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New Analysis Shows How Electrifying the U.S. Economy Could Create 25 Million Green Jobs by 2035

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New Analysis Shows How Electrifying the U.S. Economy Could Create 25 Million Green Jobs by 2035
A new report from Mobilizing for a Zero Carbon America demonstrates how 25 million green jobs could be created over the next 15 years. U.S. Department of Energy / Flickr

By Jessica Corbett

A report released Wednesday by a new nonprofit—in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the resulting economic disaster, and calls for a green recovery from those intertwined crises that prioritizes aggressive climate policies—lays out how rapidly decarbonizing and electrifying the U.S. economy could create up to 25 million good-paying jobs throughout the country over the next 15 years.


Mobilizing for a Zero Carbon America envisions a dramatic transformation of the nation's power, transportation, building, and industrial sectors by 2035 to meet the global heating goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The first project of the newly launched Rewiring America is "based on an extensive industrial and engineering analysis of what such a decarbonization would entail."

The report details a two-stage "maximum feasible transition" (MFT) that would involve a World War II-style production ramp-up for three to five years, followed by "an intensive deployment of decarbonized infrastructure and technology up to 2035," which would include both supply-side generation technologies and demand-side technologies like electric vehicles.

In addition to creating millions of green jobs in the wake of a public health crisis that has left tens of millions of Americans unemployed and helping the country contribute to the goals of the Paris accord—which President Donald Trump started withdrawing from last November—the report says that the MFT approach would save households nationwide up to thousands of dollars in annual energy costs.

"While government investment will be critical to the transition, private capital also has a large role to play," a summary document from the group says. "The study estimates the government's share of overall costs to be about $300 billion per year for 10 years for an approximate total of $3 trillion, mostly in the form of loans and/or loan guarantees to spur lending, akin to similar loan systems that the government has created in the past."

 

"We can power our homes by the sun, charge our cars from clean energy while we sleep, and rethink city streets as we know them. In the process, we can create 25 million jobs in America. The only thing standing in the way is a leadership vacuum," lead author Saul Griffith, an engineer and inventor who was awarded the MacArthur "Genius Grant" in 2007, said in a statement.

Griffith, founder and chief scientist of the independent research and development lab Otherlab, joined with Alex Laskey, president and founder of the software company Opower, to launch Rewiring America, which focuses on decarbonization in the U.S. The report, co-authored by Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist Sam Calisch, is part of a forthcoming book by Griffith.

"I think the best way to describe what needs to happen politically is we need a president and some level of bipartisanship that will enable FDR levels of urgency in action," Griffith told Fast Company. "And you could use either FDR's response to the Great Depression or to World War II as your measure of that, but I think it's actually more analogous to the World War II effort in terms of the speed of industrialization to win that war."

As Fast Company reported:

The report attempts to make the idea of a Green New Deal more concrete. "I think all of the various Green New Deals and aspirational climate plans are narratively in the right direction, but we need to give them some ground truths and build some reality to them about what needs to happen from the ground up," he says. "Those aspirations are great, but this is actually what you now need to do to get there. I think this is one of the first analyses that really builds out that model from the ground up of what has to happen in order to keep this on target for two degrees."
The changes would also mean lower energy costs for consumers, and the report calculates that the average American household would save between $1,000 and $2,000 a year. Everyday life wouldn't necessarily change significantly. "We now have technologies that are transformative, meaning you can now roughly have the same size and shape car, but electric," Griffith says. "You can have the same size and shape house, but it will be run with electric heat pumps instead of the natural gas furnace. And if we have the sort of that spirit of can-do that America had mid-20th century, there's every reason to believe that our lives improve when we do this, and we can have and live something like the American dream. It'll just be electrified, not fossil-fueled."

Leaders of the Sunrise Movement—a youth climate organization that advocates for the Green New Deal—endorsed the findings of Rewiring America's report, as did Sen. Brian Shatz (D-Hawaii), former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner, Niskanen Center director of climate policy Joseph Majku, and Mike Fishman, past secretary-treasurer of Service Employees International Union and current president of Clean Jobs New York.

"The Rewiring America team asked the question: 'What would happen if we actually tried to transition all of the infrastructure in American society over the next 15 years to stay within the 1.5ºC safe upper limit of global warming?'" said Evan Weber, co-founder and political director of the Sunrise Movement. "The answer they found is that would save consumers and society money, and it would create lots and lots and lots of jobs—around 25 million of them."

The report comes a couple weeks after presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden unveiled a $2 trillion green energy plan that progressive climate advocates, including Sunrise, welcomed as a "a major step forward." Biden's job-creating plan calls for a power sector free of carbon pollution by 2035.

Sunrise executive director Varshini Prakash served on a unity task force launched by Biden and his former primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who won Sunrise's endorsement. She welcomed Biden's recent proposal while also promising that her group will work to ensure he actually delivers on it if he wins.

Prakash also welcomed the analysis Wednesday, noting that "for so long we've been sold the lie that we have to choose between good jobs and a safe environment, that our generation has to choose between a livable planet and a thriving, equitable economy."

"The Rewiring America Plan puts that lie to rest once and for all," she said. "This report is a critical contribution that shows that urgently achieving an all-society clean energy future by 2035 is not only necessary and achievable, but will make the world that young people inherit more prosperous."

"We can achieve a just transition to a better world out of the wreckage of this economic crisis, with good union jobs for all, including low-income communities and communities of color," she added. "The only thing standing in the way is political will."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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