Last week, two conservative Republican Senators, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and John Barrasso of Wyoming, called for an independent probe of the IPCC – the international scientific body that summarizes the latest climate science – and asked the Senate to halt all climate action until that happens.
The senators claim that because there were some errors included in the IPCC’s 2007 report–for instance, how quickly the Himalayan glaciers might melt–the entire phenomenon of climate change must now be questioned.
I am not a scientist by training, but even I know their reasoning doesn’t hold up. The few errors that have been uncovered in the thousand pages or so of the IPCC report have nothing to do with the science of whether and why climate change is occurring. Instead, those errors are about a few specific projections about what might happen in the future.
Saying we should discard the entire thrust of climate scientist because of a couple of sloppy projections is like saying the concept of evaporation is in doubt because a handful of scientists mistakenly said Lake Mead evaporates faster than we thought.
Senator Inhofe and Barrasso are trying to use this excuse to ignore the IPCC (which stands for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). But it won’t be so easy to get around the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Foundation, the Pentagon, the National Intelligence Council, the World Health Organization, and the CIA.
Each and every one of these world-class institutions has concluded that climate change is a serious threat.
But let’s face it, people like Inhofe will never be persuaded by scientific argument. Climate denial is an article of faith for them, and I don’t believe in arguing about people’s religion.
But I do argue politics, and on the issues that matter most to Americans right now–jobs, the economy, and security–climate action makes good political sense.
So even if Inhofe’s posturing about the IPCC gives some Senators pause, they can’t ignore the following facts.
Fact: Climate Action Will Create Jobs
Every senator running for reelection this year has one question to answer: where are the jobs? Voters are hungry for opportunities, and a clean energy and climate bill will deliver them.
Clean energy jobs are growing 2.5 times as fast as traditional jobs right now. Indeed, according to economists at the University of California, the climate bill that passed the House of Representatives last June could generate nearly 2 million new jobs.
Why so many opportunities? Clean energy industries require more people than those in the fossil fuel industry. In fact, for every $1 million spent on clean energy, we can create 3 to 4 times as many jobs as if we spent the same amount on fossil fuels.
Some senators have the defeatist attitude that China will capture the clean energy market because of its low wages. In fact, a recent study by the EPIA (for which Barclays vetted the data) found that 75 percent of all solar energy jobs are in installation and maintenance and the trend is similar for other clean energy technologies. You can’t outsource the job of building a wind farm or making an office more energy efficient.
But here is another fact: the only way to get these jobs benefits is to pass a clean energy and climate bill. Without that bill, businesses don’t get the incentive to invest in job-heavy, low-carbon energy sources. And without those jobs, Senators will have a much harder time talking to their voters.
Fact: Climate Action Will Generate Economic Growth
Many economists believe that we need a new engine for growth. We need individuals and companies to invest in something on a massive scale in order to instill confidence and create jobs.
Clean energy and climate solutions fit the bill. Annual investments in the global clean energy market could reach $106 to $230 billion a year in 2020 and as much as $424 billion in 2030 (From NRDC President Frances’ Beinecke’s book, Clean Energy Common Sense). What other sector is offering that kind of growth right now?
But in order to unleash private investment, companies need the right incentives. Peter Darbee, the head of PG&E, wrote in the Capitol Hill newspaper Politico that America’s utilities need about $2 trillion over the next 20 years to modernize electrical infrastructure. But, he said, companies are delaying capital spending because, while they know climate legislation is coming, they don’t know when and they don’t know what it will look like. In the meantime, they are holding onto their cash and postponing job creation.
Darbee urged Congress to pass a climate bill because, he wrote, it will “clear the way for many companies to accelerate near-term investment and job creation. Longer term, it would enhance America’s economic competitiveness and national security.”
Fact: Climate Action Will Strengthen Our National Security
The Christmas bomber put security back on the list of top priorities for many American voters. It was a terrible reminder that distant unrest can wash up on our shores.
And that’s what the Department of Defense is worried about when it comes to climate change. A few weeks ago, the Pentagon released its Quadrennial Defense Review–its official assessment of military risks–and it called climate change a threat to national security that “may spark or exacerbate future conflicts,” and labeled global warming “an accelerant of instability.” The Central Intelligence Agency and the National Intelligence Council came to similar conclusions.
If we stay on our current path –ignoring climate change and continuing to fuel it with our oil addiction–the risks will only grow. Americans spent a record $450 billion on imported oil in 2008–$1,400 for every man, woman, and child in this country. This money was sent overseas to places like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Nigeria. Do you think those regimes have our best interests in mind?
Retired Navy Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn explained it like this: “Our growing reliance on fossil fuels jeopardizes our military and affects a huge price tag in dollars and potentially lives… In our judgment, a business-as-usual approach constitutes a threat to our national security.”
A clean energy and climate bill will disarm that threat, protect our servicemen and women, and keep billions of dollars here in America.
Senators Inhofe and Barrasso can argue over the science as much as they want. The scientific community can and will defend the science behind climate change. While they have that debate, there are lots of additional, incredibly important reasons to get started…. So, let’s not wait.