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The Christian Science Monitor: Climate Versus Jobs? Not In This Heartland State

Posted by Stephanie Hanes on Jun 3, 2021

The Christian Science Monitor summarizes the shift of the dominant climate narrative from climate change debate to economic progress with a focus on Illinois, citing an AEE report. Read snippets and the full article here.

For years, the dominant narrative of climate action was one of trade-offs and costs – that saving the world as we know it meant taking hard steps to reduce carbon emissions, and likely sacrificing jobs and lifestyle in the process.

Over the past months, the Biden administration has worked to change this storyline, explicitly connecting “climate” with “good-paying union jobs,” and tying climate action to massive government investment and redevelopment… Economic shifts, whether around clean energy or electric vehicles, regenerative agriculture or green construction, may be starting to defuse much of the debate over climate change.

Instead, climate action has merged with economic progress – particularly when it comes to clean energy. And although climate activists say this awakening won’t by itself put the nation on track to meet the Paris Agreement goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, some suggest it is making that path less arduous, while creating new opportunities and connections for those across the ideological spectrum.

None of this means the end to the underlying political tension surrounding climate action: wariness on the right that government efforts to stabilize global temperatures will erode economic freedom, and concern among progressives that a focus on market-based solutions will distract from needed changes in consumption patterns and lifestyle.

Nor does this new economy benefit everyone. In any industrial shift, Dr. Cohen points out, some skills and jobs become obsolete. And when it comes to a climate-connected economy, those hardships are concentrated in particular communities, such as in West Virginia and Wyoming, that were built around fossil fuel extraction… 

Here in Illinois and elsewhere, most workers have jobs that aren’t directly focused on climate change. But “green” growth, from the booming renewables market to energy-efficient construction projects, is everywhere.

That sort of capital influx is crucial for the type of innovation and development that not only helps fight climate change, but also spreads economic gain across a community, advocates say. This month, the Biden administration has made new commitments to up government research and development funding, as well as to smooth the way for new private investment. Both, advocates say, are vital.

This effort to reduce – or offset – carbon emissions has been fueling businesses across Illinois… A report by the trade group Advanced Energy Economy earlier this year said that Illinois was poised to nearly double the number of electric transportation jobs by 2024, from an estimated 5,200 to more than 9,000.

Indeed, perhaps more than in any other industry, progress within the clean energy sector may be pushing the debate about climate change toward irrelevance.

Read the full article here.

Topics: AEE In The News