The most common argument we hear against transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable energy is that doing so will hurt the economy. Not so, says Tom Steyer, co-founder of NextGen Climate America, whose goal is 50% clean energy by 2030. The billionaire climate activist also sits on the board of directors for the Center for American Progress.
As reported by Think Progress, Steyer told the media last week that transitioning to a low carbon economy will actually increase GDP by $290 billion and improving household income. He referenced a report that examined now America could reduce its emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels. “While addressing climate change is one of our greatest challenges, it is one of our greatest opportunities to build the economy,” Steyer said.
The report, entitled Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States, predicts a major increase in construction jobs. Many workers will be needed to build the solar farms, wind turbines and grid storage facilities needed to enable a low carbon economy. “The go-to argument against [climate action] is that it’s bad for the economy and it’s a job killer,” Steyer said. He says that jobs in the solar industry have grown 20 times faster than the rest of the economy in the past few years.
Steyer also likes to point out that those who complain the loudest about how getting off fossil fuels will kill the economy make absolutely no provision in their economic forecasts for the effects climate change will have on traditional business models. How stupid is that? They must all be as dumb as Senator James Inhofe, who brought a snowball onto the floor of the Senate earlier this year to prove that climate change can’t be happening because it is still cold outside in the winter.
Internationally recognized economist Jeffery Sachs told reporters recently that it is critical to determine first where we want to go and then tailor policies to achieve those end goals. This is a process known as “leadership,” a concept unfamiliar to the majority of our so-called political leaders. “Too often,” Sachs said, “our national policy conversation jumps straight to the question, ‘Is it a tax? Is it this or that?’ Whereas what this report does — much better, in my opinion — is to show here’s where we want to go.”
While the report paints an optimistic picture of the economy under a clean energy scenario, it does say that the gains will not be uniform in all sections of the country. Job growth in the region between Montana and Texas — a fossil fuel heavy swath of the country — would experience slower job growth.
That means the nation will need to dedicate resources — educational and economic — to areas that will have a harder time getting off fossil fuels. “To help them adapt, we need to provide dedicated new resources for economic diversification, job creation, job training and other employment services for workers and communities affected by job losses at coal mines and coal-fired power plants,” the report’s authors say.
For more about the skills that will be needed as America tries to kick its oil addiction, watch this video.
Photo credit: NextGen America