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How EPA Climate Protection Can Be America's Greatest Jobs Producer

Climate change is destroying American jobs right now — but climate protection will produce millions of new jobs. Here’s why.
 
 
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This article was published in partnership with  GlobalPossibilities.org.

As our country is devastated by more and more severe droughts, floods, fires, and superstorms, the public is demanding regulation of the greenhouse gasses that cause climate change.  The corporations that profit from coal, oil, and gas fear such regulation will reduce their profits and the value of their investments.  They and their political mouthpieces have a solution, however: persuade the public that regulation of greenhouse gasses will destroy American jobs.  The truth?  Climate change is destroying American jobs right now — but climate protection will produce millions of new jobs. Here’s why.

Climate change is causing extreme weather.  The giant reinsurance company Munich Re, which has gathered the world’s most comprehensive database of natural disasters, concludes that worldwide, “Floods have more than tripled since 1980, and windstorm natural catastrophes more than doubled, with particularly heavy losses from Atlantic hurricanes.  This rise can only be explained by global warming.”

Floods, fires, droughts, and storms related to climate change are devastating not only health and the environment, but also the US economy.  Superstorm Sandy alone caused an estimated $80 billion in damage.  The drought that affected 80% of US farmland last summer destroyed a quarter of the US corn crop, stalled transportation on the Mississippi River, raised food and energy prices nationwide, and did at least $20 billion damage to the economy.

What does all this have to do with jobs?  Consider Sandy.  According to Mark Zandi , the Chief Economist of Moody’s Analytics: “Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the job market in November, slicing an estimated 86,000 jobs from payrolls.”  What kind of jobs?  “The manufacturing, retailing, leisure and hospitality, and temporary help industries were hit particularly hard by the storm.”

But isn’t that kind of job loss just temporary?  Consider hurricane Katrina.  In 2004 the New Orleans region had 671,000 jobs. Katrina wiped out 129,000 of them — about twenty percent.  In 2011, the region had 90,000 fewer jobs than on the eve of Katrina.

The economic threat of climate change isn’t limited to hurricanes.  Heat waves increase energy costs and cause droughts, which kill crops and increase food prices.  Floods destroy houses, businesses, and infrastructure.  Closed businesses and lost earnings represent an economic loss that can never be recovered.  The devastating health effects of extreme weather like heat waves and floods not only harm individuals but represent a cost for the whole economy.

EPA regulation promotes jobs

Many studies have documented the beneficial effects of EPA regulations.  Research by the EPA indicates that as of 2008, environmental protection created a net positive increase of 1.7 million jobs. A study by the Office of Management and Budget found that EPA air and water regulations from 1999 to 2009 cost $26-29 billion annually but produced benefits from $82-533 billion.  EPA regulation has led to the development of the rapidly growing environmental control industry.  It has encouraged technical innovation, such as the development of catalytic converters, which has made the US one of the world’s leading exporters of environmental control technologies.

When the EPA issued new fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and pollution standards for new power plants, they won wide support among unions that represent the workers affected by them.  Ten major unions joined environmental groups to issue a statement supporting “the actions by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act” and urging Congress to “reject efforts to weaken this authority.” Their release on the statement was headed, “BlueGreen Alliance brings Together Unions and Environmentalists in Support of EPA Efforts to Protect Public Health and Safety.”  It noted that, complemented by clean energy policies, regulations will create jobs and increase America’s economic competitiveness.  Unions supporting the statement included the Steelworkers, Communications Workers, Service Workers, Laborers, Utility Workers, American Federation of Teachers, Transit Workers, Sheet Metal Workers, Auto Workers, and United Food and Commercial Workers.

 
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