We need to accelerate growth in green jobs by treating climate change like the crisis of WWII
In this era when every day can bring another profoundly disturbing bit of news about climate change, it’s easy to miss the good news about what’s being done to keep it from becoming worse than it could be.
What’s happening in the world of clean, green energy is one of those bright spots.
Not that the gains in this field will rescue us entirely from the impact of global warming, but they will make a difference if we can elect enough right-minded people to accelerate the energy transformation that’s already underway and push a transformation of agriculture and transportation at the same time.
The good news comes from the International Renewable Energy Agency’s annual review of jobs and clean energy for 2017, which was released last week.
That review found that in the United States there are now 800,000 clean energy jobs, more than 360,000 of those in solar and wind alone.
Just the 51,000-job increase in wind jobs over the past three years is equal to the total number of U.S. coal-mining jobs. Paul Horn at InsideClimate News reports:
In 2016, solar was creating U.S. jobs at 17 times the rate of the national economy, rising to more than 260,000 jobs in the U.S. solar industry today.
In the U.S. wind industry, now with over 100,000 jobs, a new wind turbine went up every 2.4 hours this past quarter.
One driver of this rush to build out solar and wind capacity over the past few years was the expected expiration of key federal tax credits, which were ultimately renewed but with a phase-out over time for wind and solar. […]
The U.S. trails the European Union in renewable energy jobs, about 806,000 jobs to over 1.2 million, according to IRENA’s numbers.
(With hydropower excluded, the totals are 777,000 jobs to 1.16 million in the EU). Brazil also counts more renewable energy jobs, with 876,000, not counting hydropower.
All three are far behind China, the world leader in clean energy employment by far with nearly 4 million jobs, including hydropower.
China’s National Energy Administration has projected renewables growth of 2.6 million jobs a year between 2016 and 2020 with a massive investment plan for renewable power generation.
That is what the U.S. needs, too, a massive investment plan for renewable power.
Call it a Green New Deal, a domestic Marshall Plan, Infrastructure Modernization for the 21st Century, or whatever, we need to take up The Climate Mobilization’s approach.
That is, we need to treat climate change as a crisis at least equal to the crisis we faced in World War II.
Few people at the time said “no can do.”
We just did it.
Or rather our parents and grandparents did.
Faced with the Axis powers, the United States wholly transformed its economy, eventually spending 37 percent of annual gross domestic product on defense.
In the postwar years, that transformation laid a foundation—along with the GI Bill and infrastructure spending—for one of the most prosperous eras the nation has ever known, though that prosperity failed to reach the vast majority of people of color. We need to be thinking along the same lines now, but more inclusively.
While there are tons of programs that ought to be part of this plan for a green future, like upgrading the transmission grid, electrifying the rail system, providing community solar so that renters and low-income homeowners can participate in the transformation, not be left behind by it.
But such plans would benefit from the boost of a “moonshot,” a grand proposal that captures the imagination of people.
If I were making the choice, our “moonshot” would be moving to 100 percent renewables by 2040. Not easy. But, as more and more research shows, doable with a hard enough push. Who will pay for this? That wasn’t a question during World War II for a very good reason: The alternative was grim. So it is today.
Or, instead of accelerating the transformation already underway, the US. could continue to delay, which is just another form of denial. “No can do” is a formula for catastrophe, environmentally and economically.
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