It is time to get past the false choices that we’ve been presented with in regard to the environment. The typical “either/or” thinking about all things “green,” and the inaction that results, has left us behind much of the industrial world. The discussion should not be a choice between economics or the environment, or capitalism verses nature. And we should be well beyond the debate between global warming alarmists and climate-change deniers. We have some who correctly state that, ”2010 remains on pace to be the hottest or second-hottest year ever recorded” (source); while others use a snow storm in D.C. to “prove” that global warming isn’t real (source).
The bottom line is this: Climate change (or global warming, if you like) is a well-tested, provable fact, not a hypothesis. The question that scientists have been working on in recent years has been, “To what extent is global warming being influenced by human behavior?” This is a key question because the answer empowers us to do something about this problem, especially as we learn more about the devastating consequences of global warming to our planet. The answer from the scientific community has been an overwhelming, “yes, it is caused by human activity.” Now we can take action to reverse the trends. Right?
Wrong. Unfortunately, there is serious opposition to taking action. Energy companies spend millions funding junk science front groups who will try to keep an element of doubt about global warming in the minds of voters. Conservatives have largely been in the pockets of big oil, defending the status quo of dirty energy at every turn. Rather than fighting regulation and supporting big oil’s interests, the business community should be supporting clean energy, and the new jobs and vibrant economy that will come with this vital and emerging field. It is destined to be the next big economic bubble—certainly something conservatives should be able to get behind.
President Obama used the word “energy” nine times in his recent State of the Union address. He sees the need for a green revolution as a way of creating jobs, filling our ever-increasing energy demands, and yes, a national security measure. He said in last week’s speech:
This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -– (applause) — an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.
Already, we’re seeing the promise of renewable energy…we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo projects of our time.
At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. (Applause.)
We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. (Applause.) I don’t know if — I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. (Laughter.) So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.
Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. (Applause.)
Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all — and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.
Thomas L. Friedman, columnist for the New York Times, has made a similar argument about the need for a green revolution to propel our economy toward greater competition (see clips below).
Thomas L. Friedman
Friedman’s more recent book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America, makes an excellent case for why we need a green revolution now.