Climate change is one of the biggest threats to our quality of life and North Carolina has begun to suffer its consequences with impacts on our economy, environment, and people. Our State’s average annual temperatures are warming with 2019 being the hottest year on record so far. Hotter days and nights, together with higher humidity, will present a significant public health risk and threat to agriculture. Extreme rainfall events are becoming more common with flooding expected to disrupt our inland communities while droughts will become more severe, increasing the risk of wildfires.
Protecting rather than Exploiting our Natural Resources
Clean Air and Water
The right to clean air and water is essential to the prosperity of our communities and those who call them home. While regulatory oversight must be strengthened to avoid the exploitation of our natural resources, we must also balance environmental protection with economic prosperity, especially for the sake of our local businesses.
Fighting climate change starts at home by insulating our homes so we use less energy and make our homes more cost and energy efficient. But weatherization can be an expensive process for low-income households. State funds are available to help our families with these costs so that they can live more comfortably, sustainably, and cost-effectively. We need to increase awareness of these funds and expand the eligibility so that they are available to more homeowners and landlords. Every dollar invested results in over two dollars’ worth of benefits. Through home weatherization, households can save hundreds of dollars each year, providing a financial boost for families. By improving the energy efficiency of homes, we can decrease energy use resulting in fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
Investing in Infrastructure and a Green Economy
As new green industries look toward our mountain counties for places to settle, we must provide an attractive economic and environmental area to encourage them to come here. We will also need to provide job training options to create a workforce ready to reap the full benefits of a new reinvigorated green local economy.
Investing in improved infrastructure is crucial to connecting our communities, reinvigorating local economies, and building for our future. Expanding stormwater drainage areas and daylighting (opening up buried waterways and restoring them to more natural conditions) our streams will help prevent flooding during extreme rain events. Improving neglected roads will save commuters dollars at the gas pump by improving vehicle gas efficiency while also connecting our communities. Expanding public transportation opportunities will allow for reliable and sustainable commuting alternatives to ensure interconnectedness. These investments will help boost our local economic opportunities by attracting new businesses and helping existing ones thrive. It is important that we establish electric charging stations throughout the counties. More folks are going electric and a host of electric pick-ups and utility trucks are getting ready to hit the market. We need to be ready. The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress last November includes funding to get us started.
Sustainable Land Use
As our economy grows, we cannot allow our local farmers to be forced out of their livelihoods. Safeguarding our forests, rivers, and farmlands will allow us to protect agriculture with voluntary land conservation initiatives working to promote sustainable land use. Our farmers markets provide amazing fresh produce, a sense of community, and economic security for countless residents. Fresh produce from local farmers and home gardeners is the backbone of our health promotion initiatives. The success of our farmers allows for the success of our district and everyone who calls it home. It is also important that we strategically plan to protect land for recreational space. Areas in flood zones where development is inappropriate can be ideal for parks, greenspace, and local trails.
Tackling climate change requires immediate and comprehensive action, but we must keep the uniqueness of our communities in mind. By ensuring clean air and water, promoting home weatherization, investing in infrastructure, and safeguarding our farmlands, we can implement climate-centered policies to work toward a sustainable future while making sure that these policies also work for us along the way.
“Because Alleghany, Ashe, and Watauga counties are comprised of unique rural communities, our climate policies must reflect the diversity of our District to ensure that no community is left behind.” — Ben Massey