Time to tackle the Climate Crisis—with renewables
By President Joe Biden
I come here today with a message.
As President, I have a responsibility to act with urgency and resolve when our nation faces clear and present danger. And that’s what climate change is about. It is literally, not figuratively, a clear and present danger.
The health of our citizens and our communities is literally at stake.
The U.N.’s leading international climate scientists called the latest climate report nothing less than, quote, “code red for humanity.” Let me say it again: “Code red for humanity.” It’s not a group of political officials. These are the scientists.
We see here in America, in red states and blue states, extreme weather events costing $145 billion in damages just last year—with more powerful and destructive hurricanes and tornadoes.
I’ve flown over the vast majority of them out west and down in Louisiana, all across America.
Ravaging hundred-year-old droughts occurring every few years instead of every hundred years. Wildfires out west that have burned and destroyed more than five million acres—everything in its path. That is more land than the entire state of New Jersey, from New York down to the tip of Delaware. It’s amazing. Five million acres.
Our national security is at stake as well. Extreme weather is already damaging our military installations here in the States. And our economy is at risk. Extreme weather disrupts supply chains, causing delays and shortages for consumers and businesses.
So we have to act.
Climate change is literally an existential threat to our nation and to the world.
This is an emergency. And I will look at it that way.
Just take a look around: Right now, 100 million Americans are under heat alert—100 million Americans. Ninety communities across America set records for high temperatures just this year, including here in New England as we speak.
And this crisis impacts every aspect of our everyday life. That’s why today I’m making the largest investment ever—$2.3 billion—to help communities across the country build infrastructure that is designed to withstand the full range of disasters we’ve been seeing up to today—extreme heat, drought, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes.
But now, let me tell you why we’re here at Brayton Point. Five years ago, this towering power plant that once stood with cooling towers 500 feet high, closed down. The coal power plant at Brayton Point was the largest of its kind in New England—1,500 megawatts of power, enough to power one in five Massachusetts homes and businesses.
For over 50 years, this plant supported this region’s economy through the electricity they supplied, the good jobs they provided, and the local taxes they paid.
But the plant, like many others around the country, had another legacy: one of toxins, smog, greenhouse gas emissions, the kind of pollution that contributed to the climate emergency we now face today.
But that’s the past, and we’re going to build a different future—one with clean energy, good-paying jobs. Just 15 years ago, America generated more than half its electricity from coal— coal-fired plants. Today, that’s down to 20 percent because there’s a big transition happening.
Many of these fossil fuel plants are becoming sites for new clean energy construction. Others are switching to new, clean technologies.
Look at Brayton Point. Today, Brayton is on the frontier of clean energy in America. On this site, they’ll manufacture 248 miles of high-tech, heavy-duty cables. Those specialized, sub-sea cables are necessary to tie offshore wind farms to the existing grid.
Manufacturing these cables will mean good-paying jobs for 250 workers—as many workers as the old power plant had at its peak.
And the port here, 34 feet deep, was used to carry coal into the power plant. Now, we’re going to use that same port to carry components of wind power into the sea.
The converter station here and the substation nearby are the assets that move energy across the power lines. They’ll now move clean electricity generated offshore by the wind—enough power to power hundreds of thousands of homes onto the grid, putting old assets to work delivering clean energy.
This didn’t happen by accident. It happened because we believed and invested in America’s innovation and ingenuity.
Through the Infrastructure Law, we’re investing in clean hydrogen, nuclear, and carbon capture with the largest grid investment in American history.
Folks, when I think about climate change—and I’ve been saying this for three years—I think jobs. Climate change, I think jobs.
Almost 100 wind turbines are going up off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island with ground broken, and work underway. Jobs manufacturing 2,500-ton steel foundations that anchor these offshore wind farms to the sea’s floor. Jobs manufacturing a Jones Act vessel in Texas to service these offshore wind farms.
You all have a duty right now to our economy, to our competitiveness in the world, to the young people in this nation, and to future generations—and that sounds like hyperbole but it’s not—to act boldly on climate.
For the Record is an edited version of President Joe Biden’s speech July 20 at the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Massachusetts.