Mr. President, Acting On Climate Will Advance Economic Growth And Create Jobs

by Bill Becker

In his first post-election news conference, President Obama made clear that his concern about global climate change will not push the economy and jobs off the top of his priority list.

“If, on the other hand, we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader,” he said, “I think that’s something that the American people would support.”

Before 24 hours passed, a nonpartisan group in Washington D.C. – the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS) – issued a detailed, data-rich report that shows climate action meets the President’s test. It will indeed advance economic growth and create jobs.  Moreover, it will significantly improve America’s energy security.

The CCS report gives Obama some good news to share with Americans who have been victimized by extreme weather, as well as those who are victims of the recession. It also gives his Administration some good news for the international community when it meets later this month in Doha, Qatar, to continue work on a global climate treaty. In the past, the United States has been regarded as a laggard in cutting carbon emissions.

CCS – a diverse group of experts best known for helping states create and develop broad support for climate action plans – said its economic and energy modeling shows the United States is on a trajectory to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 23% by 2020, compared to estimates in 2005 by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Sliced another way, we’re on the path to achieving nearly 70% of President Obama’s goal for carbon emission reductions by 2020.

Contrary to popular wisdom, our carbon glide path is not due mainly to less economic activity during the recession, or the slow recovery, or the rapidly increasing use of natural gas.  Almost half the emission reductions are due to just 8 existing policies implemented by localities, states and the federal government, the CCS said. The policies range from new vehicle efficiency standards at the federal level, to renewable energy requirements at the state level and energy efficiency building codes in communities.

Further, CCS estimates that 20 additional policies implemented selectively at the national level or by states and localities would produce these benefits:

  • 1.24 million net new full-time jobs by 2020;
  • $88 billion in additional GDP, accumulating to more than $ 1 trillion between now and 2030;
  • Net societal savings of more than $1.4 trillion between now and 2030;
  • A reduction in oil imports of 135 million barrels in 2020 and 5 billion barrels between now and 2030;
  • Greater diversity in our energy mix, less summer peak demand for electricity and better energy productivity (only 14% of the energy we consume today produces useful work);
  • A reduction of 466 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in 2020 and a cumulative reduction of 13.5 billion metric tons between now and 2030

The CCS report is good news on several other fronts.

First, it reconfirms that state and local leadership on climate change is paying dividends, and the potential for more is high.

Second, it shows we don’t need to build pipelines from Canada to diversify our energy supplies and improve national energy security. Nor do we have to dramatically increase the domestic production of oil, coal and other carbon-intensive fuels. Environmentally friendly actions can be as effective.

Third, the study shows that reducing the root causes of global climate change belongs in the nation’s economic recovery and jobs strategy as well as its energy security plans. Climate action should not be stove-piped as an environmental issue. It deserves to be part of a comprehensive national strategy to build a robust clean energy economy.

During his news conference, Obama said we need a national conversation about climate change and what we can realistically do about it.  He’s spot-on about that. But in addition to leading the conversation, he can help the country achieve the emission cuts that are possible with the suite of policies identified by CCS, including a clean electricity standard at the national level; more demand-side management programs at the state level; smarter growth, more public transit and better building standards at the local level; and improved farming and forestry techniques.

The President can issue a call to action by national, state and local leaders across the country. He can convene economists, energy experts, state and local officials, and others to draft an intergovernmental roadmap to the clean energy economy. Advocates of a roadmap range from the Presidential Climate Action Project to business leaders and investors.

A well-developed, well-supported roadmap would help coordinate and maximize the benefits of energy and climate policies at all three levels of government; create more certainty for businesses and investors to get behind clean energy; guide public and private research; and provide direction for legislation. A good first step would be an inventory of the existing climate and clean energy programs scattered across the federal government and the nation.

The CCS study provides new documentation that climate action isn’t just about the environment and it isn’t a diversion from the President’s economic agenda. In fact, it belongs right at the top of the nation’s priority list for economic growth, jobs and security.

Bill Becker is executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. For more complete information, the Center for Climate Strategies has posted its full report, including detailed descriptions of its recommended policies, data and its analysis methodology.

8 Responses to Mr. President, Acting On Climate Will Advance Economic Growth And Create Jobs

  1. Mark E says:

    Goal: Prevent ecology-related collapse of civilization

    Method: Nonstop never-ending economic growth by converting our finite supply of natural resources into consumer goods.

    Rational? Well, what do you think?

    As a practical matter, no president can do anything else unless enough of us are willing to talk about the real problem, of which global warming is just the most horrible of a long list of symptoms. So the end goal – preventing an ecology-related collapse of civilization – can not be met until and unless we are willing to go to the heart of the problem.

    Meanwhile, I suppose the pres has to talk up economic growth as part of his climate plan. And we should support it. But that doesnt mean that ((we)) have to pretend to be blind about the real issue: economic growth addiction.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    Obama did not have much credibility among the reality based community, and lost what little he had by disavowing a carbon tax and basically interrupting questions about climate concerns by giving the Republican answer “what about the economy?”.

    We don’t know if the rate of clean energy conversion required will help or harm the US economy. Case studies from Germany and Sweden indicate that countries that deploy global warming solutions are the healthy ones, and continue in that direction. It’s also possible that the scale of the shift required would slow GDP growth a point or two. If Obama bothered to study the latest science, he would say “so what?”.

    Obama’s finger wagging about “the economy” communicates a more subtle message, demonstrated during his election campaign: he is afraid to get away from fossil fuels, and has bought the Breakthrough Institute package of More Research, let’s all talk about it some more, don’t dare charge for pollution externalities or effect a carbon tax, etc.

    At this stage, we have to treat him like Lyndon Johnson in 1969, and not care that his party is better than the other one. Do the right thing, Mr. President, or expect to be rejected and abandoned by those of us who want to actually accomplish something.

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    typo correction:

    Lyndon Johnson in 1968, or course, before he decided not to run for reelection.

  4. David Goldstein says:

    Yes, Mark- to me this is right on the money. And…it is probably an almost impossible topic to introduce for serious consideration. Growth capitalism is the U.S.’s and, now, the world’s true ‘religion’. If we, as a species, we’re ever able to come together to 1) Proactively plan to systematically lower our population over the next 3 generations (to, eventually, maybe 4 billion or so?) 2) Implement appropriate technology and more localized communities of production and distribution AND, somehow, shifted away from growth and consumerism then…it would all work out SO WELL! But, meanwhile…we messily go about our ways mixing our sublime qualities with our fear, ignorance and, well, insanity.

  5. fj says:

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy NYC has instituted a Rapid Repairs program along with FEMA to get people back in their homes at minimal cost.

    As part NYC Rapid Repairs it would be a good thing to include rapid hazard mitigation and energy retrofits including superinsulation, solar, and smart micro grids as a replicable model for rapidly moving forward on a continuous improvement program of adaptation and aggressive mitigation coordinated with various branches of Federal (US Dept of Energy), NYS (NYSERDA), and local governments (CUNY, Solar City, etc.) for oversight and public private funding.

  6. fj says:

    Also, this would put lots of people to work.

  7. Mark E says:

    Ironicially, it only became a global paradigm because growth addiction internationalized the markets and drove the implementation of numerous trade agreements. Pockets of resistance tend to get bulldozed out of the way. What does this look like? Replacing heirloom food varieties with just a few monocrops…. and so the entire growth-addicted global society increases its homogenization and decreases its resilience to all sorts of onslaughts. Its the biggest domino setup ever.

  8. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Yes. Investments in Renewables not only contribute to stabilise Climate but create many jobs.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India