We can save the Earth and the economy

The myth-churning behemoth is coughing, hacking, and turning pale. It’s even running a high fever.

The rasping began this summer with the unraveling of the religion-verses-science myth. Supposedly, people of faith cling to Dark Age creeds and shun the scientific consensus on human-induced climate change. Wrong. Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si, echoed previous Catholic writings in linking global warming with greed, for which the poor pay the steepest price. The National Association of Evangelicals made a similar plea in October when it issued its “Call to Action,” and recent polls show that 65 percent of all evangelicals – denial’s alleged heralds – now accept climate change.

But the monster reels even more with the collapse of its foundational myth, which says sound environmental policies will rock our economy and cram the unemployment lines. A new report – jointly released on Nov. 16 by the Labor Network for Sustainability, the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, and Synapse Energy Economics – maps out how Connecticut can reach its 2050 emissions goals while adding 6,700 jobs and saving money on electricity, heating, and transportation costs. State law mandates an 80 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions below 2001 levels by 2050.

Frank Ackerman, an economist at Synergy Energy Economics, presented the highlights at a press conference.

The report, “Connecticut’s Clean Energy Future: Climate goals and employment benefits,” was published with an eye on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Council on Climate Change, established last April to craft a plan to achieve the 2050 target. It piggy-backs on the Labor Network for Sustainability’s nationwide analysis, which says a cleaner economy can generate 550,000 new jobs throughout the country. Such an economy would expand energy efficiency programs; phase out coal by 2050 and replace it with solar, wind, and other renewable resources; swap gasoline-powered vehicles with electric cars and trucks; and retool our homes for electric heating.

All the change and installation would mean more middle-class, blue-collar and manufacturing jobs.

Other myths fall with a glance at the list of supporters. Union, religious, and environmental leaders – often seen as rivals – rallied to its banner. John Harrity, president of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists and a Roundtable steering committee member, said this: “We can create good, stable jobs in a growing climate protection sector: manufacturing jobs, jobs for those who have been marginalized in the current labor market, and jobs for skilled union workers in the construction trades.”

Jeremy Brecher, co-founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability, said this: “Connecticut has often been told that doing its share to save the Earth’s climate will threaten its workers’ jobs. ‘Connecticut’s Clean Energy Future’ refutes that claim.” State Rep. James Albis, co-chair of the Environmental Committee, said he looks forward to helping “move Connecticut toward a cleaner and greener energy future.”

Jameelah Muhammad of the Sierra Club and William Dornbos of the Acadia Center jointly weighed in: “We applaud the vision presented in the Clean Energy Future. It presents a realistic plan for achieving the state’s climate goals that is consistent with the work our organizations are doing on electric vehicles.”

Of course, some still stoke myths. The misnamed Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation issued an extraordinary claim on Nov. 18: “Preventing climate change does not help the poor, it dooms them! … It would be immoral to deny the poor the ability to develop by curtailing their access to abundant, affordable, reliable energy.”

But such false choices sound like wheezes from the myth-making monster. “Connecticut’s Clean Energy Future” illuminates how effective climate protection can lift us out of a sluggish economy while fostering a safer world.

Charles Redfern, the former interim pastor of Quaker Hill Baptist Church in Waterford and a member of the steering committee for the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, often writes about climate change and other environmental issues.

 

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