Labor Day 2020: Electrifying everything can fix the jobs & climate crisis

The newsletter for people “woke” on carbon and climate.

(source: Napa Valley Register)

Issue No. 42 - September 6, 2020

Welcome to the latest issue of Carbon Creed - a newsletter for people “woke” on carbon and climate. This week we are trying out a new, simpler format for the newsletter. Let us know what you think. As always, we appreciate the value of your time!

(image: Brookings Institute)


Electrifying everything can fix the jobs and climate crisis

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Yet, Labor Day 2020 feels different than prior years. From mass unemployment to the threat of climate change, the U.S. will face a number of seemingly unprecedented challenges even after the current public health tragedy has passed.

Finding needed solutions won’t be easy and will require creative thinking, robust analysis, and political resolve.

Thus, on this Labor Day we present the new “truth” about the clean energy economy: decarbonizing and electrifying everything can fix the climate crisis and usher in an era of abundant jobs.

Decarbonization - the new gospel of clean tech

There appears to be this notion that slowing climate change is an economically costly task. That weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels will lead to massive job losses for the traditional energy industries like coal, oil and natural gas — a thought untenable to most during our current unemployment crisis.

That notion is totally false, and now we have the data to prove it. A new report co-authored by Saul Griffith (CEO, Otherlab) and the nonprofit Rewiring America finds that completely decarbonizing the U.S. economy would create as many as 25 million more jobs in the near-term, as we overhaul our infrastructure, and then 5 million more energy jobs than we have today in perpetuity.

What makes this report different than others that have come before? Unlike other approaches, which tend to see climate change policy as primarily environmental in nature, the study also imagines the electrification of America as fundamentally infrastructure designed to power America and its economy in the 21st century.

Prior studies have also looked at decarbonization of particular sectors (e.g., power, transportation), but this is the first analysis of the job opportunities that would result from a rapid and total decarbonization of the economy as a whole.

This massive job creation makes decarbonization the right answer to two of the pressing problems we’re facing: a looming climate catastrophe and a world economy on the brink of collapse, in dire need of good jobs.

If government and corporate leaders move quickly, we could accomplish it all in the next 15 years — a timeline that is necessary to limit the global temperature rise to between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees Celsius.

It would take a lot of effort, but no more than the mobilization the country saw during World War II.

“If we are serious about what we should be doing for the planet, this is the level of effort required to do it. And if we contextualize it in terms of COVID-19, this is a historic opportunity — like the Great Depression; like World War II — to do the massive infrastructure spending required to do a job like that.” - Saul Griffith (CEO, Otherlab)

Electrify Everything - the ultimate climate solution

How would it work? Griffith says we don’t have to wait for some miracle invention or impose harsh efficiency requirements. The answer is to “electrify everything” — to transition our oil, coal and natural gas consumption into electricity consumption, and then to clean up our electricity sources.

“You can’t efficiency your way to zero. We still have this historic dialogue about efficiency when what we really need to do is have a dialogue about transformation,” - Saul Griffith

According to Griffith’s analysis, if we electrify the majority of the economy, we’ll only need 50% of the energy we think we do.

And that’s without doing any of the things we traditionally think of as efficiency. So that means we keep our cars the same, we just electrify them. We keep our homes the same size and we just electrify the heat with heat pumps. It’s a little bit easier than we think, because we need less energy than we need today to do it. And it involves a lot less sacrifice. Alas, we could solve climate change.

(Go deeper with Vox)

This post is inspired by an article written by David Brancaccio and Rose Conlon with Marketplace Morning Report on MN Public Radio (MPR).

Quotes on the jobs and climate crisis:

(source: Defense Media)

“This is an emergency as serious as war itself.”

- Franklin D. Roosevelt


Should more employers offer work from home to help decarbonize the economy?


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