New Analysis Shows How Electrifying the U.S. Economy Could Create 25 Million Green Jobs by 2035
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."
A MacArthur Genius, business leader, and MIT physicist have a plan: get 25 million Americans back to work in good-p… https://t.co/tCvc2rmvd3— Otherlab (@Otherlab)1596042082.0
"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.
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By Victoria Masterson
Using one of the world's problems to solve another is the philosophy behind a Norwegian start-up's mission to develop affordable housing from 100% recycled plastic.
Sustainable Homes<p>UN-Habitat says an <a href="https://unhabitat.org/un-habitat-aims-to-use-plastic-waste-to-support-housing-for-all" target="_blank">estimated 60% of people living in urban areas of Africa are in informal settlements</a>. At the same time, between 1990 and 2017, African countries imported around 230 metric tonnes of plastic, "which mostly ended up in dump sites creating a massive environmental challenge," the agency adds.</p><p>UN-Habitat deputy executive director, Victor Kisob, said the aim of the partnership with Othalo was to "promote adequate, sustainable and affordable housing for all."</p>
Artist's impression of an Othalo community, imagined by architect Julien De Smedt. Othalo<p>Othalo's process involves shredding plastic waste and mixing it with other elements, including non-flammable materials. Components are used to build up to four floors, with a home of 60 square metres using eight tons of recycled plastic. A factory with one production line can produce 2,800 housing units annually.</p><p>Following successful laboratory tests, Othalo's factory in Estonia has started producing components to build three demonstration homes for Kenya's capital, Nairobi; Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon and Dakar, the capital of Senegal.</p><p>Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti has been developing and testing the technology since 2016 in partnership with <a href="https://www.sintef.no/en/" target="_blank">SINTEF</a>, a 70-year-old independent research organization in Trondheim, Norway, and experts at Norway's <a href="https://en.uit.no/startsida" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Tromsø</a>.</p>
Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti. Othalo<p>Almost <a href="https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html" target="_blank">seven out of every 10 people in the world are expected to live in urban areas by 2050</a>. More than 90% of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.</p><p>"In the absence of effective urban planning, the consequences of this rapid urbanization will be dramatic," UN-Habitat warns.</p><p>Lack of proper housing and growth of slums, inadequate and outdated infrastructure, escalating poverty and unemployment, and pollution and health issues, are just some of the effects.</p><p>Mindsets, policies, and approaches towards urbanization need to change for the growth of cities and urban areas to be turned into opportunities that will leave nobody behind, UN-Habitat says.</p>
Pioneers of Change<p>Reimagining cities and communities for greater resilience and sustainability was a key topic at the<a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020" target="_blank"> World Economic Forum's Pioneers of Change Summit 2020</a>.</p><p>The digital event brought together innovators and stakeholders from around the world to explore solutions to the challenges facing enterprises, governments and society.</p><p>Opening the summit, <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020/sessions/opening-plenary-8f731cbc65" target="_blank">Stephan Mergenthaler, the Forum's Head of Strategic Intelligence and a member of the Executive Committee</a>, said: "We need to change the way we produce, the way we live and interact in our cities to make this transition to net-zero emissions a reality…</p><p>"And as this year has illustrated so dramatically, we need to make every effort that we keep populations healthy, if we want to avoid jeopardizing all this progress."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/un-africa-recycled-plastic-housing/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649069252#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.