Pain of not addressing climate crisis far greater than cost of Nevada plan

When Gov. Steve Sisolak unveiled Nevada’s first long-ranging plan for addressing global warming, climate deniers predictably went hysterical in response.

They’ll take your car away! There will be rolling blackouts! You’ll bake in your living room when the AC goes out! Be afraid! Be very afraid!

Nevadans shouldn’t be alarmed.

The new strategy offers a reasonable and flexible pathway to battle climate change, putting the state on a path to reduce carbon emissions by 28% from 2005 levels by 2025, then 45% by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. Those targets were written into law by state lawmakers in 2019.

To get there, the blueprint calls for changes in a wide range of areas, including transportation, electricity, industry, and residential and commercial land use.

Yes, the plan includes incentives for the use of more electric vehicles, and restrictions on gas-guzzling cars. It also offers steps toward transitioning away from fossil fuel energy sources and the use of highly polluting methane gas for commercial and residential uses. Other elements include changes in building codes and forestry programs to reach net-zero energy consumption.

Cue the tizzy by climate deniers, who would like Nevadans to believe that all of these things will result in higher consumer expenses — for electric cars, for the energy storage solutions needed for renewable energy, for construction of homes and businesses with low carbon imprints, etc.

But there are two ways that the deniers are misleading Nevadans on the plan.

One, those deniers don’t focus on the costs of NOT addressing climate change, which are staggering. According to the report, the state faces $786 million in economic damages by 2030 and up to $4 billion by 2050 if it fails to hit the carbon-emission targets. Those costs would come in the form of damage from extreme weather events — heat waves, flash floods, wildfires and the crippling drought that is threatening Southern Nevada’s water supply.

As reported by the Sun’s John Sadler, a study by the University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Environmental Research showed that the threat to our water was particularly acute, and eventually could affect the tourism industry that drives our state’s economy.

In other words, it’s in our own economic interest to act on climate change.

And that’s to say nothing of the human cost of global warming. Heat-related deaths and illnesses have been prevalent in recent years amid record-setting temperatures in the Las Vegas Valley, one of the most severe heat islands in the nation.

Doing nothing on climate change would put us at risk of self-inflicted wounds down the road — something climate deniers don’t mention.

The other way those naysayers mislead Nevadans is by failing to mention that the strategy is simply a plan, and is subject to change. It’s a collection of carefully considered ideas to bring down greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the state’s carbon footprint: How quickly and aggressively those measures are adopted can be moderated. For that matter, there’s discretion on whether to adopt every part of the plan.

In short, it can be modified if it proves to have unintended consequences, such as overburdening consumers, disproportionately affecting low-income Nevadans, etc.

It’s commendable that Sisolak and state officials came forth with the strategy. Nevadans certainly recognize the need to address climate change, as they showed by voting heavily in favor of this year’s Ballot Question 6 to require energy utilities to provide at least 50% of their power from renewable sources by 2030.

Environmentalists reacted to the plan by calling it a good first step, but urged more action such as fostering greater development of rooftop solar and limiting urban sprawl. We trust state leadership is listening, and that the strategy can be honed into an action plan that will effectively address global warming while being pragmatic for consumers.

In a moment of sublime timing, the blueprint was unveiled around the same time as the latest United Nations State of the Climate report, which offered a truly alarming picture of heat waves, extremely powerful weather events, sea-level rise and more.

“Dear friends, humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal,” said U.N. Secretary General António Guterres in delivering the report. “Nature always strikes back, and it is already doing so with growing force and fury.”

For Nevada, the climate strategy offers a way to reduce our damage to the environment and do our part to reduce suffering both here and around the world.

What’s outlined in the plan won’t cause the sky to fall. To the contrary, the real problem would happen through not taking action.