Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020 | 2 a.m.
Nevada is on the front lines of the climate crisis with two of the fastest warming cities, Las Vegas and Reno, in the nation.
Each year, extreme heat events — a series of unusually hot days — happen more frequently and for longer in our state. Heat is the single deadliest climate-related disaster in our nation, and the heat waves we’re experiencing here at home are a direct threat to the safety and security of Nevadans — now and for decades to come.
The impacts of climate change are being felt right now, especially by our most vulnerable. Our neighborhoods are getting hotter and more unbearable, and a history of oppressive redlining, loan blocking, and lack of resources from local governments has left communities of color — with more pavement and less trees than white neighborhoods — hit by the urban island heat effect the hardest. If we don’t act, intertwining social and environmental crises will continue to exacerbate existing inequities and hurt Nevadans.
As an organizer working around transportation and climate change in Nevada, I have been able to see the impacts of climate change on the ground. I work with parents whose children are suffering from severe asthma made worse by our current air quality crisis, public transit users who have to stand at unshaded bus stops in 115-degree heat just to get to work or buy groceries, and families who have lived through this summer’s record-breaking heat wave in Las Vegas. The impacts of climate change are happening here now, and how we rise to this occasion will dictate the future of life in Nevada.
Nevadans have a choice to make. Do we want to stave off ever increasing heat waves by launching climate action? Or do we want our state to be one of the first in the United States to become unlivable, barren and unable to support the people and species that have lived here for centuries?
If you choose the former, tell your elected officials that you support policy that protects the ability of Nevada’s current and future generations to enjoy the majesty of the Mojave, Tahoe, the Ruby mountains and everywhere in between.
An important course for slowing or reversing the climate crisis in Nevada is to tackle our most polluting sector: transportation. Transportation is the single largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Nevada, and transforming this sector would provide the largest pay-off for preventing climate impacts in the short term. Cities in Nevada were built and centered on single passenger vehicles, but it cannot remain that way. We have to shift the paradigm that our cities must be built around cars and instead evolve to urban designs that center pedestrians.
This means large, shaded sidewalks, prolific bike lanes, accessible and efficient public transit, and communities that are designed so that basic community needs can be met by walking. Barriers to work and resources created by urban structure that necessitates car ownership is harmful both to lower income residents and the environment. Cities around the world already operate on the kind of model we need in Nevada, and there is plenty of inspiration for how we can change to healthier, more livable alternatives to get around.
To meet our state’s climate goals and mitigate climate change, there must also be widespread, rapid adoption of low- and zero-emission vehicles. In June, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced that the state will begin the process of adopting California’s Clean Car Standards, an integral step in pushing for the changes needed. The standards regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to address global warming, set limits on vehicle emissions to tackle air quality issues and require auto companies to provide more zero-emissions vehicles — like electric cars and trucks — for sale in Nevada.
Nevada can begin to prevent life threatening heat waves by ensuring that the clean car standards are adopted and changing how we think about and implement urban design. We have both an opportunity and a dire necessity to reduce our state’s climate footprint by reforming all aspects of the transportation sector. The technology and resources to make the necessary changes that will protect our future are in our hands. This year has shown us we don’t have a single day to waste.
Jasmine Vazin is a Sierra Club organizer based in Las Vegas.