Oped by Joel Hicks, Carlisle Borough Councilman

First published in The Sentinel, PEN

February 26, 2022

Pennsylvania is the 12th most polluted state and has the 11th highest unemployment rate in the country. These numbers aren’t great, but we have an unprecedented opportunity to address the climate crisis that pollutes our air, damages our health, and threatens our national security while creating more jobs and spurring the economy. Late last year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a historic $550 billion in investments in climate, clean energy, justice and jobs. These are critical investments designed to begin to address the climate-related threats. Now, it’s time for the Senate to follow suit. 

Talking to my constituents every day, I have come to understand the dire need for good-paying jobs that reflect our energy future, not its past. For the sake of our health, infrastructure, and national security, the future must include clean energy, and we need the bold investments that would accelerate that transition and create millions of jobs across the country. In Pennsylvania alone, these investments would create more than 144,000 new jobs over the next 5 years, and all Pennsylvanians would benefit, from carpenters to electricians and engineers. Making these investments will also provide an avenue for those seeking pathways to the middle class while stimulating local economic growth.

These investments will unlock our nation’s technological prowess and innovative capabilities, both in the public and private sectors, unlike anything we’ve seen perhaps since the Apollo program. Our nation’s electricity grid is history’s greatest engineering feat. However, it’s time for a major tune-up, to make it truly a Smart Grid, resilient and efficient. In doing so, we can reap the benefits of massive energy savings and revitalize Pennsylvania’s important manufacturing sector, which accounts for 11 percent of total output in the state and employs 565,000 workers. The investments would also spur the creation or expansion of emerging industries here in Pennsylvania, stimulating local economies while creating more jobs in clean energy and supply chain manufacturing that cannot be outsourced.

It is also imperative that we act now to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. In 2021, more than 40 percent of Americans, including communities across Pennsylvania, experienced an extreme weather event. From 2010 to 2020, Pennsylvania experienced 37 extreme weather events that cost the state up to $10 billion in damages. Our summers are getting hotter and muggier, and more than 310,000 Pennsylvanians are especially vulnerable to extreme heat. Climate change-fueled extreme weather events lead to poor health outcomes, agricultural losses, and increased energy costs

Implementing these bold investments is essential to mitigating climate change. Doing so will not only lead to healthier, pollution-free communities and spur our economy, but it will also improve our national security. As a former Naval officer, I understand how climate change can pose a significant national security threat, and the entire U.S. intelligence community has confirmed this. If left unchecked, climate change will cause a scarcity of resources that could lead to exacerbated geopolitical tensions and instability. As temperatures rise and ice melts in the Arctic Ocean, we can expect international competition over fish, minerals, water, and other resources to increase. Military installations in the U.S. and throughout the world are already feeling the impacts of climate change, with recent extreme weather costing billions in damages to bases. When wildfires surround bases out West or floods inundate installations here on the East Coast, those forces are unable to focus on their mission, and we risk vital national security infrastructure being damaged or destroyed. 

I thoroughly believe that Pennsylvanians understand the immediate need to address climate change and appreciate the benefits of investing in a clean energy future, but we cannot do it alone at the state and local level. We need bold federal investments that will put us on the path to reduce carbon pollution by 50 percent by 2030, create jobs, and protect our nation. I appreciate Senator Bob Casey’s commitment to these goals, but we need the full Senate to swiftly pass the $550 billion in climate, clean energy, and jobs investments. It’s time to meet the moment. Climate – and our economy and national security — can’t wait. 

Joel Hicks is a Carlisle Borough Councilman and an adjunct professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government where he also received his Ph.D. in Public Policy. He is a former U.S. Naval Officer who served in the nuclear submarine community as well as completing multiple assignments in DoD space acquisition and operational communities.