Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sorry Candidates, Climate Change Is Not a Hoax

By Jim Vaughan, Senior Fellow

When the U.S. Senate votes 98-1 that “climate change is real and not a hoax,” and the Pope issues an Encyclical Letter on the topic of man-made climate change, one might assume that the issue is settled.

But as TV sports analyst and prognosticator Lee Corso says, “Not so fast!”

As long as there are political points to be made from challenging the science of climate change, there’s a good chance that the subject will be front and center in the presidential campaign.

Here are some examples of what I mean.

The top candidate in the polls for the Republican nomination for president said, flat out, “I’m not a believer in man-made global warming.”

This in spite of scientific consensus—Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.

Another candidate, arguing against America taking leadership action on climate change, said, “One nation, acting alone, can make no difference at all.” (See Katie Couric’s Yahoo! interview at 33:10.)

David Roberts, writing for, challenged the position that America can make no difference. “One nation, acting alone can make a difference, by doing something that's worth doing anyway. And refusing to do it would be a gross abdication of moral leadership.”

A third candidate worries that action on climate change will make America a harder place to create jobs. “We're not going to pursue policies that will do absolutely nothing to change our climate.”

In response, Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist who writes about weather and climate for Slate’s Future Tense, said action on climate change would in fact lead to jobs growth. “The growth of renewable energy is already a huge job creator in the United States,” he said.

Candidates (and their followers) who deny climate change do so at their peril because they ignore—or worse, prevent—the benefits that would accrue to our economy. For example—

Siemens is committed to cut its global carbon footprint in half by 2020 and to make its global operations carbon neutral by 2030. The company will eliminate a vast majority of its carbon emissions, while also supporting projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions outside of Siemens, known as carbon offsets. Its net CO2 emissions will be zero. Imagine the return on investing in a smaller carbon footprint and how net zero CO2 emissions can help address climate change.

Employment in the solar sector grew by more than 20 percent, and it is now adding jobs at a rate that exceeds the oil and gas industry, and there are twice as many solar workers as coal miners. Imagine the return on investing in solar and how solar can help address climate change.

Google signed a 20-year agreement to buy half of the energy produced at a soon-to-be refurbished wind energy facility to power the company’s sprawling Googleplex headquarters. Imagine the return on investing in wind and how wind can help address climate change.

Apple is accelerating efforts to build an electric car, designating it internally as a “committed project” and setting a target ship date for 2019. Imagine the return on investing in electric vehicles and how electric vehicles can help address climate change.

LED lighting is a new industry category that will enable consumers to help reduce energy consumption. predicts that by 2027, LED lighting could save the equivalent annual electrical output of 44 1000-megawatt power plants and result in a total savings of more than $30 billion at today's electricity prices. Imagine the return on investing in LED lighting and how LED lighting can help address climate change.

LEED[i] buildings are responsible for diverting over 80 million tons of waste from landfills. Compared to the average commercial building, LEED Gold buildings in the General Services Administration’s portfolio consume a quarter less energy and generate 34% lower greenhouse gas emissions. Imagine the return on investing in LEED buildings and how LEED can help address climate change.

* * * *

The 5 Most Important Points of Pope Francis’s Climate Change Encyclical man-made climate change are simple and profound—

1. Climate change is real, and it’s getting worse.

2. Human beings are a major contributor to climate change.

3. Climate change disproportionately affects the poor.

4. We can and must make things better.

5. Individuals can help, but politicians must lead the charge.

Now the Pope has come to America where he challenges us to act on climate change.

Some will cheer while others will be very uncomfortable. But climate change will not go away.

America should lead on this issue. But if it doesn’t, American businesses and cities can.

Addressing climate change is a good thing for the planet, for the people and for our economy.

[i] LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a program of the U.S. Green Building Council.