Labor Day, 2029: When the global Ponzi scheme collapses, the only jobs left will be green — but what should you study now to be employable then?

Posted on

"Labor Day, 2029: When the global Ponzi scheme collapses, the only jobs left will be green — but what should you study now to be employable then?"

http://www.ebooknetworking.com/books/158/008/big1580089305.jpgI’m spending a few days in Elizabethtown College next week as a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow.  One of the talks I’ve proposed is “Job Security in a Globally Warmed World: What you need to study to be employable in 2020 and 2040.”

Perhaps the talk title should be “What Color is Your Parachute?  It better be some shade of green.”

I’d welcome your thoughts, since this is a tricky issue.  For instance, will we be desperate for more marine biologists — or will that job be an oxymoron in a few decades (see “Imagine a World without Fish“)?

One clear piece of advice — don’t plan on being part of the U.S. airline industry.  It has never been profitable and has no business model for oil at $150 a barrel, let alone $200 or higher, which is what we face in 2020 and beyond (see World’s top energy economist warns “We have to leave oil before oil leaves us”).  On the other hand, the clean energy and water efficiency business will boom.  True, doctors specializing in diabetes and obesity will be in demand, but let’s keep the focus to job market changes driven by energy and climate.

Air conditioning repair, yes, ski instructor, no.  Forest fire fighter, yes, gardener in the desert Dust Bowl Southwest, not so much.

To help imagine Labor Day 20 years from now, let me revise my earlier piece, “When the global Ponzi scheme collapses (circa 2030), the only jobs left will be green.”

In my March 19 post, “Why the United States REQUIRES a strong climate bill to remain competitive,” I reprised the thesis first documented by Harvard’s Michael Porter “” strong, leading edge, pro-innovation regulations promote national competitiveness. As President Obama said in March:

We can let the jobs of tomorrow be created abroad, or we can create those jobs right here in America and lay the foundation for our lasting prosperity.

It is Obama’s final point “” “lasting prosperity” “” that is the focus of this post. Obama is hinting at a point I tried to make explicit in my interview with NYT‘s Tom Friedman and subsequent post (see “Is the global economy a Ponzi scheme“):

“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm.

To perpetuate the high returns the rich countries in particular have been achieving in recent decades, we have been taking an ever greater fraction of nonrenewable energy resources (especially hydrocarbons) and natural capital (fresh water, arable land, forests, fisheries), and, the most important nonrenewable natural capital of all “” a livable climate.

In short, we have failed to designed a system capable of lasting prosperity. Quite the reverse.

Like all Ponzi schemes, the system must collapse. When it does, the only jobs left standing will be those that are “green” “” which can be defined as those jobs that do not plunder nonrenewable energy resources and natural capital and/or do not to destroy a livable climate.

Strong climate legislation and a strong clean energy bill are not the only measures needed to avert the collapse, but they are an essential first start. Absent such action, the collapse is inevitable.

When will be collapse begin and what will it look like? I expect most opinion makers and the majority of the public to get desperate about reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the 2020s. But desperation is not collapse. I have tended to think that the inflection point is around 2030.

Now it just so happens that the UK government’s chief scientist, Professor John Beddington, laid out something very close to the collapse scenario in his speech yesterday to the government’s Sustainable Development UK conference in Westminster. He warned that by 2030, “A ‘perfect storm’ of food shortages, scarce water and insufficient energy resources threaten to unleash public unrest, cross-border conflicts and mass migration as people flee from the worst-affected regions,” as the UK’s Guardian put it.

You can see a five-minute BBC interview with Beddington here. The speech is now online.  Here are some excerpts:

We saw the food spike last year; prices going up by something in the order of 300%, rice went up by 400%, we saw food riots, we saw major issues for the poorest in the world, in the sense that the organisations like the World Food Programme did not have sufficient money to buy food on the open market and actually use it to feed the poorest of the poor.

So this is a major problem. You can see the catastrophic decline in those reserves, over the last five years or so, indicates that we actually have a problem; we’re not growing enough food, we’re not able to put stuff into the reserves”¦.

So, what are the drivers? I am going to go through them now very briefly.

First of all, population growth. World population grows by six million every month “” greater than the size of the UK population every year. Between now and”¦ I am going to focus on the year 2030 and the reason I am going to focus on 2030 is that I feel that some of the climate change discussions focusing on 2100 don’t actually grip”¦. I am going to look at 2030 because that’s when a whole series of events come together.

By 2030, looking at population terms, you are looking at the global population increasing from a little over six billion at the moment to about eight billion”¦.

“¦ you are going to see major changes but particularly in the demand for livestock “” meat and dairy“¦.

“¦ By 2030, the demand for food is going to be increased by about 50%. Can we do it? One of the questions. There is a major food security issue by 2030. We’ve got to somehow produce 50% more by that time.The second issue I want to focus on is the availability of fresh water”¦.  The fresh water available per head of the world population is around 25% of what it was in 1960. To give you some idea of this; there are enormous potential shortages in certain parts of the world”¦ China has something like 23% of the world’s population and 11% of the world’s water.

“¦ the massive use of water is in agriculture and particularly in developing world agriculture. Something of the order of 70% of that. One in three people are already facing water shortages and the total world demand for water is predicted to increase by 30% by 2030.

So, we’ve got food “” expectation of demand increase of 50% by 2030, we’ve got water “” expectation of demand increase of 30% by 2030. And in terms of what it looks like, we have real issues of global water security.

“¦. where there is genuine water stress [in 2025 is] China and also parts of India, but look at parts of southern Europe where by 2025 we are looking at serious issues of water stress”¦.

So, water is really enormously important. I am going to get onto the climate change interactions with it a little bit later but water is the one area that I feel is seriously threatening. It is so important because a shortage of water obviously interacts with a shortage of food, there are real potentials for driving significant international problems “” what do you do if you have no water and you have no food? You migrate. So one can have a reasonable expectation that international migration will occur as these shortages come in.

Now, the third one I want to focus on is energy and, driven by the population increase that I talked about, the urbanisation I talked about and indeed the movement out of poverty”¦.  For the first time, the demand of the rest of the world exceeded the demand of energy of the OECD”¦..  Energy demand is actually increasing and going to hit something of the order of a 50% increase, again by 2030.

Now, if that were not enough”¦ those are three things that are coming together. What will the world be like when that happens? But we also have, of course, the issue of climate change. Now, this is a very familiar slide to you all but we are shooting for a target of two degrees centigrade, a perfectly sensible target. There is enormous uncertainty in the climate change models about that particular target. It is perfectly reasonable to say ‘shouldn’t we be shooting for one degrees centigrade or, oddly enough, it is perfectly reasonable to say ‘shouldn’t we be shooting for three degrees centigrade’, the only information we have is really enormously uncertain in terms of the climate change model.

Shooting for two seems a perfectly sensible and legitimate objective but there are enormous problems. You are talking about serious problems in tropical glaciers “” the Chinese government has recognised this and has actually announced about 10 days ago that it is going to build 59 new reservoirs to take the glacial melt in the Xinjiang province. 59 reservoirs. It is actually contemplating putting many of them underground. This is a recognition that water, which has hitherto been stored in glaciers, is going to be very scarce. We have to think about water in a major way”¦.

The other area that really worries me in terms of climate change and the potential for positive feedbacks and also for interactions with food is ocean acidification”¦.

As I say, it’s as acid today as it has been for 25 million years. When this occurred some 25 million years ago, this level of acidification in the ocean, you had major problems with it, problems of extinctions of large numbers of species in the ocean community. The areas which are going to be hit most severely by this are the coral reefs of the world and that is already starting to show. Coral reefs provide significant protein supplies to about a billion people. So it is not just that you can’t go snorkelling and see lots of pretty fish, it is that there are a billion people dependent on coral reefs for a very substantial portion of their high protein diet.

“¦ we have got to deal with increased demand for energy, increased demand for food, increased demand for water, and we’ve got to do that while mitigating and adapting to climate change. And we have but 21 years to do it”¦.

I will leave you with some key questions. Can nine billion people be fed? Can we cope with the demands in the future on water? Can we provide enough energy? Can we do it, all that, while mitigating and adapting to climate change? And can we do all that in 21 years time? That’s when these things are going to start hitting in a really big way. We need to act now. We need investment in science and technology, and all the other ways of treating very seriously these major problems. 2030 is not very far away.

Some of this can be avoid or minimized if we act now. Some of it can’t. But if we don’t act strongly now, then by 2030 we will be in the midst of this “perfect storm” of catastrophes “” and everyone in the world will know we face much, much worse probably for hundreds and hundreds of years to come.

That is the inflection point, “Planetary Purgatory” “” and you’ll want to make sure you and your children have a sustainable job by then.

« »

25 Responses to Labor Day, 2029: When the global Ponzi scheme collapses, the only jobs left will be green — but what should you study now to be employable then?

  1. John McCormick says:

    Inevitable decarbonization either by depleting reserves of oil and coal or aggressive international enforcement of a global carbon dioxide cap will raise the cost of energy to levels that rapidly reduce today’s US standard of living.

    Wind and solar energy will expand their contribution to US electric power generation but the end use must be applied the most energy efficient appliances, building design, window, motors manufacturers and architects can produce. While the renewable power generation side can be considered the new “green economy” and retrofit of our US 100 million buildings can provide the “green jobs” we eagerly await, it will be “blue collar” jobs that make the energy efficient products. That most of those goods will be imported is the sad legacy of the past generation of US outsourcing our industrial base to cheaper labor and non-regulated factories around the developing world.

    On this Labor Day, I offer a substantive plan to stimulate purchase of the appliances we will need in the very near future as electricity costs increase and DOE issues tougher efficiency standards. It is not likely the Obama Administration will pick up on it but this advice is free.

    American Industrial Renewal Begins With Renewing Consumer Spending Power

    China’s 2008 U.S. trade surplus was 38% of the total U.S. trade deficit. China began its economic expansion at a comparative technological disadvantage overcome by purchasing and luring advanced U.S. factories and service providers using its export surpluses. From the start, U.S. consumers enjoyed lower cost imports and utilized the comparative advantage provided by China’s low wages and lack of regulations. Today, America is experiencing the consequences of exporting much of its manufacturing capacity and importing the cheap products its workforce is increasingly unable and unwilling to purchase.

    Flagship American appliance and household goods manufacturers are suffering the impact of a global recession and some have been forced to downsize and outsource. That is affirmation that renewal of our domestic industrial base cannot be achieved without stimulating U.S. consumer spending. Their personal savings rate is tracking the unemployment rate. Consumer spending power is being crippled by lost home equity, capital constraints, job insecurity and an overall pessimistic view of the future. With that as the backdrop, how can the U.S. salvage its industrial base and skilled workforce and, at the same time, prepare to meet new challenges of diminishing oil reserves, unmanageable federal and private debt, a tidal wave of retirees and increasing costs of living? A serious and sustained alliance of industry and government to prop up the remaining domestic industrial base with incentives to consumers and corporations that boost sales and protect jobs is the answer.

    THE FIRST FIVE STEPS………….

    · The Administration must enforce WTO agreements to level the playing field;
    · Management, labor and government can promote domestic manufacturing through tax policies, education, RD&D, government ‘buy-American’ purchases; investment in energy efficiency and restoring tariffs on products imported from countries that manipulate their currency;
    · Use tariff revenues (in excess of $20 billion) to subsidize or guarantee loans to capitalize industry’s new starts and modernization;
    · Use tax policy to discourage outsourcing and expand the capacity of OPIC to assist US exports and particularly renewable energy technologies;
    · Utilize a portion of the tariff revenues to establish a long-term consumer incentive program designed to promote the purchase of energy efficient residential, commercial and industrial appliances and equipment by issuing government vouchers to purchase goods having primarily domestic parts and labor content.

    It has taken a generation for America to weaken its role as the world’s leading producer of quality goods and services. It will take a generation to restore that pride but it will not come cheap or easy. The future of the next generation of Americans will be measured by the willingness of corporations, the labor force and the federal government to cooperate.

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    Another Dimension of The Question

    Another dimension of the same question can be seen by considering this:

    MANY industries, fields, and ways of thinking need to change — some much more than others.

    We DO need people who will actually “think” and make those changes. Where there is a problem, there is (often) also a need and an opportunity.

    So, young people these days should not only consider the “area” of interest that attracts them. They should also consider whether they are willing to lead change, with all of the headaches and risks of doing that, and the sometimes rewards of doing that.

    To me, this is one of the most relevant questions. Changing something is hard, but often necessary. And, these days, many areas/subjects that are VERY interesting are among those that, at this point, require the most change and the most “movement from the past into the future”.

    Consider economics. Judging from what is happening and what has been written recently, much of economics is a mess. And, it’s going to be HARD to change. Yet, economics is VERY important. For everyone’s sake, we really do need the economics profession to “get with it”. What a great and fascinating challenge! Yet, a person must ask whether she/he wants to put up with the challenges, headaches, and risks associated with taking on such a challenge.

    That’s it for now. Gotta make a waffle for my son.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  3. Leland Palmer says:

    It’s hard to predict what will happen.

    As with the case of the bark beetle, which nobody predicted (that I know of) the unknown unknowns will likely be the biggest drivers of change.

    Solar thermal and solar photovoltaic jobs would seem to be likely to increase.

    New jobs will likely be created in biomass harvesting, forestry, ecology and conservation. Chemical engineering, and potential application of chemical engineering to bioenergy and sequestration schemes might see growth. It’s always nice to have some physics background, global warming includes so many questions related to physics.

    The methane hydrates are going to be a huge threat, and potentially a huge resource. Studying methane hydrates and becoming a methane hydrate expert might make someone wildly employable.

    We’re going to need combustion and mechanical engineers, if we want to transform existing fossil fuel plants to enhanced efficiency carbon negative biomass/CCS power plants.

    There are long term, persistent problems that need to be solved, with technologies from solar energy to nuclear fusion, from stirling engines to flywheel energy storage, advanced battery technology to thin film solar photovoltaic cells.

    Study physics, chemistry, biology, ecology, and engineering, I guess.

  4. ken levenson says:

    while i’m firmly in the mitigation camp, adaptation to sea rise is now a given – sooner than later….
    so my picks for future jobs would be:
    civil engineering and
    city planning
    as our coastal infrastructure and cities are adapted and ultimately relocated inland….”Buffalo or bust”…the rust belt will rise again!

  5. Dan K. says:

    Hello Mr. Romm,

    I would like to bring your attention to something happening in NC. Duke Energy is asking for almost a 20% residential price hike to pay for a) the new Cliffside coal plant and 2) for the rising cost of coal. Rising cost of coal? Seems like this makes renewables more competitive even right here in NC which just passed in its Senate a renewables bill, I believe awaiting to be signed by the Governor.

    The message I recently received contains this excerpt: “Duke Energy’s own data shows new plants can be avoided by modest increases in energy efficiency and with renewable sources of energy at levels already required in North Carolina.” I can’t speak to its accuracy, but it at least seems reasonable. NC is very energy inefficient.

    Please spread the word! We are much obliged.

    Best,
    Dan

    http://ncconservationnetwork1.org/because_you_love_nc/events/dukehikedurham/details.tcl

  6. paulm says:

    …Like all Ponzi schemes, the system must collapse…

    All complex systems will tend to collapse because of their chaotic nature.

    [JR: No, I don’t think that is a germane comment. Everything collapses sooner or later, but galaxies are complex systems and they last a long time. The ecosystem of the planet is very complex, but it has lasted a long time. This particular Ponzi scheme ain’t old and doesn’t have long to last.]

  7. James Newberry says:

    In the future at some point, they will look back and ask:

    How could they mistake the material resources (of hydrocarbons and uranium) for energy resources. Didn’t they know that of the two physical phenomena on Earth (matter and energy), material you extract from under the ground is not an energy resource. They seem to have lived amoung scientific and economic frauds like fish in a pond.

    Even their combustion efficiencies perversely define matter as energy. If engineers had bothered with sustainable calculations, they would have begun with the energy conversion that created ancient carbohydrates and fossil carbon, that is photosynthesis (land-based approx. 0.5%). For example, coal electric conversion: 30% combustion X 0.5% = 0.15% efficiency, if one insists that a black rock holding up a mountain is an “energy resource.”

    Good luck Joe, we may be just idiotic dust in the universe.

  8. paulm says:

    Chaos is very much about evolution/adaptation/improvement rather than annihilation.

  9. paulm says:

    We broke it. So we own it

    James Garvey: If you think signing up for 10:10 won’t make amaterial difference, consider the moral case

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/sep/07/climate-change-10-10

    The hypothetical imperative enshrined in antique shops, “If you broke it, you bought it”, is all you need to draw a straight line from a sooty past to a moral reason for action: the conclusion that developed countries have an obligation to cut emissions is easily reached. No doubt other thoughts should be brought to bear on countries only now going through industrialisation, but let’s just think about ourselves for now.

  10. Sable says:

    re: John McCormick (#1)

    1)If past and present behavior is any guide, most corporations aren’t going to concede a thing toward a shiny new future.

    2)The consumer driven economic model, for all its glittering success, is a big part of what got us into this mess to begin with. It depends too much on throw away items, planned obsolescence, and on people to keep stuffing their homes and garages with junk no one really needs.

    3)Whether or not we want to hear it, and like it or not, nature will prove to us once and for all that our world and many of the resources we depend on, are finite – to preserve any semblance of our civilization in the future, we have to discover where the limits are, and find ways of existing within them.

    The most vital jobs of the future will be those that can feed people. Medicine, research, finding efficiency, and security will be also be important tasks, among others.

  11. Bob Wallace says:

    Oil at $200 in 2020. Is that today’s dollars?

    If not, then how about considering the manufacturing that might come home from abroad due to high shipping costs?

    There might well be some expensive to ship products that lend themselves to low labor input, thus might be lower priced if produced close to the point of consumption.

  12. craig says:

    As the price of energy from fossil fuels rise, I can easily envision the creation of many ‘green’ jobs as we look for energy elsewhere. Furthermore, as one of the earlier comments mentioned, energy efficiency will require massive retrofitting of everything that we use in our daily lives. The real question is: are consumers going to be able to afford to buy all the stuff that will be needed to achieve energy efficiency and CO2 reductions, while maintaining sufficient spending on other things to keep the rest of economy going? If they have to divert a large part of their income from other areas, won’t employment growth due to the creation of green jobs be offset by the loss of jobs in other industries that are driven by consumer spending? The creation of 10,000,000 new ‘green’ jobs isn’t going to help much if rising energy prices and CO2 constraints mean that 20,000,000 jobs are simultaneously killed in other industries.

    How do we know for sure that the green revolution is net positive for employment, rather than zero sum or net negative? Economists in general seem to have a pretty dismal record of being able to predict very much about the future….

  13. TomG says:

    The rail industry.
    If you want any kind of a transportation network the railways will become more important as time goes by.
    That includes transcontinetal and regional freight, Amtrak and Via Rail passenger service, subways, interurbans plus all the engineering, operational and maintenance personnel to both expand and keep it going.
    If we want to become more fuel and CO2 efficient, trains will have to become more important in the future.
    But keep in mind that some where down the line Peak Oil will force the railroads to become pure electric. The capital costs will be huge for the overhead lines and new locomotives, but the payback will be quick as the price of fuel climbs higher.

  14. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi all-

    A couple more stray thoughts-

    Whether we face a collapse at all or not could depend on how much carbon we are able to put back underground, and how quickly. If we are able to put massive amounts of carbon, billions of tons per year, back underground, perhaps a collapse could be avoided, totally.

    In that case we could go back to driving our (plug in hybrid, designed for recycling) Prius automobiles to work, IMO, and come home to our solar houses.

    But the climate speaks the language of billions of tons of carbon. We need to start speaking that language to the climate system, ASAP, if we want to avert catastrophe. This means a massive conversion to biomass/CCS, I think.

    One thing we could do to avoid collapse is live in arcologies. Arcologies are cities within gigantic buildings. Advantages include much lower energy use, no need for motor vehicles, and ability to live within walking and elevator distance from your job. Disadvantages include the problems with building such gigantic structures without massive use of portland cement, a notorious CO2 intensive building material. Arcologies seem like a more longterm solution- its hard to see how we could build very many in only 20 years.

    Computer simulation, desktop engineering and digital prototyping might be big future jobs, by the way. We’re going to need to design things that work on the first try.

    Our potential futures are vanishing at breathtaking speed, IMO. Many things could be done, which we are unlikely to have the time to do, now that the climate is destabilizing.

  15. Bob Wallace says:

    Craig –

    “…are consumers going to be able to afford to buy all the stuff that will be needed to achieve energy efficiency?”

    A lot of the buying will be replacement buying. When people wear out their present car/whatever they are going to be offered more efficient choices.

    Sometimes the less efficient options will be forced off the market such as what is happening with incandescent bulbs. Sometimes manufacturers will simply see that most of the market wants efficiency and drop the less efficient models in order to simplify production.

    Sometimes people will do the math and realize that buying an efficient replacement will pay for itself in a reasonable time and after that save them money. (I’m close to doing that, replacing a five year old gas range to get a more efficient model.)

  16. Scatter says:

    We’ll need lots of engineers of all flavours. Even aerospace, although I would expect they’ll be exclusively working on airships by then.

  17. Bob Wallace says:

    We’re likely to need a lot more engineers, scientists, doctors, and all sorts of highly trained professionals.

    We’ve supplemented our basic stock with many of the ‘best and brightest’ from other countries. Foreign students have flocked here for graduate training and many have stayed.

    Those times seem to be coming to an end. Fewer are coming to the US as universities elsewhere reach premium status and other economies offer well paying employment.

  18. jorleh says:

    We must be prepared to see our civilization collapsed. There is no one big step to reduce our emissions. I ask for only one, show it. And there should be hundreds of big steps to save our civilization.

    Joe has told us in detail the coming catastrophe without radical steps taken and soon. I agree.

    We are making suicide, our species. There are too few clever enough people to see the situation before us.

  19. David says:

    How about sailing master? I’ve just been reading “The Last Grain Race” by Eric Newby about one of the last grain runs between Australia and Europe on a sailing ship in 1939. There are probably less than a couple hundred people in the whole world who know how to sail, let alone build, a ship capable of moving a significant amount of cargo or passengers across a major ocean. With relocalization-which will create a lot more demand for crafters (no more Ikea I predict) there should be lots of opportunities for zero carbon traders who are willing to travel to secure rare goods or trade unique items, think salt or coffee.

  20. Mike#22 says:

    Cool topic. I enjoy looking ahead at a future where people like Amory Lovins are redesigning everything.

    Careers?

    People who can take the average US residence and make it meet the Arch 2030 Challenge, and do it with a reasonable payback period. Over a hundred million houses, 21 years to go, 5 million homes a year at 20k to 100k each–that’s a lot of green jobs.

    Last mile infrastructure wizards who tackle the local land use planning bottlenecks hindering the rail/truck hybrid model.

    Life cycle analysis professionals who can do the work created by Walmart’s new eco labelling iniative, and also guide new businesses into full cradle to cradle product design.

    Neo-Agrarians to reclaim the suburban landscape for food production–a garden in every back yard–and harness the waste heat a power plants and factories for giant greenhouses.

    City engineers to green up the already efficient urban lifestyle. District heating, green roofs, clean transportation.

    We need more bandwidth to make telecommuting ubiquitous. Form a work group, go to college, get a check up, whatever–doing it by fiber optic requires a lot of installers and a lot of new infrastructure.

    A newly trained IT work force who can squeeze the same amount of IT performance from one fifth the electricity, and bring forth the potential in low power computing.

    Lighting professionals to relamp America with the next generation of LEDs.

    Energy Service Companies, ESCOs, to take apart every poorly designed WWTF, every municpal water supply, every commercial HVAC installation, and put it back together to the new specification.

    Myriad niche industries to provide new products to replace the old fossil fueled products. Lawn mowers for example.

    Forestry professionals to monitor sequestration, plant new species adapted to the changing climate, and to salvage everything possible from our existing ecosystems.

  21. afrjc says:

    Joe says,

    Like all Ponzi schemes, the system must collapse. When it does, the only jobs left standing will be those that are “green” — which can be defined as those jobs that do not plunder nonrenewable energy resources and natural capital and/or do not to destroy a livable climate.

    A couple comments above touched on this I think, but this seems a faulty premise. It seems to assume that collapse and the failure of unsustainable industries will be synchronized — but they won’t be. E.g., coal and hence coal based electricity will still be relatively cheap long (long) after various kinds of ecological and economic collapse are upon us, plenty past 2020 or 2040. There will still be people around then arguing that we can’t give up the economic and social benefits of this proven energy source — especially not now that we’ve got these other disasters to deal with! Corporations and industries (and communities) with vested interests in unsustainable ways of doing things will still be pushing, far too successfully I fear, to continue as much of the status quo as they can preserve well into unmitigated disaster. Green jobs won’t suddenly take over, ever.

    [JR: No, it doesn’t assume that. It assumes that by the 2020s, the painful reality of climate change will be obvious to all, that they will realize climate scientists were right all along, and that the sh!tstorm they predicted is happening and going to get much, much worse.]

    To avoid this we need to learn larger lessons, not plan for specific jobs. Learning to live 50 or 100 years out in the future instead of 5 years, tops. We’ve got to synchronize our year to year planning with the long range implications of what we do, that hasn’t happened yet and won’t happen just because we’ve gone even further down the road to climate catastrophe.

    Students need to be educated to think in terms of systems, including complex intertwined ecological and social systems. (This isn’t something we’re particularly good at, apparently, it will take work to get there.) There will be meaningful work re-learning how to do EVERYTHING we currently do (almost always blind to these implications) now. It’s not particular jobs or industries students should plan for (a catastrophic climate future is by its nature non-linear and unpredictable). They need to learn to radically re-think presuppositions they don’t currently even know exist, and they need to learn to be much, much more open to radical change from year to year, decade to decade, and much more resilient, connected to multiple back-up systems ready to replace failing industries and ways of living.

    Learn to grow food where you live, and how to mark local climate changes so you can shift crops as needed over the course of years, not decades. Learn to breed crops for hardiness (and don’t always think hi-tech genetic engineering — people have been doing this for centuries, learn to do it yourself, low tech.) Build community-level safety nets so that local economies can survive global and regional break-downs. Again, this isn’t planning for one type of “job,” a green job, it’s re-learning how to live in a new, vastly less hospitable, and vastly less predictable social and ecological environment.

  22. Bob Wallace says:

    “Students need to be educated to think in terms of systems, including complex intertwined ecological and social systems. (This isn’t something we’re particularly good at, apparently, it will take work to get there.)”

    Recently I listened to an “old fart” Ph.D. (he got his a year ahead of me) rag on computer models. He didn’t seem to understand that computer models were the theories of our graduate days, but done in much more complexity due to computing power of which we couldn’t even dream.

    I suspect we’re on the cusp of open source “Sim City” models for all of us to use in which we can all input our facts and check our ideas against model runs. We’re getting prediction power that is likely to make forward thinking somewhat automatic.

    Plus today’s students have been raised with the concepts of sustainablity and the Earth’s carrying ability as part of their everyday reality.

    Some of us grew up with the idea that there would always be oil, we could never cut all the trees, there was always new land to develop, and man was insignificant when it came to the vastness of nature.

    The young understand what we have done to this planet and that their lives are going to have to adjust to the accumulated waste, the depleted resources, and extensive crowding that is only going to get worse for a few decades more.

  23. David Levy says:

    Most of the new green jobs are not going to be directly in the renewables sector. We’ve done some work on green jobs here at the University of Massachusetts, and most of them, at least in this region, are likely to be (a) in software and services, power management, storage, and switching technologies (b) green jobs in mainstream industries, helping to cut energy and carbon in everything from retail to manufacturing and (c) green management, finance, and accounting jobs. Not many studies look at these broader impacts.

  24. Jim says:

    Three recommendations:

    1- Take a permaculture course (two weeks and $1,500). Most graduates are glad they took it.

    2- Check out EnergyBulletin.net

    3- For a longer historical view, check out archdruid.blogspot.com