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The severe jolts to global health and economic systems by the coronavirus epidemic foreshadow the types of disruptions that global climate change will deliver. Unfortunately, there can be no vaccine against climate disruption due to carbon emissions; only concerted action now can ensure a livable world for ourselves and future generations.

One possible win-win approach is a “Green New Deal,” modeled on the leadership shown by the Roosevelt Administration during the Great Depression. Significant investments to enhance renewables and introduce smart carbon-reducing initiatives will bear direct dividends in good, future-oriented jobs and reducing externalized costs.

An alternative, hunkering down and insisting the status quo will serve us well into the future, is provided by a recent viewpoint that ran in the Lansing State Journal.

The author is an energy industry spokesperson who has authored similar pro-coal opinions in many news outlets. Significantly, his byline notes his service on the board of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. He was a state utility regulator in Missouri from 2007-13.

Notably, Missouri ranks among the bottom of all states with respect to renewable electricity (four percent), compared to Michigan (eight percent) and its neighbors Wisconsin (nine percent) and Minnesota (25 percent), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Missouri does not provide the example of leadership Michigan needs.

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The viewpoint argues that moving swiftly to phase out coal will increase the costs of electricity. In fact, the price per kilowatt for solar and wind have decreased dramatically in the last decade, making these the most economic sources, especially taking into account the untallied costs in terms of pollution, human health and habitat destruction.

Distributed generation of electricity from renewable sources — including biomass, hydro, wind and solar — will allow for a more robust electrical grid, which we will need to meet the stresses of climate change-driven weather events.

It is perhaps predictable that backward-looking coal barons and their apologists will use the current climate of uncertainty and fear to push their personal agendas. We have an opportunity to help our people and our economy now and in the future, with a push for a carbon-free future. You can support local, state and national leadership to move our nation forward.

David Arnosti is a professor of biochemistry at Michigan State University and a board member of Michigan Interfaith Power & Light.

Read or Share this story: https://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/opinion/contributors/viewpoints/2020/07/17/communities-need-forward-looking-energy-alternatives-green-new-deal/5389243002/