Things are changing here in Arizona – and not for the better. Our climate is becoming more extreme, oscillating between historic droughts and monsoons. Wildfire season is starting earlier, ending later, and causing more destruction. Temperatures are warming, electricity bills are rising, and public health is taking a hit due to pollution. The effects of climate change are harming many aspects of our daily lives, but thankfully, we have an opportunity to fight back and turn things around.
Last year, President Joe Biden put forth a bold plan to address the climate crisis, proposing the largest investment in our nation’s history to expand our nation’s clean energy economy and tackle climate change in the process. The U.S. House of Representatives delivered on the president’s plan and passed a historic $550 billion in investments in climate, clean energy, justice, and jobs. However, these investments are now stalled in the Senate. As the president alluded to in his first State of the Union Address, we need these investments to address the threat of climate change. That is why the Senate must deliver on climate action with strong support and leadership from Arizona’s Senators: Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly.
From finances to health, climate change is putting families at risk. Facing a dramatic rise in extreme heat and humidity, Arizona’s already dangerous and life-threatening heat waves are expected to get worse and more severe from here on out. We already average more than 50 dangerous heat days a year, the second highest in the country. Without the necessary climate and clean energy investments, Arizona is expected to see almost 80 heat days a year. This rise in temperatures threatens the lives of Arizonans, especially the more than 200,000 Arizonans who are especially vulnerable to extreme heat.
Rising temperatures also put enormous stress on our energy grids, leaving too many without power when they need it the most, like during the heat waves or downpours we regularly experience. And when the power stays on, monthly energy costs jump through the roof, putting financial strain on too many families. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average monthly electricity bill in Arizona is $136.70, well above the national average of $117.46. Modernizing our grid and transitioning to a clean energy economy means more dependable electricity, lower energy bills, and fewer Arizonans left choosing between paying high energy costs or buying food and other essentials.
Addressing the climate crisis that pollutes our air, damages our health, and financially drains us is an opportunity that Arizona cannot pass up. Accounting for nearly 6% of the state’s workforce, Arizona’s manufacturing sector employs about 172,000 workers. Arizona has the second most solar energy potential in the U.S. By tapping into this, we further grow and expand our manufacturing and clean energy sectors. From jobs in generating renewable electricity to energy storage to energy efficiency and clean vehicles, many Arizonans have already found success in clean energy sectors.
In fact, as of 2020, 56,504 Arizonans were working in clean energy. The foundation has been laid out. It’s time to build this sector up and lead our country forward toward a clean energy economy. In Arizona alone, climate and clean energy investments would create nearly 83,000 new jobs over the next five years.
As we start the transition to a clean energy economy, we need to ensure that all members of Arizona’s workforce are at the table to benefit from this shift. By working with stakeholders across our state, we can ensure that investments in clean energy jobs, which are favored by a whopping 81% of Arizona residents, will help middle-class families and boost local economies. It’s clear that Arizona is primed to embrace a clean energy future.
While the state Legislature is working to act on climate, federal action is required. We need bold federal investments that will put us on the path to reduce carbon pollution by 50% by 2030, create jobs, and protect our nation. Climate can’t wait when our lives are on the line. Senators Sinema and Kelly, we’re counting on you to work with President Biden to get bold climate investments done as soon as possible!
Richard Andrade, a Democrat, represents District 29 in the Arizona House of Representatives.