In this April 19, 2021, file photo, electric lines are shown in Ronks, Pa. Credit: Matt Rourke / AP

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The Rev. Richard Killmer is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Yarmouth.

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans live in a county hit by a weather disaster during the past three months. On top of that, 64 percent live in places that experienced a multi-day heat wave, according to analysis by the Washington Post. At least 388 people in the United States have died due to hurricanes, floods, heat waves and wildfires since June. Scientists have more and more evidence all the time that these extreme weather events are made more frequent and intense by climate change.

Some good news: There is finally the possibility of serious climate legislation – included as part of the Build Back Better bill currently before Congress.

Here is what is included in this potentially game-changing legislation:

There is an exciting new program called the Clean Electricity Payment Program. It would give incentives and payments to the electric utilities that are able to increase the amount of renewable energy and other forms of clean power. The Biden administration says solar energy has the potential to power 40 percent of U.S. electricity by 2035. And it would increase the U.S. workforce by 7.7 million new jobs and add nearly $1 trillion to the economy by 2031.

Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota, who has been the main program advocate in the Senate, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that there is not just a value of reducing greenhouse gases, but there are economic benefits to the U.S. as well. Spending money and stimulating economic activity has an incremental effect as those monies ripple through the economy.

The bill contains other features that will reduce the harmful effects of the climate crisis and assist Americans financially. There is money for home energy retrofits including $2,000 rebates for projects that save 20 percent of the home’s average energy use, or $4,000 for 35 percent. (Both numbers are doubled for low-income projects.)

There is also a home electrification project that provides $3,000 per heat pump and $4,000 if it’s cold-climate rated. Between $6,000 and $7,000 would be provided for low-income projects.

Funds would be provided for electric vehicle infrastructure which would be focused on underserved areas. Money would also be available to replace heavy-duty vehicles like fire trucks and school buses with vehicles that produce a lot less emissions.

Grants would be provided for decarbonizing federal buildings and fleets. There would also be money for solar energy for low-income communities.

These climate provisions can play a huge role in putting the U.S. on a path to 100 percent clean energy by 2035 while investing 40 percent of benefits going to communities who have been and are most affected by environmental injustices. It’s time for Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act’s plans to invest in climate, clean energy, justice and jobs. 

If you are concerned about the growing number of harmful weather events caused by the climate crisis, and want a future-ready, solutions-oriented economy, there is something you can do about it. You can contact your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators as soon as possible to urge them to support the climate change elements of the Build Back Better Act