Harry Potter fans know that referring to Lord Voldemort is taboo and he is often referenced by “he who shall not be named.” I use this example as the White House Counsel on the Environment under President George W. Bush would order the deletion of any references to global warming or climate change in scientific papers under his purview. Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida had edicts that prevented any staffers from mentioning global warming or climate change in the press or public appearances.
Taking a page from this real life book, our President-Elect has appointed Myron Ebell, a non-scientist and climate change denier as the head of his EPA transition team. He has also noted that he will rescind US involvement in the Paris Climate Change Accord signed by 195 countries, a campaign promise that did not get enough media attention. So, climate change has now become the new Lord Voldemort, so it should not be mentioned in the new administration.
The President-Elect’s stance on climate change and environmental issues have been the most troubling parts of his candidacy and future Presidency. The World Economic Forum in its 2015 and 2016 Global Risk Reports cited insufficient action to confront climate change as one of the top two risks facing our planet in the next ten years. The other is our global water crisis, which is made more concerning with climate change as water resources will evaporate at a greater clip, drought areas will be more dry, forest fires will be more intense and fossil fuel energy acquisition and production uses so much water, not all of which can be recaptured.
At this time, our President-Elect’s stance on climate change is of great concern to folks around the world as he is being beseeched by major countries like China, France and Germany and major global companies not to rescind the US involvement in the Paris Climate Change Accord. Should he move forward with his campaign promise, China will take the global lead in tackling climate change and our government will not play a role.
Irrespective of his position, we have fortunately passed a tipping point on renewable energy as the cost has become more on par with fossil fuel sources. Plus, renewable energy has a virtuous cycle that will make it even more cost-effective, in that energy does not have to be used to make more energy. This virtuous cycle is important, as utilities will be less inclined to invest in huge fossil-fuel fired plants, if a long term cost-effective way of delivering energy exists.
In the absence of our government’s involvement, groups like The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, will likely take our place at the table working with other nations. I envision climate change leaders coming to our country, not to visit with our new President, but to visit with coalitions and companies who are investing in our renewable energy future. By itself, California is one of the more prolific solar energy providers in the world and Texas and plains states are heavily invested in wind energy. What troubles me is we need to increase our efforts, not just continue them, which is why our government needs to remain invested in these areas, as well.
And, we need to shoot straight with people over actual data and not artificial data on questionable websites. The solar energy industry in the US is growing jobs at a double-digit annual rate with well over 200,000 US jobs. Coal energy has been on the demise for several years in large part due to cheaper natural gas, but also due to the growth in renewable energy. It pains me to see politicians who have not been truthful with coal workers who now number in the 60,000 range. Those jobs have been retrenching for years and will continue to do so and these politicians know that. The key reason is the impact on our planet, but also the ongoing cost to maintain coal ash sites long after the coal was used to create energy.
So, we can continue to lead this effort and remain allied with 97% of scientists, every major scientific organization on the planet and our own Department of Defense, who says climate change is a major threat to national security. Or, our leaders can retrench on the issue and let China, Germany and others play a lead. If we want a place at the global table, then we might want to follow the science. There is no Planet B.