by Matt Ziegman
Americans have always been uniquely innovative and entrepreneurial. However, the entrepreneurial spirit and urge to innovate that long existed prior to the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries—and made America a hub for world manufacturing—has been absent from America’s climate discussion. Our nation’s technological sector, housed in California’s Silicon Valley, is consistently on the forefront of global technological advancement. The technological sector is continuously embraced by investors, business leaders, and politicians, and has a track record of creating millions of U.S. jobs. So why have we yet to fully acknowledge our environmental sector for what it is: another sector of the U.S. economy.
One aspect of today’s climate conversation that never ceases to fascinate me is a vocal minority’s unwavering willingness to participate in climate skepticism. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence, participation in climate skepticism shows a hesitation toward further American innovation and entrepreneurialism—two characteristics that are, or at least were, intrinsically American. As the country falls further and further behind by taking time to debate sound fact, we are not only continuing to lose jobs in non renewables, but we are also losing jobs and industries of America’s future energy sector. Politicians complicit in climate skepticism, including but not limited to our current president, are promising jobs that no longer exist, rather than jobs of a future clean energy sector. Denying investment in the environmental sector is akin to denying the future.
The potential for new environmental technologies, industries, and jobs is limitless, given the wide variety of positions necessitated by wind, solar, and hydro technologies. This post is a call to current political leaders to support further investment, job training and retraining, and a reexamination of our environment as its own sector of the economy. Environmental protection and economic growth are not inverses. That very belief is a myth. It is completely possible, not to mention morally ethical, to simultaneously protect the public’s health, preserve global ecosystems for future generations, create jobs, and foster sustainable economic growth for the American people.
With the U.S. unable to create a robust, well-defined climate policy, it seems paradoxical that the world’s leading polluter, China, is now the world leader in renewable energy. It’s true. Even as the world’s largest polluting country, emitting 10.7 billion tons of CO2 in 2015, China is leading in global solar and wind investment. The nation’s clean energy sector already supports 3.5 million jobs and is estimated to create an additional 10 million jobs—assuming China follows through on its pledge to invest $367 billion by 2020.
Similar investment in America’s energy and environmental sector is not only needed to secure a strong economic future and cleaner environment, but it’s also completely possible. As the global population continues to increase, water levels rise, and resources become more and more scarce, pressure for viable environmental solutions will continue to grow. Right now, it’s not too late to make the United States the clean energy capital of the world. However, if policy makers and legislators keep postponing the real change that so many Americans already demand, the United States’ window to become the clean energy capital of the next century will inevitably close.
We can’t afford to wait.