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I read in The Post-Star the other morning about Warren County’s interest in the Climate Smart Communities program, and learned about the long term financial benefits to our region by joining the program.

I’m encouraged that our political leaders are considering the NYSERDA and DEC-sponsored initiative, and hope they pursue membership. Meanwhile, there is a much bigger national initiative that demands every citizen’s attention: The EPA’s Clean Power Plan — a plan that will help save $44 trillion in climate change damages.

Forty-four trillion dollars is a lot of money, yet that is what research by U.S banking giant Citi-group projects the global price of climate change will be by 2060 if we fail to reduce carbon emissions starting now. Let’s forget all the environmental climate change nasties and consider just the bottom line: acting aggressively and globally to fight climate change is a very, very good financial investment. New jobs, improved energy infrastructure, clean air, reduced health problems, and more come with an end to fossil fuels. And, of course, $44 trillion in savings.

Each of us can do his or her part to reduce climate change costs, but political leadership will ultimately shape the necessary national and global policies and laws required to make the switch over to a carbon-zero energy system.

And the U.S. government is taking on that leadership role through its recently released Clean Power Plan, which for the first time ever requires power plants to reduce their carbon emissions.

From the U.S. government:

“The Clean Power Plan cuts significant amounts of power plant carbon pollution and the pollutants that cause the soot and smog that harm health, while advancing clean energy innovation, development and deployment, and laying the foundation for the long-term strategy needed to tackle the threat of climate change. By providing states and utilities ample flexibility and the time needed to achieve these pollution cuts, the Clean Power Plan offers the power sector the ability to optimize pollution reductions while maintaining a reliable and affordable supply of electricity for ratepayers and businesses.”

There will be upfront costs to the Plan, but those will pale in comparison to the $44 trillion in climate change damage if we do nothing. And the upfront costs are an investment which the Economic Policy Institute predicts will create 360,000 new (and well-paying) renewable energy sector jobs by 2020.

California is a good example of renewable energy’s labor benefits. According to UC Berkeley’s Labor Center, 10,200 renewable energy jobs were created in California the past five years to expand solar electric generation at state utilities jobs that average $78,000 per year with health and pension benefits.

Sadly, fossil fuel companies and coal-producing states are unhappy with the plan, and 15 states have filed a lawsuit in federal court to block the Plan. Let’s not think blue state, red state, or neutral state. Rather, let’s think about our planet’s well-being.

When a banking institution researches climate change and finds $44 trillion will be the cost of climate inaction, the solution is clear. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a significant step forward to reducing carbon emissions and reducing climate change. It is a plan that this country needs now. Let your legislatures know you support the Clean Power Plan.

Dr. Stephen Danna resides in Warrensburg and is Dean of the SUNY Plattsburgh at the Queensbury Branch Campus.

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