Green Jobs Now Ignores the Need for
Immediate Large Cuts in Energy Use

by Lorna Salzman

Rain on a green jobs parade? Well, not exactly. But one has to ask Green Jobs Now (spurred by Green for All, 1 Sky, and other groups) and their supporters why they have skipped over the hard choices facing us in the next few years and chosen to focus solely on job creation that will take decades to implement and will have little or no impact in reducing energy consumption or slowing down global warming.

These are supposedly smart, informed people. So one assumes they have read and heard the latest findings and predictions of scientists like James Hansen and the Australian report, Climate Code Red, among others. And among their supporters we find, founded by Bill McKibben, which says that we must cut back atmospheric CO2 concentrations to no more than 350 ppm. Since we are now at about 390 ppm, it doesn't take much to realize that WE CANNOT ALLOW ANY INCREASE IN ATMOSPHERIC CO2 STARTING NOW.

Yet, if present rates persist, energy consumption is predicted to grow by 50% in the next thirty years. It is presently growing at around 3% per year and has been doing this since the 1990s. Moreover, some of the groups supporting Green Jobs Now are on record as favoring the pathetically weak mantra of "80% CO2 reduction by 2050", even as recent reports about the acceleration of ice melt in the Arctic now convinces scientists that we have a handful of years to take serious action.

SERIOUS action means: stopping new CO2 emissions and cutting back existing ones drastically through rigorous measures like carbon taxes, rationing and mandatory efficiency and conservation statutes and standards, closing coal powered plants, and ending tax breaks, subsidies and incentives to fossil fuels.

There is no reason why Green Jobs Now and its member groups cannot and should not make the reduction in energy consumption one of its main goals, alongside its objective of creating jobs. The latter does not preclude the former.

BUT IGNORING THE FORMER PRECLUDES THE LATTER. Without drastic reduction in energy use, the tsunami of global warming, in the form of extreme weather patterns, ocean level rise, and their collateral damage, will be upon us in THE NEXT FEW YEARS. If and when this happens, the movement for jobs, and for social and economic justice, will be shoved to the wayside as the country—no, the entire world—scrambles to defend itself from the impact of global warming. When this happens, there will be neither the money nor the will to address the jobs issue. Yes, perhaps a few lawmakers will then take renewable energy seriously. But since it takes fifty years to replace an existing energy system, renewable energy and the jobs people hope it brings will contribute little to solving the energy problem. We will be in Crisis Mode, not exactly a good time for social justice, or the economy for that matter.

It is dismaying and disturbing that those preoccupied with the economic promise of renewable energy are ignoring science, technology and political reality. Just who do they think they are fooling? Do they think that their narrow, single-minded focus on jobs is going to make any serious inroads into resolving the global warming problem? Simply screaming JOBS won't do the trick. Worst of all, they are misleading the public and their own constituencies about the global warming problem. They are in effect pretending that by solely focusing on renewable energy, the global warming problem is going to diminish and disappear.

These people know better, or at least I give them the benefit of the doubt that they do. But Knowing and Doing Nothing is worse than Not Knowing. These groups and leaders are abdicating their responsibility to the public and to the earth itself. One wonders what forces ---perhaps funders? business? --are encouraging them to ignore the global warming crisis and avoid the bad news, in order to squelch any doubts that some people have about economic growth, and in order to avoid the accusation that cutbacks in consumption will mean hardship and sacrifice.

We are tragically lacking in principled consistent honest leadership. These groups, by not putting energy efficiency and reduced energy consumption AT THE TOP OF THEIR LIST OF GOALS, will only compound the global warming problem by allowing it to grow uncontrollably, beyond the tipping points that Hansen and others say we face within four or five years. What a tragedy for the earth...

© 2002 Lorna Salzman. All rights reserved. Material may be quoted with permission.