Posted on February 11, 2009 @ 09:28:00 AM by Paul Meagher
Yesterday I picked up State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World by the WorldWatch Institute. Last year's edition was fodder for quite a few blogs and I expect this year's report to be no different. One of the things I like about this annual publication is that it no longer wastes much time trying to make the case for sustainability or climate change, rather, it gets on with reporting on sophisticated new approaches to these problems. As such it is a must read for the "Green Professional" looking for discussions of these issues that are a level above what you get in newspapers, tv, or other popular media outlets. There are many other things I like about this publication but I'll address these in future blogs.
Today I want to report on a chapter called "Employment in a Low-Carbon World" by Micheal Renner, Sean Sweeney, and Jill Kubit. I am of the belief that there are structural problems in the North American ecomomy that are due in part to the non-sustainability of the industries that are being most affected by this ecomomic downturn. There is a pattern to which industries are being affected by this downturn and that pattern is that most of these industries have deep structural sustainability issues - manufacturing, automotive, mining, and forestry are all unsustainable as they are currently configured. Conversely, I would suggest that most low-carbon jobs are holding their own in this downturn and will continue to do so. But what are these low-carbon jobs? That is the question which this chapter helped me to answer.
Here is where we might expect job growth as we move towards a low-carbon ecomomy:
- Renewable energy infrastructure and maintenance.
- Energy performance services (e.g., home weatherization, LEED certification, energy efficient devices, etc...).
- Carbon-free propulsion systems.
- Public transport infrastructure and maintenance.
- Recycling and reuse. Energy intensive industries such as aluminum, pulp and paper, and cement will need to become better at recycling and reuse. One estimate is that 10 million people in China work in the recycling and reuse industry.
- Move towards organic and smaller-scale farming systems. Organic farming employs, on average, 1/3 more people.
- Afforestation (establishing a forest on land that is not a forest) and reforestation programs to combat climate change and improve ecosystems.
- Climate change adaptation (e.g., building flood barriers) and dealing with climate-change related weather events.
For a low-carbon economy to happen will require a large-scale shift in employment patterns and skill profiles. All stimulus packages should be addressing this requirement rather than financing industries that will be seen as remnants of a high-carbon ecomony.