Friday, Aug. 27, 2021 | 2 a.m.
Nevada has been in drought conditions more often than not in the past 10 years, more of our days are dangerously hot, fresh water is disappearing, and wildfires are becoming more frequent and severe. Climate change is doing clear harm to our state, and carbon pollution from the transportation sector, our nation’s largest source of such pollution, is only making it worse. Nevadans, particularly our communities here in Southern Nevada, have much to gain by investing in clean transportation infrastructure and zero-pollution vehicles, which will help improve health, drive the economy, and tackle the climate crisis.
As public servants who have fought to confront climate change and lay the foundations of a greener economy in Nevada, we are proud of the work our state has done to expand access to electric vehicles. But to truly realize their full benefits, we need ambitious federal investments too.
While the Nevada Legislature recently passed a law that authorizes funds for school districts to invest in electric buses, there is so much work left to be done to ensure our state has what it needs to move toward a clean transportation future. President Joe Biden’s initial infrastructure plan proposed bold investments to expand the electric vehicle (EV) market and included a groundbreaking proposal to deliver 40% of the benefits from those investments to those communities that have traditionally suffered the most from dangerous pollution. We need Congress to pass a bold budget that makes these investments and more to help address the climate crisis in Nevada and to meet the nation’s goal of reducing carbon pollution by 50% to 52% from 2005 levels by 2030.
Climate change is hurting Nevadans every day. Pollution from dirty vehicles leads to an increase in respiratory diseases, and more than 50,000 children and 225,000 adults across Nevada suffer from asthma.
The climate crisis also makes our days hotter. Nevada currently averages nearly 20 dangerous heat days a year. By 2050, the state is projected to see almost 30 such days each year. This is particularly harmful since more than 70,000 Nevadans are currently vulnerable to extreme heat. By investing in EVs, which produce zero tailpipe pollution, and the infrastructure needed to support the expansion of the EV market, we can clean the air in our communities and curb the public health impacts of pollution from dirty vehicles.
Bold federal investments will also reduce the economic damages Nevada faces due to climate change. From 2010 to 2020, Nevada experienced 12 extreme weather events, costing the state up to $1 billion in damages. Nevada has already begun adding electric buses to its transit fleets, and school districts are investing in electric school buses. Investing in electric vehicles will not only reduce the pollution that contributes to these damaging weather events, it will also help Nevada expand these electric transit and school bus programs that can create cleaner air in our communities and save counties money on fuel and maintenance costs.
Nevada stands to benefit from EV investments, not only in our fight against climate change but economically as well. There were 33,788 Nevadans working in clean energy as of 2019. Investments in EVs will create even more of these good-paying, family-sustaining jobs and will advance clean energy production by extending and expanding tax credits for clean energy generation and manufacturing.
Our communities want these kinds of investments, and we need our federal leaders to lead the way. Recent polls have found that two-thirds of voters nationwide support investments in electric school buses, and voters in Nevada’s competitive House districts are also in favor of investments in electric vehicles and more charging infrastructure. While we are proud of the work Nevada has done to address the climate crisis by investing in clean transportation, we cannot fully reach our goals without support from our lawmakers in Washington.
We’re fighting for a future where our children can get to school safely without damaging their developing lungs, and Nevada needs its leaders in Congress to pass a budget that includes bold investments in clean energy and transportation infrastructure. Our children are depending on them to do so.
Justin Jones is a Clark County commissioner and vice chair of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada. Pat Spearman is the Nevada state senator representing District 1.