We can’t afford climate change: Our legislators must act

By Karin Stein

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Iowa’s congressional offices in Washington, D.C. as part of Moms Clean Air Force’s annual Play-In for Climate Action, to discuss the importance of acting on climate and moving our nation to 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

Families need action, and we must rein in the carbon and methane pollution that is causing climate change. Iowans have seen billions of dollars lost because of recent floods, and our neighboring states are no different. Congress just approved $1.4 billion in emergency funds for the Midwesterners under water and for Puerto Rico, still dealing with the consequences of Hurricane Maria's devastation two years ago.How much will it cost to recover from the next "superstorm"?

A musician by trade, I was new to advocating on Capitol Hill. But as a mother asking for what our future generations need, I was inspired by the mission of Moms Clean Air Force and its more than one million members. The stakes with climate change are too high to sit back, watch, and simply hope for the best. Our legislators need to take bold action on the climate crisis now.

Moms and dads across the United States want a world that’s getting better. A world with less and less pollution, and greater access to clean air and water. We want a stable climate and a secure future for our kids. As a Latina, I am also fighting for the approximately 68 percent of Latinos in this country who live in places that do not meet federal air quality standards, and for the Latino children who are 60 percent more at risk of suffering asthma attacks exacerbated by air pollution. Moms Clean Air Force, together with Green Latinos, offers a special program called “Ecomadres,” to reach out to Latino communities with information about what they can do to better protect their children from pollution.

My Iowa delegation in Washington included Edgar East, also a Latino, and his 10-year-old son, Samuel. We met in person with Sen. Grassley and his staff and spoke with staff members at the offices of Sen. Ernst, and Reps. Loebsack and Finkenauer.

Iowans are no strangers to the impact renewables have on our economy and our communities. Thanks to our state and federal legislators, and big investments from industry, the cost of producing wind energy has fallen 70 percent over the last decade, making it competitive with natural gas in many places.

In our meeting with Grassley, the "father of wind energy," I thanked him personally for his recent comments at a town hall where he expressed support for a federal renewable electricity standard to increase renewables to 50 percent of the electric portfolio over the next 15 years. This would have a huge effect on our efforts to reduce the pollution causing climate change. Each of our Iowa legislators should support this.

We owe it to future generations to make these investments. We cannot keep supporting big oil companies and spending billions each time severe weather devastates farms and entire communities. Producing clean energy creates clean energy jobs and a future that protects not only the health of our children, but also their bottom line.If  more than 3.2 million jobs nationally have been created as part of the transition to a clean energy economy in the U.S. so far, just think what we can do by ramping it up over the next 15 years and beyond.

I especially hope Ernst will work to address the increasingly severe floods that are devastating Iowans. Instead of placing responsibility with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Ernst should acknowledge climate change is part of the problem and commit to renewable energy solutions, like a renewable energy standard. Until legislators like Ernst recognize this and join the fight against climate change, Iowans will continue to face increasingly severe climate challenges.

Karin Stein, Iowa State Coordinator for Moms Clean Air Force and Ecomadres, lives in Kellogg, kstein@momscleanairforce.org