There are a whole lot of reasons why I love Racine, but near the top of the list is our willingness to get together and talk about the issues we face. We have challenges to overcome, but Racinians can often be found at our community centers, nonprofits, public library and City Hall sharing their thoughts about how we move forward together.
I’ve seen our community gather to discuss racial justice, economic inequality, public education and transportation, immigration, gun safety and the health of our Great Lakes. We should be proud of these continuing conversations and the work we are doing together.
However, I worry that there is a critical issue facing this community that has not received the attention it deserves — that issue is climate change.
Now climate change is a tough issue to talk about for many reasons. It can feel like it’s pretty far down the road, especially when we have so many pressing issues in our community that need immediate action. But the reality is, this issue is immediate, and it is pressing.
On Black Friday, the federal government quietly released the fourth National Climate Assessment, a report detailing the future effects of climate change in the United States, endorsed by NASA, NOAA, the Department of Defense and 10 other federal agencies.
This was not just a scientific update — it is a dire warning about the severe, long-term impacts climate change will have on our economy and our lives. The assessment says, in no uncertain terms, that if we don’t take action now, climate change could kill thousands of Americans and cost us billions of dollars per year.
I’ll be honest with you, like many Americans, I did not read the news on Black Friday. After a long, wonderful Thanksgiving with my family, it was time for some quality relaxation. I stayed at home, had some pie for breakfast and watched more than one Harry Potter movie. This was a great day, but because I didn’t read the news, I almost missed this very important story.
I am going to guess a few of you missed it too. Now, we could spend a while speculating about why the federal government would release such an important report on a day when we were almost guaranteed not to read it. But what is clear is that this is a conversation the federal government doesn’t want us to have. And that is exactly why we need to have it.
When we talk about fighting climate change, it is often about personal sacrifice. Using less plastic and gas, spending the time to recycle, and these are important. But truly, this is a moment of opportunity. If we can overcome the federal government’s attempt to hide this story, we can build the future economy right here, right now. We can invest in new and growing industries that will provide middle-class, family-supporting, union jobs. We can improve our quality of life. But we will not get there if we don’t start the conversation.
We cannot allow this story to be buried or the opportunity to act to pass us by. It’s time for us to get together with our friends and neighbors, to talk not just about the challenges of climate change, but about how we can use this as an opportunity to shape a brighter future for our community and Wisconsin.
Will you join me? Will you take the time to check out this report, and talk with our neighbors? If we start these conversations now, together, as a community, we can take advantage of this moment and the opportunity to build a new, resilient economy.