The holiday season is the happiest time of the year, but is it the most sustainable? The end of the year holidays come with an increase in travel, eating, shopping and waste. This year, find ways to celebrate in a more sustainable way. Read More.
Since August 2018 a climate change movement known as “Fridays for Future” has grown significantly fast. It all started with the now 16-year old Swedish Greta Thunberg, who learned about the devastating effects of climate change in school. She felt so taken by what she had learned and thought that interventions on a global level need to happen sooner rather then later. Greta started to protest outside of the Swedish parliament every Friday during normal school hours arguing “why study for a future which may not be there.” The goal of her protests was to demand political leaders improve current climate policies for a sustainable future. Greta also argues “why spend a lot of effort to become educated, when our governments are not listening to the educated?”. Like the snowball effect, Greta’s protesting went from her protesting alone to large school “strikes” together with thousands of people across the world every Friday.
(Photo: Michael Campanella/The Guardian)
In mid-March 2019, the largest strike so far took place in more than 125 countries with at least 1.6 million participants, all demanding action against climate change. Recently, on May 24, another large school strike was organized with similar participation rates, as featured in The Washington Post. The group Youth Climate Strike US, is the lead youth climate action organization in the U.S. They are advocating for the New Green Deal, a stop to new construction of fossil fuel infrastructure, evidence-based policymaking in the government, a declaration of national emergency on climate change, comprehensive climate change education in primary schools, improved preservation of public lands and wildlife habitats and clean water actions.
(Photo: Justin Lane/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
The main goal of the school strikes is to urge political leaders globally to comply with the recommendations of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It’s stated in their latest report that in order to prevent and reverse the predicted devastating impacts of climate change on planet earth and human health, global CO2 emissions need to be cut by 45% by 2030. While political leaders are responsible for implementing sustainable policies, such as fulfilling the pledges they made in the Paris agreement for 2030, all people can do their part with small lifestyle changes as well. If we don’t act now, we put ourselves and all wildlife at risk for a mass extinction.
The devastating effects of climate change is not limited to melting icecaps and rising sea levels. Climate change has also caused an increased number and intensity of extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes, tornados and rainfall in the U.S. In the 2009 CHEJ publication “In the Eye of the Storm,” the impact of extreme weathers near or at Superfund sites is explored. Superfund sites are already toxic and put human health at risk. With the increased number of storms and flooding, toxins migrate in soil and water and pose a greater risk than originally, making the cleanup processes more difficult and costly too.
Tonight’s debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney is about foreign policy. However, the issue of jobs is going to be injected because that is THE talking point for both candidates. Yet green clean jobs and economic growth is almost never mentioned as if it were a curse word.
Neither candidate is likely to mention the fact, according to a recent report by the Brookings Institute, that sectors like clean energy, green building, and efficient transport employ 2.7 million workers — more than the biosciences and fossil fuel sectors. Furthermore, these jobs actually pay better than an average job. The Brookings report show, yet again, that environmental sustainability isn’t some passing fad or a feel-good exercise, it’s a natural progression of the economy. If we could only get our leaders to pay attention.
Another interesting fact that Brookings reported is that the jobs created from 2008-2009 grew at almost double what the overall economy grew during those same years. An analysis from the Center for American Progress found that clean-energy investments create about 16.7 jobs for every $1 million in spending. Spending on fossil fuels, by contrast, generates 5.3 jobs per $1 million in spending. Why isn’t this being talked about in the debates or on the campaign trail of either candidate? The most important take-away from the report is that the clean economy — which has become a large portion of our overall economy — comes with immense benefits beyond the obvious environmental factors. People will be less exposed to chemicals and other toxins associated with the fossil fuel industry, resulting in less disease, special educational teachers and millions of dollars spent cleaning up the mess.
China is likely to be mentioned in this debate but I’ll bet neither candidate will talk about China’s investments in clean energy. According to the report American firms are losing market share both at home and abroad to competitors from other nations. An enormous part of the answer has to do with China’s ability to channel vast sums of affordable capital into innovative large-scale deployment projects—something that the U.S. continues to struggle with. The numbers speak for themselves. In 2010, China put into place a staggering $54.4 billion in clean energy investments. Of this, asset financing—funding for hard assets like wind farms and solar arrays—accounted for more than $47 billion of the total. By contrast, U.S. private investment in clean energy totaled $34 billion, with just $21 billion or so in asset finance. Now the gap is widening further, with Chinese asset finance investment in at $10.9 billion as compared to just $2 billion in the United States. Could this investment by China be because China isn’t run by or owned by the large oil and gas industries?
The recent report confirms that these exciting clean-energy industries really are growing as fast as we think they are. The challenge is to get to our elected leaders and those running for election and demand that they stop talking about out-dated energy options and job creation and begin moving on the investments that will provide good wages, environmentally safer and economically better futures for all Americans.