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New Hampshire leads on climate change

Meeting with negotiators at the United Nations climate summit in Paris, I was impressed by their determination to reach ambitious goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to head off catastrophic global warming. New Hampshire has already taken aggressive efforts to combat climate change. Our efforts must be matched by follow-through on the equally robust national and international commitments made at the Paris summit. 

Granite Staters understand the high stakes: 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred since the year 2000, and 2015 is on pace to be the warmest year yet. Here in New Hampshire, global warming threatens the most iconic elements of our heritage and identity. The autumn foliage season is shorter, and experts warn that sugar maple trees eventually will disappear as an important species in our region. The snow pack is thinner, and our state's tourism and outdoor-recreation economy is already being negatively impacted. Because of milder winters, ticks and other insects are not dying back, leading to destructive infestations of trees and wildlife; the moose population has been ravaged and is down nearly 40 percent. 

Our delegation of 10 senators attended the Paris summit to support strong U.S. leadership and action to fight climate change and to counter voices in our country that reject the science of climate change. These "deniers" are wrong. We can meet the ambitious goals agreed to at the Paris conference, and this will give a powerful boost to our economy. 

Across the Granite State, citizens at the grassroots are leading the way to a cleanenergy, low-carbon economy that also creates jobs and opportunity. For example, in the town of Peterborough, citizens persuaded the Select Board to set increasingly ambitious carbon-reduction targets. The town now uses 100 percent green power for its municipal facilities. And, last month, Peterborough turned on a 3,100-panel, 942-milowatt solar array, the largest in New Hampshire. 

As one of nine Northeastern states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), New Hampshire has reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the power sector by nearly 50 percent since 2008. Our state is on track to meet the Clean Power Plan's carbonreduction goals 10 years ahead of schedule. Far from hurting the economy, RGGI has generated $1.6 billion in net economic value across the region and created more than 16,000 jobs, just in its first three years. 

"An ongoing revolution is taking place in energy technology," reports the International Energy Agency. "Cars, buildings and machines are becoming more energy efficient." This revolution allows us to break the link between economic growth and rising energy consumption. Between 1990 and 2013, our friends in the European Union (EU) increased their gross domestic product (GDP) by nearly 45 percent, while total energy consumption stayed nearly flat, thanks largely to energy efficiency. In the U.S., we have raised our GDP to an all-time high while reducing carbon emissions to the lowest levels in decades.

In Congress, I have joined with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to sponsor comprehensive bipartisan legislation to ramp up efficiency in the major energy-consuming sectors of our economy: buildings, manufacturing and the federal government. When fully implemented, the reforms in the Shaheen-Portman bill would cut carbon dioxide by the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road, while creating nearly 300,000 jobs.

It has been said that we are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it. At the Paris summit, in our homes here in New Hampshire, in factories and workplaces across America, we are now fully engaged in the fight against global warming. Our goal is to pass on to our children and grandchildren a habitable planet. This is a fight that we can win – and must win.
 -Democrat Jeanne Shaheenrepresents New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate.