Governor-elect Eric Greitens can make Missouri green

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With an election season full of heated rhetoric and divisive attacks behind us, it’s time to start addressing the real and substantive issues that affect all Missourians. At the forefront of these issues is climate change, its consequences and how we can combat them.

Climate change is real. Temperatures are increasing, ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising and biodiversity is being lost. The evidence of climate change is there, and the consequences are too great to ignore.

As a citizen who goes to school in St. Louis, which, according to the American Lung Association, is one of the 20 most ozone-polluted cities, I am sick and tired of Missouri politics holding back the state’s push for a greener, safer state. The public health risks associated with global warming are too great to ignore, not to mention the increase in natural disasters we’ve seen across the world. According to a report on spending associated with climate change conducted by the Center for American Progress, just in the U.S. alone, FEMA issued more than $67 billion in grants to assist communities and individuals devastated by extreme weather and wildfires. When will our politicians learn that global warming will cost us in so many ways if we don’t take action to combat it?

We know that we can achieve healthier communities with a livable future for kids growing up today here in Missouri but to get there we must transform the way we produce and consume energy. This is where our governor-elect, Eric Greitens, can be a strong leader for our state. With a change in gubernatorial power comes a great opportunity for Greitens to be a champion for renewable energy. He can be the leader he promised us to be, by pushing for renewable energy in Missouri and supporting the Clean Power Plan. As a student living in St. Louis, I now hold the governor-elect responsible for fighting against the effects of of global warming that are visible in my city.

This has got to start with a commitment to 100 percent clean, renewable energy here in Missouri. We know that 100 percent renewable energy is 100 percent possible. In the first quarter of 2016, 97 percent of all new electricity that came online in the United States was wind and solar. Moreover, renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies are quickly falling in cost. Between 2009 and 2014, the cost of solar electricity in the United States fell by 78 percent and the cost of wind energy fell by 58 percent. In many parts of the United States, wind is now the cheapest source of electricity. Over the past 15 years, growth in renewable energy worldwide — especially solar energy — has outpaced most forecasts, event those made by environmental activists. Furthermore, at least seven detailed studies on clean energy — conducted by academics, government agencies and nonprofits — suggest that we have the tools to make a transition to a renewable energy future.

The momentum for 100 percent renewable energy is building. Corporate leaders like Apple, Google, Facebook and Johnson and Johnson have all made commitments to 100 percent renewable energy. Cities such as San Diego, Aspen, Colo. and Greensburg, Kan. all agree that the future is 100 percent renewable energy. Moreover, this past week, over 50 events were held for the 100% Committed. 100% Renewable. Week of Action for Renewable Energy, coordinated by Environment America and The Climate Reality Project. College students, community leaders, health professionals, elected officials and others from California to Maine to Florida joined the call for a 100-percent-renewable future. Missouri’s renewable energy summit was held at the Urban Chestnut Brewery in The Grove, opening a dialogue on renewable energy and global warming among over 100 people.

We can build the kind of future we should want and certainly need for Missouri — one powered 100 percent by clean, renewable energy. The science is there, the technology is there and the public is increasingly enthusiastic about moving forward.

We need one key ingredient: political will. If our elected officials create a vision and a framework for 100 percent renewable energy, it will transform the recent acceleration of renewables into an unstoppable force for the future.