Arizonans know that the climate crisis is at our front door, and fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas are ringing the bell.
Climate change is an undeniable reality in Arizona where we’ve experienced increased drought, intense wildfires and extreme heat. The climate crisis and risks to our health demand bold action, and an important step is for the Arizona Corporation Commission to schedule the vote for the Clean Energy Rules.
The American Lung Association 2021 “State of the Air” report shows that 86% of Arizonans are living in a county impacted by unhealthy air. In fact, Phoenix sits high on the most polluted cities list for ozone, short-term, and annual particle pollution levels. Breathing poor air leads to detrimental health effects such as asthma attacks, worsened COPD, cardiovascular impacts, and in extreme cases, premature death.
Arizona experiences some of the worst air quality in the country, and it takes a disproportionate toll on some of our most vulnerable populations – including kids, seniors, people of color, and low-income families. Climate change ramps up the pollutants that threaten public health. Our reliance on harmful fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas is a leading reason for these terrible statistics.
Arizonans understand this, and they want something done.
A new American Lung Association poll revealed that 84% of Arizona voters view air pollution as a serious problem, 78% see climate change as a serious problem – and nearly a third consider it a “crisis.” That’s a big jump compared to our poll last year. Moreover, our continued reliance on fossil fuels impacts our clean air progress, leading to unmanageable climate conditions that threaten our environment and our health.
Arizona voters’ opinions should send a clear message to Arizona decisionmakers: it’s time to make real investments in clean, renewable energy for a sustainable future. Specifically, the Arizona Corporation Commission needs to adopt the lingering Clean Energy Rules that would require utilities to cut carbon emissions in half by 2032. This policy has strong support from voters, with 75% of Arizonans wanting to transition away from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas, and toward non-combustion energy sources like wind, solar, and electric vehicles.
Across the political spectrum, Arizonans say investments in non-combustion power will yield significant benefits to air quality, health, climate, and the economy. With overwhelming support for increased solar (80%) and wind (63%), the Corporation Commission has even more reason to pass the Clean Energy Rules to reduce harmful pollution and safeguard Arizonan’s health. Voters also expressed strong support of electrification policies to clean up our air, with two-thirds supporting the transition of public fleets like school buses to all-electric vehicles.
Not only is there widespread support from voters, but public health leaders across the state have continued to take a stand for renewable power. As a health organization, we support the commission’s Clean Energy Rules to curb the harmful effects of air and climate pollution. Reducing carbon emissions by 50% is an immediate goal that sets our state on track to clean our air and support healthier communities. Ramping up Arizona’s utilization of non-combustion renewable energy, such as wind and solar, is a safer way to provide electricity without jeopardizing our health.
The facts are clear: Arizona is in a climate crisis, and voters believe clean energy and zero-emission transportation are the solution. This message is more pertinent than ever – we cannot continue our fossil fuel dependence. The Corporation Commission has the support of the American Lung Association, numerous other health groups and the general public to pass Clean Energy Rules that cut air pollution, spur economic growth, and protect public health.
JoAnna Strother is the senior advocacy director for the American Lung Association in Arizona.