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Renewable Energy Vision
Expert analysis on the most pressing issues facing the renewable energy sector in the U.S and abroad from ACORE staff, members and supporters.

Climate Change Brings Great Challenges, Greater Economic Opportunity

Published on 14 Oct 2014  |   Written by    |   Be the first to comment!

Surrounding last month’s climate meetings and demonstrations in New York, we are reminded that we live in a time of monumental challenge. But a scroll through the history books would also show that some of history’s most substantial points of progress have come in the face of the world’s greatest struggles. In fact, daunting challenges are almost always a prerequisite for tremendous improvements. So why would climate change be any different?

Many of the world’s great improvements were made simply because they had to be made—often bringing great economic benefits with them. For example, in order for nations to survive, WWII led to an arms race which exponentially developed weapon technology, but also led to things like penicillin, and leaps in economic growth and industrialization. Similarly, the subsequent Cold War and Space Race brought great fear, but also the genesis of most computing and nanotechnology still bursting onto the market today. What’s so important to note about these struggles, is that our economy actually benefits from adaptation and has almost always rises to the challenge.

Climate change will push our generation in a similar way, but fortunately for us, we are not fighting anyone, and thankfully, we already know what the solution to this problem is: renewable energy.

As a result, the challenge of climate change might just wake up the American “Sleeping Giant” again.

Just like the auto industry adjusted to produce planes and tanks during war-time America, the new solution to our climate challenge is enlivening economic opportunity around the country. Take the old manufacturing states for example:

In Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, renewable energy is turning even the rustiest of states into new-age manufacturing hubs. In the state of Ohio alone there are over 54 solar manufacturing companies. And post-industrial Buffalo, New York has totally reinvented its economy by converting old manufacturing into clean manufacturing. It will host SolarCity’s new factory and begin using local schools to train the next generation of workers to operate the 1,460 jobs it will create. And in Michigan, well over 83,000 people are now working in the green economy, and that number is growing drastically by the year.

In fact, the number of people employed in the solar manufacturing and installation field has doubled every year for the last three years. Evidently, climate change has turned into a golden opportunity thousands of Americans, and the once blighted economies of America’s industrial heart are now are growing again.

But this opportunity isn’t just confined to the rustbelt. States from California to Maine have all increased renewable energy production and are transitioning to a cleaner economy. With growing concern about high carbon emissions, America’s business men and women are hard at work to build the solution—as always. The already booming renewable energy industry offers great opportunity to invigorate the economy, restart the manufacturing and add hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs. The most exciting aspect to this challenge is that we are already far beyond the nascent phase.

Even though policy makers have been slow to act, businesses and even state governments have been paving the path forward and adapting fast. There is already $250 billion invested into renewable technologies, and the entire industry is currently growing at its fastest pace ever. Many states know that they can significantly reduce the high costs of climate change on their local economies by simply relying on the business leaders already at work in their state—a win, win. And in order to encourage them, 30 states have implemented innovative policies to take advantage of the growing opportunity in renewables. Seven states in the U.S. now get more than 30% of their electricity needs form renewable technologies.

So in today’s energy debate, there’s no reason to throw up our hands in defeat at climate challenge. We merely need to fully wake up. Renewable solutions are here, they’re ready and they are being driven by the free-market. All we need to do is ensure that the renewable industry has a level playing field and let the American private sector do what it’s always done—turn great challenges in to greater opportunity.

Michael Blauw

Michael Blauw is a Communications Associate at ACORE.

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