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2015 surpassed 2014 as the warmest year on record, and June was the 14th-straight record-breakingly hot month on this planet. Scientific consensus is clear: The inexorable rise in global temperatures is driven by human produced greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere.
But the threat of climate change with accelerating coastal erosion, flooding and more severe and erratic weather is not the only problem stemming from our reliance on fossil fuels. As a physician, I see that our sources of energy are a medical and not just an environmental issue. From lung disease due to contamination of our air to cancer risk from coal ash toxins in our water, it is clear that we must aggressively shift from our reliance on energy sources that are unhealthy for us and our planet.
The good news is that what we humans have done, we can undo. A shift to sustainable energy and the robust economy that will follow that shift are within our grasp. Technological advances in solar and wind power, coupled with innovations in energy storage, have made sustainable energy cost-competitive with 19th century sources such as coal and oil, without their devastating environmental and health impacts.
Indeed, by leading the charge in clean energy instead of abdicating that market to the Chinese, the U.S. can drive economic expansion and create jobs here at home.
And it’s not only the environment and your health that will benefit – a shift to sustainable energy is a matter of national security. By pivoting to clean energy, we can eliminate our economic reliance on rogue states and undercut their global power by ceasing to send them our hard-earned money. Clean energy is a win-win proposition for the U.S. if we simply grasp the inevitable future.
We have the power to act and improve our collective future. Duke Energy, which is both a local company answerable to us and the nation’s largest utility, ranks near the bottom of U.S. utilities with respect to renewable energy production at 2.79 percent. There is simply no reason for any modern utility not to have renewable energy at the very center of its plans for our future. And it is indeed our future, not just that of Duke Energy’s board of directors. It is our health, our children and our planet that are at stake. So let’s put the “public” back in “public utility”: Email the public utilities commission at email@example.com to remind members that a bright future for all of us depends on clean energy.
Climate change need not be a partisan issue; rising seas don’t care about your political party. Come November, demand that your chosen candidates, whether they are Democratic or Republican, take seriously the threats from our dependence on fossil fuels and implement the remedies now readily available. The future of our health, our children and our planet is at stake.
James P. Evans, M.D., Ph.D., is the Bryson Distinguished Professor of Genetics & Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.