Are We Living in a Post-Climate World?
With today’s Executive Order rolling back many Obama-era regulations on climate, clean power and environmental protection, the Trump administration is opening a new front in their so-called “war” on President Obama’s climate change policies. We shouldn’t be surprised: candidate Trump said during the campaign this is what he’d do and he’s doing it. But it’s still jarring given how dramatic the changes will be once the Executive Order is fully implemented: with today’s action, the United States is moving from being a global leader to a global laggard.
Given the sound and fury around today’s announcement relating to the future of climate change policy, it’s tempting to ask if we are living in a post-climate world. The answer is, in a word, “no.” US inaction can slow progress on climate change mitigation, but it can’t stop it. Global leaders are moving on without us:
China is stepping up on climate policy even as they build more fossil plants and seek to boost domestic industry and economic development.
The Indian government is engaging on the threat of climate change and developing policies to address it.
And the American business community has continued to increase support for renewable energy, emissions reduction technologies and energy efficiency.
While the Trump administration continues its efforts to dismantle regulations and defund important research and development programs, recent reports demonstrate that a sound energy and environmental policy actually contributes to a sound economy:
The 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook developed by Bloomberg New Energy Finance for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy* concluded that in 2016, Americans paid less for energy than ever before. And those falling energy costs played out against a backdrop of a growing economy: the Factbook found that “since 2007, the nation’s GDP has grown by 12% while energy consumption has fallen by nearly 4%.” That’s progress.
The Alliance to Save Energy cites U.S. Department of Energy information released in January that shows energy efficiency programs support 2.2 million jobs across the United States.
The National Solar Jobs Census 2016 released in February 2017 found that one in fifty new U.S. jobs was in the solar industry and “solar industry employment growth outpaced the overall U.S. economy by 17 times as it increased by over 51,000 jobs, for a total of 260,077 U.S. solar workers.” The American Wind Energy Association announced in February that “American wind power is now the #1 source of renewable capacity, thanks to more than 100,000 wind workers across all 50 states.”
The Executive Order signed today is bad news for our environment and our economy. But the way to oppose it is not to politicize it, as the administration is seeking to do, but to put it in context of economic impacts. It’s a mistake because it seeks to harm the very engine of economic growth that is already making America great (and has been for years). Facts are facts and the truth is that American economic competitiveness is driven by American leadership in smart energy and environmental policies that spur development and infrastructure while reducing emissions.
*We worked with BCSE and their partners to roll-out the 2017 Factbook earlier this year.