Monday, September 06, 2010

No Nancy Pelosi, it Isn’t about Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

It is Labor Day so the topic is jobs or at least promises of jobs. This brings to mind a very short but memorable speech by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi just before voting took place last year on the American Clean Energy and Security Act (Waxman-Markey bill), the comprehensive climate bill passed by the House. The debate that took place before the vote was somewhat surreal with few House members referring to the changes in the physics, chemistry, and biology that are taking place on our planet due to greenhouse gas emissions. Because of these changes we are heading toward disaster. Many Democrats argued that it was a job-creating bill and many Republicans argued that it was a job-killing bill. Some House members said it was all about achieving energy independence. When Nancy Pelosi spoke at the end of the debate she said it was about one thing, creating jobs, jobs, jobs. Is that true?
A climate bill should create a large number of jobs in a number of industries such a solar, wind, and home insulation. But it should also wipe out a large a number of jobs in the coal industry and oil industry. In should cause a major disruption with winners and losers. There doesn’t seem to be any alternative.
Whether to adopt a strategy of frightening people about climate change or adopt a strategy that is aimed to what people really care about, having better lives now, has divided climate activists. The great conundrum is that neither strategy appears to have any chance of success. The general experience is that most people don’t want to listen to the scientific facts about climate change. These facts should create a sense of urgency but they just tune out messages about parts per million in the atmosphere, etc, not caring whether the target is 450 ppm or 350 ppm or staying below 2C or 3C or getting down to 1 or 2 tons of carbon per capita, etc. Most people will listen to messages about creating jobs or achieving energy independence but these goals do not convey the sense of urgency that is needed and are too limted, for example, many people do not need jobs and energy independence only addresses oil, saying nothing about coal, the most important source of greenhouse gases. So no strong political moment has been created to counter the filthy rich fossil fuel industry that has spent vast sums of money to protect their profits from climate legislation and as a result we drift onward toward catastrophic climate change.

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