Climate Action to Boost Economy, and End Coal’s Disastrous Reign

July 15, 2021

It’s 2021.
Time to stop killing people, and the planet, to continue burning rocks for electricity.

Dana Nuccitelli in Yale Climate Connections:

Climate models show time is running out for the world to cut emissions and avert catastrophic climate change, but a new report finds that taking the required action will actually boost economic growth and create jobs.

“Transforming the economy requires us to build and deploy A LOT of new stuff,” Robbie Orvis, author of the report, explained by email. “As a result, we see a large increase in output from U.S. industries and the associated increased value-added and GDP benefits that come with that.”

Meeting the Paris targets would require rapidly transforming every sector of the economy to run on clean technologies instead of fossil fuels. Orvis, director of energy policy design at the nonpartisan energy and environmental policy firm Energy Innovation Policy & Technology, estimates that accomplishment would generate about 3.1 million full-time jobs by 2035 and 5.5 million by 2050 as workers find new jobs with manufacturers and with developers of clean energy technologies or associated industries like computer chip manufacturing, silicon mining, and steel production. Those new workers would spend their income on food and other retail items and personal and business services, indirectly creating jobs in those sectors, further boosting the economy. Altogether, Orvis estimates that meeting the Paris targets would boost U.S. GDP by a cumulative $6.4 trillion by 2035 and by $20 trillion through 2050. For economics wonks, those dollar figures are undiscounted.

While there would be steep capital costs involved in deploying clean technologies, costs would be high also to continue business as usual, since power plants, vehicles, and appliances all need to be replaced at the end of their life spans. Orvis estimates that the transformation to clean technology would cost about $2.5 trillion more than business-as-usual investments by 2035 and $4 trillion more by 2050. Yet the report concludes that the benefits to the U.S. economy from this rapid transition to clean technologies would outweigh the investment costs by a factor of 2.5 by 2035 and fivefold by 2050, even before accounting for the substantial health benefits associated with cleaner air or the societal benefits of slowing global warming and curbing climate disasters.

Another analysis, by the research group Project Drawdown, concluded that direct economic benefits of meeting the Paris targets globally would exceed the initial investment costs by about fivefold. In short, meeting the Paris climate targets would significantly boost the U.S. economy, improve public health, and save lives.

Orvis and his team used Energy Innovation Policy & Technology’s U.S. Energy Policy Simulator to evaluate how the U.S. could meet its share of greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed to achieve the Paris target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures.

Because average global temperatures have already risen by around 1.2°C (2.2°F), limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires immediate, rapid emissions cuts in every sector of the economy, especially by wealthy developed countries. To keep that target within reach, the U.S. would need to cut its emissions about 50% below 2010 levels by the end of the decade and to net zero by 2050.

The report identifies a handful of key policies that could achieve most of the needed emissions reductions, centering on decarbonizing electricity generation and electrifying other sectors, as the chart below illustrates.

Plans to accomplish this goal generally center on clean electricity. The new report envisions 80% carbon-free electricity in the U.S. by 2030 and 100% by 2035. Establishing a national clean electricity standard to mandate this transition is already a step that congressional Democrats are considering including in the next big budget reconciliation bill later this year.

The Energy Innovation report concludes that meeting the 1.5°C Paris target would also require that the U.S. completely phase out coal-burning electricity generation by 2030, and that the clean electricity standard alone would not spur this transition quickly enough. As a result, additional policies such as a price on carbon emissions or additional federal pollution regulations would be needed to accelerate the coal phase-out.

Replacing fossil fuels with clean technologies would also improve air quality, especially near power plants that now burn fossil fuels or heavily trafficked roads, which are disproportionately low-income and communities of color. Orvis estimates that meeting the Paris targets would add approximately 1 million American life-years by 2050 (an added life-year is an extension of one person’s life by one year). By 2050, the cleaner air would also avoid an estimated 2 million asthma attacks and 6.5 million lost workdays per year. And slowing climate change would also curb damage from heat waves, wildfires, droughts, floods, and hurricanes.

In short, the Energy Innovation report concludes that cutting emissions 50% by 2030 and to zero by 2050 would boost the U.S. economy by trillions of dollars with direct economic benefits outweighing investment costs fivefold, resulting in cleaner air, healthier children, reduced healthcare costs, more productive workers, longer lifespans, and less damaging extreme weather disasters. It’s reasonable to ask if it’s a deal that America’s leaders would be foolish not to take.

Complete article at link, worth bookmarking.


4 Responses to “Climate Action to Boost Economy, and End Coal’s Disastrous Reign”

  1. J4Zonian Says:

    That’s some good work. Now if they would only pay attention to climate reality and try to not be economists separating themselves from their humanity. Or otteranity, maybe, since humans seem quite willing to let billions of their own die horribly, as long as it doesn’t interrupt the game on Tuesday.

    Imagine a graph of various paths to zero plus negative emissions. The area under the curve is what matters. Wind turbines and solar panels operating this year are infinitely more valuable than those due to come into operation 25 years from now.

    The answer is to declare a national emergency. Bribe, bully and extort Europe, China, India, and as many other countries as possible into also declaring an emergency,* the way Obama did to keep Paris from “going South”, that is, to keep it from being too determined by the needs of the global South and not the addictions of the US and European oligarchy. Biden needs to stop channeling Chamberlain and Calvin Coolidge, and start being Churchill and FDR. Manchin needs to stop being Franco, Mussolini, and mini-Stalin all at the same time. It’s far past time for Biden to ditch the filibuster, pack the courts, declare statehood for DC and all the territories, declare a climate and inequality emergency, and do what’s needed to avoid catastrophe while we can still implement solutions at all.

    IOW, 100% clean safe renewable energy, zero-emissions regenerative agriculture and forestry, and mostly-ecologically benign industry by 2030, not just better leccy. Radical political and economic equality, addressing the psychological wounds at the heart of all our problems. Whatever it takes, and it will take a massive, relentless peaceful revolution.

    * Israel, Saudi Arabia, Australia: time to pay up for the friendship and almost limitless indulgence you’ve been granted by the US for a lifetime.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Saudi Arabia is reaping what they’ve sown. Dangerous heat is increasing for those on Hajj (it’s in July this year):

      • J4Zonian Says:

        Yes, as are Australia (<24% RE grid, 6%? RE primary energy) and to the extent that it has power and wealth, Israel (2.5% RE grid). All across MENA only Morocco (35%, 7%?) is making even a half-serious attempt to eliminate emissions. The whole region will soon pay dearly for their refusal to change, but even more for ours, not just for our domestic waste but for our financial and military enabling of inequality and oppression, which always go together. One of our chief exports is the resource curse.

        The US (<20%, 10%) above all deserves to be ended by climate catastrophe, but in its characteristic petty nihilistic vindictiveness it would take most of nature and civilization with it in collapse so we must do what we can to end its reign, in as organized a fashion as we can—nationalize and shut down fossil fuel, agro-chemical and banking corporations, break up mbillionaires' fortunes and use them to pay for recovery from the addiction, and equalize economically and therefore politically, for example.

        (Saudi Arabia ~8% RE grid?)

        “A new report on smoke from wildfires indicates that it’s a growing public-health problem around the world. As an Australian cardiologist puts it, “If this is what we experience regularly, we just can’t live here.””
        Bill McKibben, The New Yorker

        Heat make us stupid
        Oct 10, 2018
        A recent study linked hotter indoor temperatures to a decline in cognitive function.

        None of these countries can afford to lose any IQ points.
        Nor can the trolls. They may need someone to regulate their temperature for them, as well as liquid, food, and information intake.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    This classic was from seven years ago:

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