We can’t wait any longer to make climate change a priority. A report released this week by the United Nations’ Panel on Climate Change delivers a clear warning, “The scientific evidence is unequivocal: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet.” Voters in our state must demand that our elected leaders step up and take bold action to reduce our carbon emissions.

Right now, our state’s elected leaders are considering policies that would put Connecticut at the forefront of the movement toward clean energy. Chief among them is Senate Bill 10, An Act Concerning Climate Change Mitigation, that would put into law a commitment for Connecticut to transition to a zero-carbon electricity supply by 2040. The governor has already signaled his strong support. Now, our representatives must pass this legislation without delay.

Fossil fuels grow more expensive every day. Not only at the pump, though we’ve seen that particular cost rise precipitously recently, but throughout our world. Coal, oil, and gas drive environmental destruction, pollute our air and water, and prop up some of the most repressive governments around the globe. If ever there was a time to break free of the dirty past, that moment is now.

Clean, zero-carbon electricity is the future of our economy. SB10 would lay a strong foundation for the necessary planning, policies, and funding to achieve this goal. With the force of law, SB10 would provide a continuous commitment across administrations. The strength of this commitment would also provide businesses with the certainty they need for long-term planning and help bring good-paying clean energy jobs to Connecticut.

This should not be a tough vote for our state legislators. Connecticut residents are supportive of climate action. An October 2021 poll conducted by the Barr Foundation found that 88% of Connecticut voters surveyed think climate change is either a problem or a crisis. And a 2020 survey by The Pew Research center shows that 68% of voters said that climate change was a factor in their candidate selection.

SB10 is an opportunity for legislators to prove they are listening to the concerns of their constituents.

The stakes are high. According to the state’s “Connecticut, Our Changing Climate” report, the average temperature in Connecticut has risen by about 1.2°C since the beginning of the 20th Century. It’s nearly impossible today to imagine Long Island Sound freezing over, as it did occasionally in the 19th Century. This local warming has led to hotter air that generates stronger, deadlier storms. And increasingly frequent summer droughts are stressing the health of Connecticut forests, making agriculture more difficult, and increasing the risk of fires.

At the same time, sea level rise and increased flooding affects 61% of our population and some of our most critical infrastructure, including rail lines, local airports, parts of I-95, and more. Bridgeport alone has already experienced greater than average sea level rise, with waters rising half a foot since 1965.

But take heart: while the challenge is daunting, we must remember that the effects of climate change are not all or nothing. This is a battle of degrees – not just in temperature, but in severity. Each barrel of oil left in the ground is an incremental step toward a healthier climate. Each new wind turbine and solar panel makes the world we’ll leave to our children and grandchildren just a little bit better.

This hope is why legislators must move quickly and pass SB10 into law this session. When every bit counts, Connecticut must do its part.

Nathan M. Frohling is director of external affairs at The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut.

Lori Brown is the executive director of the CT League of Conservation Voters.