Conservationists and the Renewable Energy Industry Can and Must Work Together to Fight Climate Change

Elizabeth Gray and Michael M. Garland

July 8, 2022

The environmental community and the clean energy community must be partners in ensuring that conservation and clean energy go hand in hand.

Greater Roadrunner

Addressing the effects of a rapidly changing climate is the challenge of our generation. Every day we see the impacts on people, places and wildlife. The stakes are especially dire for birds, with an Audubon study showing that two-thirds of North American bird species are vulnerable to extinction if global temperature rise is allowed to continue at current levels. This is also bad news for us, because as an indicator species found in a wide array of habitats, the same factors that threaten birds threaten people as well. To ensure our collective future, we must reverse this dangerous trend by dramatically reducing emissions. And we need to act quickly.

Renewable energy represents one of our best options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. To ensure that this urgent need is met, we can and must expand our renewable energy system and transition away from fossil fuels. But we must do so in a way that prioritizes environmental outcomes. It is possible for both wildlife and responsible clean energy development to coexist. In fact it is absolutely critical.

We have no illusions about the challenge before us. To avoid ecological calamity, the U.S. has joined the global community in setting a goal of achieving a net-zero balance of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, meaning that the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the air are balanced out by the amount that are naturally reabsorbed by plants and water. Adopting 100% clean energy is key to reaching this goal. It will require a massive buildout of new projects that doubles, or even triples, the amount of energy currently generated by renewable resources. It is a big lift. But it is achievable.

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