What is Nevada’s climate strategy? There isn’t one.

Governor Joe Lombardo cancels state’s climate strategy with no replacement in place, and won’t answer questions about it
An image of Lake Mead in July showing significant drops in water levels
A “bathtub ring” shows the historical high water level in Lake Mead, in this photo from July 2014. Courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

July was the hottest month ever recorded on the planet. It just happens to be the same month Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo pulled the state out of the U.S. Climate Alliance, a state-led initiative to reduce impacts of climate change. In that decision, Lombardo said the U.S. Climate Alliance is not aligned with Nevada’s energy goals of reliability and affordability.

The move follows a March executive order, in which Lombardo ordered the state climate strategy be reviewed and revised based on his energy policies.

So, what exactly is the governor’s plan to address climate change? He doesn’t have one.

Over the last five weeks, the Sierra Nevada Ally has reached out to the governor’s office eight separate times for clarity on this topic, and have yet to receive a single response from the governor or his press secretary, Elizabeth Ray.

So, we took our request to the Governor’s Office of Energy (GOE). If the climate strategy is to align with energy policy, it would make sense GOE would have the info we wanted.

“While energy is a piece of climate strategy and the climate conversation, and our office has a part to play in this realm, we aren’t the ‘keepers’ of the state’s climate work,” Stephanie Klapstein, public information officer for GOE, wrote in an email to the Sierra Nevada Ally.

“The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection [NDEP] is the lead agency in this area, and they are probably better positioned to answer questions related to the larger picture of climate,” she added.

So, we took our questions to NDEP.

“I wanted to make sure the Governor’s Office had reached out to you. We were advised that the Governor’s Office of Energy might be the best contact for this story,” NDEP public information officer Matthew McDaniel responded.

With no answer from Lombardo, and confusion from GOE and NDEP, we’re left wondering who exactly is in charge of the state’s climate strategy. Who are the “keepers?”

“DCNR [Department of Conservation and Natural Resources] and DOE are working with the Governor’s Office to align our State climate policies with the governor’s energy goals. Any updated climate policy will reflect that,” McDaniel said in a follow-up email.

To be clear, there is no requirement for Nevada to have a climate strategy in place (in fact, just 24 states and the District of Columbia do), and we’re unsure at this time if there will be a new strategy or when that would be released.

So, what do we know?

A screenshot of Executive Order 2023-007 which establishes Governor Joe Lombardo's energy policies.

On March 21, Gov. Lombardo issued an executive order establishing his energy policy goals, and in that, ordered the Nevada State Climate Strategy to be reviewed and revised to reflect these new energy priorities.

“The state’s energy policy will be focused on developing and maintaining a robust, diverse energy supply portfolio and a balanced approach to electric and natural gas energy supply and transportation fuels that emphasizes affordability and reliability for consumers,” the order begins.

The order then further emphasizes the governor’s goal of diversifying Nevada’s energy sources, as a way to help mitigate rising energy costs that have been hurting Nevadans this summer. It’s clear the governor wants his energy policies to create economic benefits in some way.

“The energy policies pursued by this administration will focus on job creation, economic development and investment in our state by directing our energy providers to deliver affordable, reliable and sustainable energy to Nevada residents and businesses.”

The order also suggests streamlining the permitting process for energy projects, developing more in-state energy production and investing in more transmission and storage.

You can read the full order here.

This seemingly balanced approach seems a bit less balanced when you look at Lombardo’s action in July, removing Nevada from the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of state governments that, according to its website, are “advancing state-led, high-impact climate action.”

“While the goals of the U.S. Climate Alliance are ambitious and well-intentioned, these goals conflict with Nevada’s energy policy objectives,” Lombardo’s letter stated, referencing his March executive order.

NDEP spokesperson Matthew McDaniel said his agency has received $3 million from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop three climate action plans through 2027, adding that after completing the first report, billions in federal dollars could be made available to Nevada. But, this a different initiative from the state’s climate strategy, of which there is currently is none.

Again, we reached out to the governor’s office eight separate times and never received a response.

Hot, Hot, Hot

Source: Climate Central

The problem with not having an official climate strategy is that the planet is warming whether plans are made or not.

“There is no one on the planet that is not feeling the effects of climate change,” said Dr. Andrew Pershing of Climate Central, a nonprofit organization of scientists and communicators who research and report on climate change.

“It’s really more about which of the effects that you think you might have a better shot at adapting for, preparing for, being somewhat resilient to,” Pershing added.

According to the organization’s research, this July was the hottest month ever recorded on the planet, with 2023 having a 99% chance of finishing as one of the top five hottest years on record. The other four years are 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020.

Reno and Las Vegas are the two fastest-warming cities in the country. Since 1970, the average temperature in Reno has risen 7.8 degrees Fahrenheit, while Las Vegas has seen an increase of 5.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

“In the 70s in Reno, there was a very different type of climate. It was a lot cooler. When I was at UNR [University of Nevada, Reno], people were talking about how a lot of the buildings that were built in Reno, they didn’t have air conditioning, there wasn’t really a need for it. And then you see now it is absolutely necessary, which is something that people are struggling with,” said Kaitlyn Trudeau, scientist with Climate Central, who got her master’s degree at UNR.

Climate Central found that Nevada has also seen the largest increase in what’s called cooling demand days, meaning as temperatures continue to rise, the need for effective cooling will also rise.

“We’re seeing almost every single day above the normal temperatures and the toll that takes on really every part of our community,” Trudeau said. “Schools, can close. Schools, our economy, businesses, the environment, animals.. this is [an] across the board thing. We’re all being impacted by this.”

A graph of the fastest-warming cities and states, showing Reno and Las Vegas as the two fastest-warming cities.
Source: Climate Central

Residents are then left either footing the bill for expensive cooling systems, or paying for it in other ways, as Dr. Kristi Ebi from the University of Washington explained.

“When you look at the official numbers, it’s about 700 Americans [who] die every year from the heat… At the end of the century, without adaptation or mitigation, there could be an additional 100,000 or so deaths from heat,” Ebi said.

The U.S. government has set goals of reducing emissions 50% compared to 2005 levels, and to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. But, as Climate Central has reported, that will require help from states.

“Although the U.S. has reduced emissions by about 1% per year since 2005, this pace is not fast enough to meet national targets by 2030,” the report stated.

“Reaching these targets requires action at the state and local levels.”

What say you, Governor?


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