Green Paper on the Climate Emergency and Jobs

Eric Orts
75 min readAug 10, 2021


We face a climate emergency today that requires a decisive political response, but the United States Senate has blocked effective action for decades. Currently, the Senate is deadlocked 50–50 between Democrats and Republicans, and conservative Democrats such as Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia (who is personally tied to large coal industry profits) are helping Republicans to obstruct the aggressive actions needed for solutions.

We must achieve a political tipping point before we experience a cataclysmic biophysical one.

The 2022 midterm elections are critical to breaking the Senate deadlock. The retirement of Republican Senator Pat Toomey (who denies climate science) in Pennsylvania creates an opportunity for Democrats. We know that Democrats can win in Pennsylvania. Senator Bob Casey is a Democrat, Governor Tom Wolf is a Democrat, and President Joe Biden won our state decisively in 2020. The question now is which candidate to pick among many in a crowded Democratic primary. We need someone who will be laser-focused on the climate emergency because that’s the only way we’re going to make progress on the issue.

I am running for the U.S. Senate to make sure that Pennsylvania is represented by a strong, pro-climate Democrat who recognizes that climate solutions will create jobs and who has the experience and commitment needed to make climate solutions happen. Today, and not some time in the distant future, the climate emergency is already here, and it threatens one million jobs in Pennsylvania. We must seize the opportunity now to defend ourselves against this threat by investing massively in climate infrastructure and resilience to extreme weather events, and this investment will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in Pennsylvania and millions in the United States.

I’ve been studying the climate problem and solutions to it ever since attending the Earth Summit in Brazil as an observer with the U.S. State Department in 1992. I am a business professor at the University of Pennsylvania trained in law and ethics, and I’ve taught and written on climate issues. I have experience leading academic organizations that convene discussions with diverse stakeholders — including climate activists, labor organizers, policy experts, and business leaders — to find real solutions.

The climate emergency threatens everyone’s well-being, primarily through the consequences of extreme weather events such as increasingly severe and intense heat waves, wildfires, floods, droughts, and storms. Shifting climate conditions threaten the routines of our everyday lives, including our jobs. For example, heat waves negatively affect labor productivity because of health effects, especially in outdoor work such as in construction, agriculture, recreation, and tourism. A record-breaking drought in Utah is threatening the water supplies in many towns and small cities, halting all new construction and growth. This kind of disaster can happen anywhere in the United States today, including in Pennsylvania, and the writing is on the wall that we must do something serious about the climate emergency now.

The good news is that climate solutions can protect endangered jobs while creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs in Pennsylvania, and millions in the United States. One study finds that 243,000 new good, well-paying jobs would be created in Pennsylvania every year for a decade by an investment plan sufficient to respond to the climate emergency. Growth of clean energy jobs would increase employment opportunities, including for women and people of color, and increase unionization rates and worker protections. In the short run, climate solutions will create job growth, and in the long run a likely boom in employment. Addressing the climate problem will also upgrade our infrastructure, support social justice, benefit public health, and enhance education.

It will not be quick or easy to respond to the climate emergency, but we can do so effectively and efficiently by making it our top priority. Climate solutions can create many good, well-paying, family-sustaining jobs for people who have been left out and left behind for far too long. We can make Pennsylvania prosperous again for everyone, not just those with the most wealth.

Seven Steps Toward Climate Solutions

This green paper makes the case for why we must make the climate emergency a top priority in the election and how we can solve the problem. Here are the seven steps we need to take:

  1. Scientists are the best source of truth about the climate emergency and what we have to do about it. We have to listen to the scientists and set our goals for achieving climate solutions according to the best scientific research available.
  2. We must elect pro-climate politicians. We must change the political balance in the Senate and establish a continuing Democratic majority in Congress that follows climate science and enacts policy solutions. The United States Senate has been blocking action to address the climate problem for decades, and changing the Senate is therefore the key for any effective national government action.
  3. We must treat the climate emergency as requiring a mobilization equivalent to what would be needed to fight a world war. Because the primary cause of the climate problem is greenhouse gas pollution from the burning of fossil fuels (i.e. coal, oil, and natural gas), a massive and rapid shift in the global economy is required with respect to (1) energy production and use, (2) transportation, (3) industrial production, (4) the construction and operations of buildings, and (5) agriculture and forestry. Adaptive measures for climate resilience are also needed in many areas, such as ensuring the availability and affordability of clean water. The scale and seriousness of the climate problem requires mobilization of government, business, and all parts of civil society. It justifies the declaration of a national emergency by the President.
  4. We need to enact climate solutions that create good jobs for all. Responding to the climate emergency will create hundreds of thousands of jobs every year in Pennsylvania, and millions in the United States, while also saving jobs at risk. Unprecedented spending is needed by the government because we are facing an unprecedented threat to the survival of civilization as we know it. As in wartime, our government spending must be targeted efficiently and with laser-like precision on needed climate solutions. As a result, business and employment opportunities will greatly expand to meet the demand for new energy, transportation, and other infrastructure.
  5. We must center climate justice in all climate solutions. We must acknowledge that the climate emergency has been caused mostly by the wealthiest people in the world, while the burdens have fallen most heavily on those who are poor and less privileged. The top 1% of the world’s population add more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere every year than the bottom 50%. Because of this, we must place greater expectations on wealthier and more privileged individuals to contribute to climate solutions, including through progressive taxes or charges. In addition, the economic benefits of climate solutions, including the construction and maintenance of new infrastructure, must be shared equitably and broadly. We should therefore support the Justice40 recommendations of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council to ensure the equitable distribution of the benefits of climate action.
  6. We must pay close attention to all parts of the climate problem. Solving the climate problem requires detailed attention to each of its components and making simultaneous progress on all of them. The climate emergency is a complex challenge. It requires a multi-faceted effort encompassing electricity production and distribution, transportation, industrial manufacturing, building construction and retrofitting, agriculture, forestry, and ocean management. Progress in all of these areas will create large numbers of new jobs. We need competent leaders in science, law, policy, and economics to craft effective, efficient, and fair solutions for each part of the climate problem. In addition to the government, forward-thinking businesses, labor unions, nonprofits, and educational institutions are all essential to success.
  7. This is a global problem, and we must work together across divisions to solve it. Effective climate solutions require the commitment of all institutions and individuals to work together across geographical and personal boundaries of all kinds. The climate emergency is a global collective action problem, but it is also a national, state, and city problem. “Think globally, and act locally” is the right mantra.

The Climate Emergency in Pennsylvania

Some would have us believe that the climate is only changing gradually. Influenced by decades of misinformation campaigns funded by fossil fuel companies, many people think humanity has years to adapt at a leisurely pace, allowing plenty of time to burn all the coal, oil, and gas that these companies are extracting from the Earth. But that view is a myth. Scientists tell us that we are in a state of climate emergency, and we must listen to the scientists.

Our own experiences confirm that the scientists are right. Extreme weather events are becoming more common and more severe. They include record heat waves, wildfires, and droughts; heavy downpours and floods; rising seas and more intense storms. Wild weather is occurring more and more frequently, just as the scientists have predicted.

We know the cause. Ever-increasing emissions of greenhouse gases cause ever-increasing global average temperatures. A hotter and hotter Earth means more and more of the extreme weather events that we see happening all around us. The extreme heat wave in the Pacific Northwest in June 2021 that killed hundreds, setting maximum daily temperature records in many locations by more than 7 to 9° Fahrenheit, is only one recent example. June 2021 also saw many daily high temperature records in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the Midwest and Northeast.

In Pennsylvania, the global climate emergency causes worsened air quality, increased damage from flooding, agricultural losses, and growth of vector-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease. In addition, the Pennsylvania Climate Assessment Report for 2021, produced by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (in conjunction with Penn State and other partners), predicts that if present trends continue, and nothing serious is done by governments to intervene, we can expect the following climate consequences by 2050, when today’s toddlers will be in their thirties:

  • Average daily temperatures in Pennsylvania will increase by about 6.0° Fahrenheit, and we will have seven times the number of days every year of extreme heat (in excess of 90°F).
  • Heavy precipitation events will become more frequent, causing more and larger floods. At the same time, rain will fall less regularly and less reliably, causing more droughts. More floods and droughts, rather than a regular rain cycle, will harm agriculture and stress water management systems, including those that supply drinking water.
  • Tidal flooding will increase in the Delaware Estuary Coastal Zone, harming the balance of the ecosystem and threatening built infrastructure. Lake Erie will undergo coastal erosion as well as significant changes in water levels and temperatures, threatening water quality and increasing risks of harmful e-coli and algal blooms.
  • Landslides will increase, risking personal injuries and deaths as well as destruction of housing and transportation routes, especially in rural and mountainous areas.
  • Climate-worsened heat waves, floods, and storms will hurt some communities more than others. In particular, people living in low-income areas will bear much greater burdens than wealthier citizens who have the advantage of greater mobility.
  • Heat waves in particular will create heightened health risks for vulnerable populations, including low-income populations, the elderly, pregnant people, disabled people, people with certain mental illnesses, outdoor workers, and those with cardiovascular conditions.

Health risks will also increase in urban heat islands that have high temperatures caused by lots of pavement — such as streets, highways, sidewalks, and parking lots — which absorbs and retains more heat than parks, backyards, and areas with trees and other ground cover. According to one recent study, heat waves caused temperatures that were as much as 7°F higher for residents of low-income neighborhoods, and communities of color suffered far higher temperatures than people who lived in whiter, wealthier areas.

These climate consequences will affect all Pennsylvanians and all Americans, making a strong federal response necessary to protect people from the extreme weather events that are already part of our climate system and to reduce climate impacts going forward. In policy terms, we need adaptation and mitigation. We need to build extreme weather resilience in our communities to adapt to the climate risks that have already been created, and we need to mitigate the severity of future climate risks by radically reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

The Pennsylvania Climate Assessment Report recommends the following priorities:

  • Protect people from extreme heat.
  • Support agriculture, recreation, and tourism, as well as forests, ecosystems, and wildlife.
  • Reduce risks from floods and storms.
  • Help low-income households cope.

Actions on these priorities to protect Pennsylvanians must be taken at local, state, national, and international levels.

Global Climate Targets: Science, Not Politics

The targets for the necessary reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are given by climate science. Mother Nature does not negotiate. Physics, chemistry, geology, oceanography, biology, and other sciences answer the questions of what we need to do and when.

The consensus opinion of climate scientists today is that we must radically reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions 45% from 2010 levels by 2030. We must reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Because the United States has contributed an outsized proportion of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere — and because of our country’s standing as a global leader — we should set a high bar of reducing emissions in the United States by at least half or more by 2030.

Net-zero emissions means that the cumulative addition of carbon dioxide (carbon for short), methane, or other greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere can be offset or counterbalanced in part by carbon storage in the earth, ocean, or products (like low-carbon cement). Expanding the carbon storage capacity of agricultural soils and forests, for example, can help to reach the net-zero goal as well as more directly reducing carbon emissions.

The largest and most difficult part of the climate challenge, however, is to make a fast shift from using fossil fuels for producing electricity and propelling our many vehicles in transportation, and using renewable, non-polluting energy instead. Increasing energy efficiency and energy diets are other methods of reducing the overall use of fossil fuels.

The Role of the U.S. Senate in Addressing the Climate Emergency

The Senate must act immediately on the climate emergency, and we must elect pro-climate Senators in 2022, especially in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, who will take bold action. We currently have a do-nothing Senate that is incapacitated by special interests and unable to act for the future. This cannot continue.

We must elect leaders to the Senate who believe in climate science and have the knowledge, experience, commitment, and courage to make climate solutions our top priority. That means electing highly qualified Democrats who are free of influence from corporate and ideological sources of climate science denial. We must also elect Senators who are specifically knowledgeable about and committed to achieving climate solutions, because the climate problem is complex and difficult, and the legislative solutions will not be simple or easy.

Unfortunately, virtually the entire current leadership of the Republican Party, against the views of a majority of rank-and-file Republicans (and especially younger ones), has today fallen victim to an anti-science stance that is driven by the lobbying efforts of wealthy economic interests tied to the fossil fuel industry.

This was not always true. At the Earth Summit in Brazil in 1992, President George H.W. Bush and a record number of other global leaders signed a major international climate agreement. As recently as 2008, Senator John McCain co-sponsored climate legislation. However, Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United have allowed anti-climate political funding to swamp the Republican Party establishment in recent years. Even though a majority of younger Republican voters today believe in climate science and support serious climate action, they find little, if any, representation of their views among current congressional Republicans. Of the 50 Republican Senators in Congress today, 30 do not believe in climate science at all! No current Republican Senator has taken a leadership position on climate policy or proposed any plan to deal with the emergency.

The cause is clear. The top three recipients of fossil fuel industry contributions in Congress are all Republican Senators: Mitch McConnell of Kentucky ($3.6 million), Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma ($2.5 million), and Ted Cruz of Texas ($3.9 million). Senator Toomey of Pennsylvania has received $1.3 million. In addition, fossil fuel corporations have spent billions of dollars in dark money on attack ads against pro-climate Democrats, and billions more to support anti-science front groups. It is virtually certain that whoever wins the Republican nomination in the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania 2022 will be heavily bankrolled by corrupt fossil fuel money.

Any claim Republicans make that they are protecting frontline energy workers is false. Consider, for example, the long-standing Republican support for mountaintop-removal mining, which has made many people sick and destroyed many jobs. Republican leaders care about corporate profits over the well-being of communities and workers.

Let’s be honest. Republican Senators have been blocking vitally needed climate legislation for decades for one reason and one reason only: they are in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry.

This explains why Republican Senators, under the leadership of Mitch McConnell since 2007, have obstructed climate action for a generation. They have done so, even when in a minority, through an outmoded procedure called the legislative filibuster. This self-imposed Senate rule requires a supermajority of 60 out of 100 votes to get anything done: which means of course that almost nothing ever gets done. It’s ridiculous!

There is only one way out of the present impasse. The Senate Rules may be changed by a willing majority, and currently only a few Democratic Senators are refusing to eliminate the filibuster. Democrats must elect a decisive majority of Senators in 2022 — a gain of at least two or three pro-climate legislators — who will abolish the filibuster and pass essential climate legislation.

The Winnable Global Climate War

The climate emergency demands a response that is the equivalent of fighting a world war. Meeting the climate challenge requires a massive social mobilization of resources. In a struggle for the survival of global civilization, we have no choice but to make the necessary investments.

The economic costs of failure to respond to the climate emergency will be severe. According to one recent estimate, the United States economy would shrink by 7% by 2050, and annual global economic output would plummet $23 trillion — if we do not reverse present climate trends.

Worst case scenarios are even more sobering. If we reach the high-end of predictions for global average temperature increases, the consequences could be fatal to the current global economic and social order. Mass starvation, anarchy, and violent wars over scarce resources such as food and water could break out. The climate emergency could put our civilization itself in the crosshairs. Accelerated mass extinctions could occur, and even if humans as a species survived, it would be on a diminished and significantly destroyed planet.

Because of entrenched opposition to dealing with the causes of the crisis, including especially in the U.S. Senate, humanity has been losing the climate war so far, but this is no reason to despair. We have the people, knowledge, and technology necessary to win. What we lack is the political will.

The Green New Deal sets forth goals and aspirations needed to address the climate emergency. It proposes a wave of strategic investments in people and infrastructure that would bolster our nation’s ability to handle impending environmental changes, and lay the groundwork to continue to grow and thrive through the balance of this century. The Transform, Heal, Renew, and Invest in a Vibrant Economy (THRIVE) Act (currently introduced as a bill) sets forth similar objectives focusing on the investments needed — estimated at roughly $1 trillion annually for ten years — with assurance that at least half of the investments go to underserved, disproportionately impacted, and left behind communities. The THRIVE Act also specifically targets the creation of a total of 15.5 millions jobs.

Just as people invest in themselves to prepare for their future careers, and just as business firms make investments in themselves to set the stage for future growth, the United States must invest to preserve climate stability and build a foundation for an economy that will prosper into the future.

Climate-focused, youth-based grassroots organizations such as the Sunrise Movement support practical legislation at the federal level based on the ideals set forth in the Green New Deal and the THRIVE Act. Sunrise calls attention to the need for good jobs for all that will fortify our economy in ways we haven’t seen since the first New Deal responded to the Great Depression and created a political economy that made the United States a global powerhouse.

Grassroots political groups are also demanding a halt to the construction of oil and gas pipelines, port facilities, and other fossil fuel focused infrastructure that make no sense under conditions of a climate emergency, and that must be rendered obsolete within the next decade.

The United States must lead the world again in what is best conceived as a mobilization that is the equivalent of fighting a world war to save civilization by leveraging all sectors of society and harnessing American ingenuity to respond to the climate threat. This is not a war to be won by military means, but it demands a similar scale of organization.

Like previous world wars, the climate emergency threatens not only the livelihoods of future generations, but also American values such as democracy, freedom, and prosperity. It directly threatens our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As a Penn State professor and scientist says, we really are fighting “the new climate war” already. He shows how opponents of climate science are using disinformation and psychological manipulation in social and mainstream media, which they treat as a battleground of friends and enemies. In this climate war, we are not fighting a military war against foreign adversaries. We are fighting interests that want to make the world comfortable for the companies that profit from burning fossil fuels rather than a world that is safe for democracy.

As we did in previous world wars and other crises, the United States must massively mobilize resources. We must, together with partners around the world, make a revolutionary transition from a fossil fuel based economy to one based on clean renewable energy. Major changes in transportation, industrial production, and building construction and infrastructure are needed too. We must build resilience against climate damage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent future damage in these areas, as well as in agriculture, forestry, and water infrastructure. The United States must set an example and also lead with diplomacy.

As in a world war, we must work with allies to bolster stability and secure peace. Addressing the climate emergency is crucial to this mandate because extreme weather provokes social tensions that create civil unrest, disrupt global trade, open power vacuums for malicious actors to exploit, and amplify the global refugee crisis. The United States should follow a Climate First foreign policy.

One especially important partner is the European Union, which just announced an ambitious European Green Deal with the objective of becoming “the first carbon neutral continent” by 2050. How about a friendly rivalry?

Let’s make North America the first continent to reach carbon neutrality before 2050!

To win the global climate war, direct government spending on a scale approximating investments made to win a world war will be needed. However, it is also true that private investments will be critical to success, just as they were in President Roosevelt’s New Deal and in “the arsenal of democracy” that provided the material means to win World War II.

Another benefit from mobilization to solve the climate emergency is greater economic equality. In the past, when America fought wars to advance democratic values — such as in the Civil War, World War I, and World War II — disadvantaged groups made significant economic and social gains (albeit inadequate ones). Labor unions played a central role in this economic development. Mobilizing to win the climate war with solutions that center justice at every step will yield similar positive results through the creation of good, well-paying, jobs that are widely shared, as well as a healthy environment and decreased social inequity.

The World War II analogy is helpful also in terms of political debates about costs. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, the budget or the prospects of inflation were not the primary concerns. We declared war and went all in. Federal defense spending spiked to over 40% of GDP during the peak years of the war. Today, U.S. GDP is approximately $20 trillion. 40% of that is $8 trillion. If the climate stakes today are as severe as in World War II — and they are — we must allocate funds efficiently and at a similar order of magnitude. $1 trillion annually for 10 years as proposed by the THRIVE Act is well within the capacity of the U.S. economy in an emergency. And we are in an emergency just as dire. Indeed, the stakes are higher given that failure means permanently worsened conditions for human life on Earth.

The best scientific estimates give us only 10 to 12 years to begin to bend the curve of increasing greenhouse gas pollution downward. We have no time to waste. We need to invest what is necessary to win. We also need to do everything possible to leverage private resources and organize individual action to win the global climate war — not as “apocalyptic rhetoric” but pragmatic victory.

It’s Time to Declare a National Climate Emergency

As Senator, I would ask the President to declare that the climate crisis constitutes a national emergency under the National Emergencies Act. This declaration would unlock presidential powers to take the following actions:

  • Accelerate the production of critical technology deemed essential to national defense, which may include “energy production or construction” under the Defense Production Act. This authority would allow the President to reallocate funding and direct resources for many essential government actions, especially the enhancement of renewable energy equipment (including for solar, wind, battery storage, and transmission grids).
  • Extend federal loan guarantees to critical industries. Examples include renewable energy and transmission firms, electric vehicle manufacturers, high-speed rail producers, and businesses using carbon as an input.
  • Grant emergency authority to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to “coordinate domestic transportation, including aviation, rail, and other surface transportation, and maritime transportation . . . and exercise such other powers, relating to transportation during a national emergency.” Under this authority, Secretary Buttigieg could take a range of actions to promote pro-climate transportation policies.
  • Invoke the Disaster Recovery Reform Act to assist states and local governments in revising building codes, flood planning, and coastal zoning to increase resilience to extreme weather events.
  • Ban new off-shore oil drilling and production.
  • Order the suspension of oil and gas leases on federal lands or seabeds.
  • Use the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to sanction rogue states that refuse to join globally agreed actions to address the climate emergency.
  • Coordinate with the European Union’s commitment in its Green Deal to establish a new carbon border adjustment mechanism with an objective of establishing an international standard to prevent carbon leakage in global production.

Some commentators worry that use of these executive powers would undermine the democratic authority of Congress. But the immediacy and gravity of the climate emergency must override these concerns. We must act now to deal with “the super wicked problem” of the climate crisis. The President should use his full authority to solve it.

Climate Solutions and Jobs

As mentioned above, successfully fighting the climate war will create an estimated 243,000 new good, well-paying, sustainable jobs every year for a decade right here in Pennsylvania, many of them in the clean energy field and many more in other climate-related fields. Doing the math: that’s a total of 2.5 million jobs. As the saying goes, it’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. But that’s a lot of jobs!

Already, even without making the climate emergency a top priority, clean energy jobs are outpacing fossil fuel jobs. From 2017 to 2019, clean energy jobs grew by almost 8.7% in Pennsylvania while losses of coal and gas jobs were 10.7% (3.3 and 7.4%, respectively). There are now more gas wells in the state (about 70,000) than there are workers in the industry (around 20,000)!

A recent study shows that the fracking boom in Appalachia has not been directly beneficial for most local residents. In Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, the counties that produced 90% of fracked gas from 2008–19 registered an increase in economic output three times more than the U.S. average. At the same time, personal income and job growth lagged in these counties, and overall population declined. The reasons for this “bad deal” were that (1) most the economic profits were taken out the state (and in Pennsylvania were subject to extremely low state taxes), (2) many fracking jobs went to out-of-state workers, and (3) a large share of revenues paid on leases to local landowners were not reinvested in local communities.

Some promoters have touted Pennsylvania as “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” but a recent report finds that the fracking industry never delivered on its promises of “creating hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of US manufacturing jobs.” The report concludes: “As the ‘Saudi Arabia of natural gas’ Pennsylvania has been the poster child for the fracking industry. But far fewer jobs were created there and in neighboring states like Ohio than boosters claim, and many have since vanished.” In other words, fracking has gone from a hyped boom to a bust. Disbursed impact fees to fracking counties in Pennsylvania have also decreased from a peak of $251 million in 2018 to $146 million in 2020.

In contrast to the bad deal of fracking, new clean energy jobs are mostly labor intensive and involve investments in the community rather than investments which only extract value out of the community. Also unlike fossil fuel jobs, many clean energy jobs involve wind turbines, solar panels, and transmission lines that require ongoing maintenance over time, which means many sustainable, long-term, unionized American jobs.

Here is the breakdown for the estimate of 243,000 new jobs per year in Pennsylvania:

  • 162,000 jobs per year in clean renewable energy and energy efficiency retrofitting
  • 33,000 jobs per year in manufacturing and public infrastructure
  • 48,000 jobs per year in land restoration and agriculture

Some of the occupations represented would include:

  • Construction (pipelayers, electricians, supervisors, project managers)
  • Research and development (chemists, life scientists, ecologists, engineers, science technicians)
  • Trucking and transportation
  • Vehicle equipment repair and maintenance
  • Water treatment specialists
  • Solar panel installers and wind turbine engineers
  • Land restoration and agriculture (including farmers and forestry personnel)
  • Clerical, bookkeeping, and other office support

Another source finds the following top “green jobs” already located in Pennsylvania (as a proportion of the total number of each occupation in the country) to be:

  • Rail-track laying and maintenance equipment operators
  • Tool and die makers
  • Industrial truck and tractor operators
  • Wind turbine service technicians
  • Construction and building inspectors

And here are the top “green jobs” in Pennsylvania as measured by total number employed:

  • Office clerks
  • Freight, stock, and material movers
  • Cashiers
  • Customer service representatives
  • Stockers and order fillers

These are jobs that people need. Many of these jobs will be good union jobs — which is exactly what we need to rebuild the middle class in Pennsylvania and the United States as whole.

Republican and Democratic politicians who say that building the clean energy revolution and winning the climate war will cost jobs simply don’t know what they are talking about.

In fact, delaying the renewable energy transition hurts the very workers these politicians claim to be protecting. Many communities and people in Pennsylvania have been hurt by the fossil fuel industry through broken promises, destroyed land, and poisoned water. As these jobs diminish, politicians who have defended fracking have offered nothing to replace them.

There is an alternative. Building a sustainable future will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and cause a spike in economic productivity that will be broadly shared. Clean energy will provide new opportunities in the coal and gas communities of Appalachia and serve to rebuild regional economies.

Last but not least, we must consider the jobs that are threatened if we do nothing to respond to the climate emergency. Job losses from a worsening climate will occur for the following reasons:

  • Greater incidence of extreme weather events will displace workers, particularly in urban areas, due to damage to business assets, transportation systems, and infrastructure.
  • Greater incidence of heavy precipitation and extreme heat waves in rural areas will damage crops and put farmers’ livelihoods at risk.
  • Job losses will occur from business interruptions caused by extreme weather damage to buildings, machinery, production sites, raw materials, and supply chains.
  • Greater incidence of extreme weather events, especially heat waves, will negatively affect working conditions and reduce productivity. More days of extreme heat will reduce the number of working hours and working days.
  • Forced short-term and long-term migration due to income reduction, job losses, and uninhabitable environments will increase instability in job markets.

With respect to jobs and climate, there is only one answer. We must defend against the threat of climate-caused losses to jobs and productivity, and embrace the challenge to create many new jobs by building climate solutions.

Just Transition

At the same time new jobs will be created by raising an effective defense in the climate war, it is true that some well-paying jobs will be lost. In Pennsylvania, one report recognizes that as many as 64,000 workers are still employed in the coal, oil, and gas industries. Total job displacements over the next decade are estimated at about 1,800 per year (in addition to about 1,000 per year who will retire).

However, thousands of jobs in the fossil fuel industry have already been disappearing for other reasons. The coal industry has been decimated by the lower cost of gas, and decreasing prices of solar and wind energy have put economic pressure on coal, gas, and oil. The promises of growth in employment by the fracking industry were also grossly overblown, and many of the jobs that had been created have since gone away.

Many communities that are currently dependent on fossil fuel extraction and production are also good locations for renewable energy expansion. In Pennsylvania, for example, many fossil fuel reliant communities are prime locations for wind power development. Federal support for new renewable energy industries should prioritize these communities.

For workers who are displaced because of the climate emergency and the need for a transition to renewable energy, a just and fair transition to a renewable economy based primarily on solar and wind power must include the following:

  • Pension guarantees for retired workers.
  • Re-employment guarantees for displaced workers, including 100% wage insurance. A recent survey of registered voters found that 81% support creating jobs programs for unemployed coal miners to safely close down old coal mines and restore the natural landscape. 80% support creating a jobs program that would hire unemployed oil and gas workers to safely close down thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells, which are a source of water and methane pollution.
  • Relocation support for all workers and their families who need it to move to another job.
  • Retraining to assist displaced workers to obtain the skills needed for a new job.
  • Support for older workers who want to continue working past the age of 65.

One report estimates the costs in Pennsylvania for such a just transition job program at about $115,000 per worker or a total of $210 million per year.

In addition, Congress must stabilize Black Lung Benefits, which is billions of dollars in debt, for former coal miners and their dependents. Landowners who lease their land for fracking should also receive compensation when fracking leases are terminated in the public interest prior to the end of their contracted terms.

Again, these details could vary in practice, and the outline here is consistent with the Marshall Plan for the Rust Belt that includes much of Pennsylvania.

A just transition must include respect for key labor issues. As a Senator, I would support legislation that would do the following:

Even as a transition away from a fossil fuel based economy has become essential, we owe a debt of gratitude and appreciation to the coal miners, frackers, and farmers who have leased land and contributed to America’s energy independence. They also deserve a special place in the next phase of business and economic development. Capping wells and other clean-up projects will provide immediate jobs to some of the workers from these industries. Approximately 8,500 abandoned oil and gas wells are uncapped, and around 200,000 old wells may be leaking methane. In addition, transition compensation and re-employment opportunities must be made available to ensure that these workers can move into growing, high-paying unionized jobs with brighter prospects for the future.

A just transition to a clean energy future is feasible. Just as in a wartime production situation when priorities are reallocated to particular needs (such as producing tanks rather than passenger cars), winning the climate war will require reallocations from fossil fuels to clean energy. The short-term disruptions will pay off in the coin of long-term safety and prosperity.

Climate Justice

The climate emergency worsens all social inequities, from race to class to gender to disability, so we must win this climate war if we also want to win the fight for social justice. We know that the impacts of the climate emergency disproportionately affect low-income populations. We also know that, on average, white families have ten times the net worth of Black families and more than eight times the net worth of Hispanic/Latinx families due to legacies of systemic racism. Government programs must take account of these historical patterns of injustice when allocating benefits and opportunities in climate responses.

Government-led mobilizations of resources create unique opportunities for groups that have been left out in the past. National policy should make sure to benefit low-income populations in urban centers (where people of color predominate) as well as in rural parts of the state (where most of the poor residents are white). Pennsylvanians who have been left behind and forgotten in the big cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as well as the smaller cities, towns, and rural regions of the state are connected by mutual and intersecting interests.

In American history, wartime has sometimes provided opportunities for the reconciliation of the values that we claim to hold dear with the lived realities of low-income communities and communities of color. The same can and should be true when fighting and winning the climate war. The mobilization of resources will involve the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs in Pennsylvania, which will dwarf job losses in the fossil fuel industries. These new jobs should benefit everyone, and will be key to rebuilding regional economies that have been left behind as coal and gas decline.

Special attention should be given in all climate adaptation and mitigation plans to their impact on climate justice. As a Senator, I would make the following recommendations to guarantee this outcome.

Adopt Justice40 recommendations including:

As well as these additional recommendations:

These measures recognize that climate risks, burdens, and harms already fall disproportionately and unfairly in society. Climate injustice is really a “double climate injustice” in the sense that vulnerable people bear the greatest burden of climate harm, and at the same time contribute to the climate problem the least. Climate injustice worsens racial, class, and gender-based inequities, transcends rural and urban divisions, and targets people with the least power to influence our politics: poor and working class Americans in general, and people of color in particular.

As Governor Jay Inslee recognizes in his climate plan, we should recognize “the urgent need to support frontline, low-income, and Indigenous communities, and communities of color.” “These communities . . . are being impacted first and worst . . . , and have endured a legacy of air, water, toxics and climate pollution, along with a deficit of public investment and support.” “Exploiting energy,” says one close observer of fracking in Pennsylvania, “often involves exploiting people.”

Because the climate emergency magnifies every social inequity, we must view these inequities through a climate lens, and not the other way around. In Pennsylvania, the legacies and current realities of racial and economic injustice run deep. While marching to win the climate war, we must also march toward climate justice, racial justice, and social justice.

Congressional Roadmap

Congress allocates funding and writes laws, and so it must play a leading role in addressing the climate emergency. At least 1000 laws have been identified that would help to move the needle on addressing the climate emergency through deep decarbonization of the economy. Specific reforms are discussed here in terms of general sectors of the economy, with priorities allocated in terms here of percentages of domestic U.S. greenhouse gas emissions:

  • Electric Power — 25%
  • Transportation — 29%
  • Industrial Manufacturing — 23%
  • Buildings — 13%
  • Agriculture — 10%

As the details below indicate, the only way to deal with the immensity of the climate challenge is with a smart overall strategy of many smaller actions. It is important in this process to maintain perspective.

The Paris Agreement at the global level should continue to focus on bottom-up reporting by nation-states and bolster accurate reporting and verification processes. At the same time, we cannot allow ourselves to fall into the trap of thinking that somehow international organizations will solve the problem with some comprehensive solution. They won’t. Many climate solutions developed at various levels of society — from nation-states to small groups of individuals — are the answer.

In this context too, it is important to note that the method of “putting a price on carbon” favored by many economists is not a panacea. In theory, it is elegant to imagine that a global price on the externality of greenhouse gas pollution could be assessed by a central government authority and then allocated through a carbon tax (or the equivalent for methane and other pollutants). Carbon taxes have worked in some situations to move toward greenhouse gas reduction targets (though the record is mixed, often depending on the price assessed). The economic dream of taxes as a global comprehensive solution, however, runs into problems in practice for a number of reasons. The sheer number of sources of greenhouse gas emissions mean that the costs of setting up any global carbon tax system is prohibitive. Also, the mathematical elegance of economic solutions in theory often fails to consider the messy and unfair practical impacts felt by everyday people who may suddenly find themselves having to pay increased prices for gasoline and other daily essentials. The “yellow vest” uprising in France provides an example of what happens when top-down climate solutions are imposed without taking environmental justice considerations into account.

The moral of the story is to reject regressive carbon tax plans that would fall unfairly on working people. A warning here too: Recent evidence shows that oil companies proposing carbon taxes have been doing so mostly as a public relations stunt.

The Clean Energy Revolution: Renewable Electricity First!

The clean energy revolution that we need to win the climate war will empower Pennsylvanians.

Pennsylvania has been an energy leader for centuries: from timber, to coal, to petroleum, to nuclear energy, to natural gas. It’s time to move on to the next chapter: expanding solar, wind, hydrogen, and other zero carbon energy sources while phasing out the fracking of oil and gas, unless proven carbon capture and sequestration or reuse technology can be invented and deployed economically.

The clean energy revolution means that we must achieve a goal of 100% clean electricity as soon as possible, setting a national target of 2030. States like Pennsylvania can and should be a leader in making this transition.

The largest challenge in this area is moving decisively away from fossil fuel electric power production. Solar and wind power have already achieved price parity with fossil fuel energy sources — in other words, it costs the same (or less) per unit of electric energy to produce utility-scale solar and onshore wind power as it does to produce power from coal, gas, or oil. Some coal plants are now converting to solar based mostly on economic considerations. There is every economic reason as well as every climate reason, then, to double down on federal investments to expand solar and wind energy, as well as storage technology. The public agrees. A recent poll shows that substantial majorities of Republicans and independents, as well as Democrats, support government investments in renewable energy and battery technology.

One step we should take right away: the federal government should provide substantial subsidies in the form of tax credits, low-interest loans, and grants directly to consumers, business firms, nonprofits, and public utilities that buy wind, solar, geothermal, and other fossil-free energy — or adopt energy efficiency measures. This decentralized approach follows the basic economics of supply and demand. In the aggregate, immediate large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will result.

At the same time, the subsidies which are supporting the fossil fuel industry must be fully and immediately removed. What the economists call the externalities of these polluting industries should no longer be encouraged.

If the fossil fuel industry needs billions of dollars in government subsidies to stay afloat, that shows that its time has passed. The industry gets at least $4 billion in tax benefits and loopholes, and one recent estimate of the total annual implicit subsidies for the fossil fuel companies based in the United States (including the social cost of greenhouse gas externalities) is a whopping $568 billion — 3% of annual GDP! — with $62 billion going directly into the coffers of the companies. A study by PennFuture found that the state of Pennsylvania paid an additional $3.8 billion in fossil fuel subsidies in 2019, again mostly in the form of tax breaks and preferences.

All tax and other subsidies to fossil fuel energy companies and related industries such as those supplying fossil fuel pipelines and equipment should be eliminated immediately.

There is no reason taxpayers today should pay to fund climate pollution or to line the pockets of fossil fuel executives. Reforms to the tax laws should include the following (and there are more):

  • Eliminate the ability to count intangible drilling costs as an expense (which would make companies pay full costs for drilling wells, rather than only two-thirds of the cost).
  • Eliminate tax deduction of 15% of the cost of revenues in developing an oil or gas well.
  • Eliminate deduction for “enhanced oil recovery” through fracking.
  • Eliminate tax deduction for income attributable to domestic production activities for oil and gas activities.

In addition, billions of dollars of unpaid royalties and fair-market value for rents should be collected from debts owed from coal, oil, and gas extractions on federal land. No new leasing of fossil fuel extraction should be permitted on federal lands. President Biden’s executive order to this effect has been stopped by a federal judge. Congress should pass a law not only to halt new leases, but to immediately rollback all leases for fossil fuel extraction on all federal land. Twenty-six million acres of federal land and 12 million acres of offshore ocean seabeds have been leased to the fossil fuel industry. There is no reason to continue to allow public lands and resources to be used to make the climate emergency even worse than it is already.

In this connection, Congress should reverse President Biden’s decision to allow ConocoPhillips to proceed with its development of its Willow Project for oil production in Alaska, a decision which significantly lessens the climate impact of the President’s decision to suspend all oil and gas activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Congress should preserve federal lands permanently from fossil fuel development. Congress should also eliminate public funding of overseas fossil fuels projects, and encourage the President to do the same.

The coal industry has already been driven down, not so much by regulation as by the decreasing cost of natural gas and renewable energy. In this sense, the fracking revolution has served as a bridge to a renewable future. The time has come to get to the other side of this bridge.

We must phase out natural gas, which means ending fracking nationally over a relatively short time frame. Although some need will likely remain for gas to provide residual stability (when the wind doesn’t blow, the sun doesn’t shine, and battery storage has not yet become sufficient), our dependence on gas must be reduced to only about 2 to 5% of the total energy load by 2050, and any carbon emissions from its production must be captured and permanently sequestered or embedded in new products. New methods of decarbonizing gas appear to be feasible as well and should be explored, but business-as-usual is not an option.

In the near term, for similar reasons, some traditional nuclear plants should continue to be operated safely. Currently, for example, 44% of Pennsylvania’s electricity is supplied by nuclear power. “You do not have to like nuclear power, or ever want to build another nuclear power plant,” notes one observer, “to believe that existing sources of carbon-free power should be kept running as long as practicably possible. You only have to like carbon-free power or dislike climate change.”

New nuclear options may prove to be a viable part of a long-term climate solution. Salt-based nuclear technology will be tested in a demonstration power plant sponsored by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in Wyoming. At present, however, the comparative costs of new nuclear plants are higher than for solar and wind. In addition, the risks of nuclear waste disposal, terrorist attacks, or catastrophic failures (e.g. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima) remain too high as long as other safer renewable alternatives are available.

Unfortunately, market forces alone will not provide enough of a push to move away from the dependence on fossil fuel in electricity production. One reason is that investments in fossil fuel infrastructure (such as fracking wells and gas pipelines) create a “carbon lock-in” effect. If you build it, you’re going to be tempted to use it — without making rational economic calculations.

The good news is that the federal government already has regulatory powers sufficient to regulate against a continuing reliance on fossil fuels and in favor of renewable energy, though there is some uncertainty now with respect to the Supreme Court. The Biden Administration can and should immediately encourage the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to move forward with plans to phase out the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation, with some room for negotiation if carbon capture technologies make more progress than they have done to date.

The Environmental Protection Agency also has the authority to declare that fossil fuels are producing “pollutants” under the Clean Air Act, a finding that the Supreme Court previously upheld. The EPA may therefore regulate fossil fuels under various statutes and should do so.

As a Senator, I will push for new federal actions to accomplish the clean energy transition, including the following.

Pass a Clean Electricity Standard that is bold and aggressive — targeting 100% clean energy electricity production by 2030. This standard would phase out the production of electricity by burning fossil fuels (unless carbon is captured and sequestered/stored). As Senator Tina Smith from Minnesota says, a Clean Electricity Standard “is the cornerstone of the progressive, practical transformation to a clean energy future we urgently need.” A new report finds that reaching even 80% of this renewable electricity goal by 2030 will result in large benefits, including the following:

  • 317,500 lives saved over the next 30 years from reduction in air pollution from the burning of coal, oil, and gas.
  • Improved air quality in every state, with greatest benefits in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and Texas.
  • $1.13 trillion in health savings from cleaner air between now and 2050, with the greatest benefits for those who currently suffer disproportionate harm from living near highways and power plants.
  • $637 billion in financial benefits by 2050 compared to costs of $342 billion to achieve the switch to renewable energy.

As well as these additional recommendations:

Another important feature of the energy revolution is that solar, wind, and storage technologies can be localized and decentralized. This allows for the promotion of more energy democracy as well as the assertion of energy rights. Individuals who put solar panels on their roofs or wind turbines on their farms will see their utility bills decline. When the sun shines and the wind blows, smart meters in homes and businesses run backwards, indicating sales of home-harvested energy back to public utilities, and putting savings into the pockets of homeowners and small businesses.

In addition, local communities should be empowered to create decentralized power systems. I will support two federal programs that should be established to assist in this development:

  • The Clean Community Energy Grant Program for clean energy projects developed by community-based non-profit organizations.
  • The Solar Communities Program for making investments in local distributed power production, building on $15.5 million deployed by the Biden Administration in the Department of Energy’s initiatives “to support solar energy deployment in underserved communities and build a diverse, skilled workforce.”

Community microgrids may also provide some protection from cyberattacks on large utilities or failures of other energy systems, such as we experienced with the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack.

Renewable energy production of electricity is significantly safer for human health than fossil fuels too. Harmful health effects from the burning of coal are well known. Also, its “production, use, and waste disposal have disproportionate impacts on socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.”

Natural gas has similarly been shown to have detrimental health consequences “along every stage of its life cycle.” According to several doctors: “Wells, pipelines, and compressor stations are disproportionately located in low-income, minority, and marginalized communities, where they may leak gas, generate noise, endanger health, and contribute to environmental injustice while producing no local benefits.”

Once we get the ball rolling toward the clean energy revolution with serious federal legislation adopted, then a host of other regulatory, business, nonprofit, and community-based actions will follow — and we will reach the tipping point toward an energy revolution to save our climate.

Climate-Friendly Transportation

The renewable energy revolution that will eliminate the burning of fossil fuels for electric power generation will also allow for the transformation of the transportation sector, which currently is responsible for approximately 29% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. As electricity becomes clean and renewable, electric vehicles must become part of the climate solution too. Already, we see commitments in the auto industry to convert to electric vehicles, and we must work to enact federal incentives to encourage and accelerate this transition.

As a start, fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks should be increased 7% per year through 2030. Cars and light trucks that burn fossil fuels should be phased out by 2035.

All trucks and buses that burn fossil fuels should be phased out by 2040.

Electric vehicles must become standard, and so tax and other incentives should be put into place to encourage consumers to purchase them. A Clean Cars for Clunkers program would also provide incentives for consumers to exchange fossil fuel vehicles for zero emission vehicles (or get a payment toward a new zero emission vehicle) — or receive public transit or car share credits instead. Another good idea is to extend incentives to replace gas or diesel engines in existing vehicles with electric ones.

We need fast electric-charging stations to support the new national network of electric vehicles. The Biden Administration proposes to build 500,000 charging stations around highways and in hard-to-reach communities by the year 2030. This too is a good start. Federal assistance to plan rational and equitable distribution and geographical placements would be helpful. The federal government should also help states expand charging stations along major highways. We need more than only five charging stations on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, for example!

New tax incentives could boost installation of charging stations at home and work. Creative methods to make electric vehicle charging easy in towns and cities might include retrofitting street lights. Another good idea is to leverage 50,000+ acres of unused land near interstate exits to build a network of solar arrays to power electric vehicles and local businesses. The value of roadside solar energy generated in these areas has been estimated at $4 billion per year.

Electric-powered high-speed rail travel is another important substitute for travel by the internal combustion engine using fossil fuels. The Biden Administration has proposed significant funding for railway improvements, but more investments are needed for “a second great rail revolution.” It is an outrage that China, France, Japan, and other countries have left the United States so far behind in the development and deployment of ultra-high-speed rail. Congress has held hearings on new Maglev and Hyperloop technologies. Congress should also hold hearings on the reasons for the poor financial and operational performance of Amtrak and adopt reforms to improve our existing rail service. A new high-performing American network of high-speed and regional rail is both doable and practical. Building it will create many good, union-paid construction jobs to help build a climate-safe future.

From a regional perspective, Pennsylvania, the home of the famous Pennsylvania Railroad and the Reading Railroad, two of the four railroads in Monopoly, should become a world leader once again in transportation. An immediate priority should be to design and construct ultra-high-speed rail service on the highly profitable Amtrak Northeast Corridor (or to supplement the current Amtrak line with a new one). We should set a goal for the Philadelphia-New York City rail link to become the most heavily travelled in the world. We should also build the world’s fastest ultra-high-speed rail from Philadelphia to Harrisburg to Pittsburgh to Cleveland to Chicago.

In addition, new regional links should be reopened, including Philadelphia-Reading, New York City-Allentown, and New York City-Scranton. According to one estimate, the Philly-Reading line alone will give a $1 billion boost to Berks County. The Buffalo-Erie-Cleveland line is also overdue for improvements. Other small towns and cities deserve to be reconnected with rail service.

Aviation and shipping currently use the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels. Zero carbon fuels are needed for international shipping, perhaps including ammonia and hydrogen. International agreements are needed to push maritime goals farther toward a zero carbon goal by 2050, and estimates are that the industry is responsible for about 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Aviation has an even larger global carbon footprint. It contributes more than 2% of global carbon emissions and recent evidence suggests that emissions of black carbon (also known as “soot”) at high altitudes multiply the negative effect from currently used jet fuels to about 5%. Aviation is a growing industry in the U.S. and currently accounts for about 9% of transportation emissions.

The United States should partner with the European Union to establish new low-carbon fuel standards for aviation, as well as shipping.

Two policies should be adopted with respect to jet fuels. First, a surcharge should apply to jet fuel, again coordinated with emerging European Union standards. (However, there is no good reason to exempt private jets and cargo jets from the charge, as the EU has done.) Jet fuel taxes are progressive, given that more than half of the American population does not fly each year, and more than 80% of the world’s population cannot afford to fly at all. Less than 1% of the world’s population accounts for half of global aviation emissions. It therefore almost goes without saying that the special tax breaks for private jets passed during the Trump Administration should be repealed immediately. As a result of this ludicrous tax break, wealthy owners of private jets pay only 10% of the federal taxes that they would pay if they flew the same routes on commercial airlines. By the same token, everyday air travelers pay 90% more.

Currently, the federal jet fuel tax is only 4.4 cent per gallon for domestic flights, compared to 18.3 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.3 cents per gallon on diesel for ground-level vehicles. International flights have zero tax on fuel! Given the climate damage, the jet fuel tax should be raised significantly, including international flights. Again, harmonization with EU standards would make sense.

Second, subsidies should be provided for developing sustainable aviation fuels, including from low-carbon biomass sources. Tax credits can encourage this development, and at least one bill in the current Congress seems to have broad support. The proposed Sustainable Skies Act would provide tax subsidies for sustainable jet fuel, but no taxes and thus has broad support even from airline companies. Old refineries (such as in Philadelphia) might be repurposed to process low-carbon jet biofuels.

Finally, the emerging industry of space tourism should also be discouraged — if not restricted to scientific flights certified by NASA, then at least taxed to pay for a rough estimate of the climate damage of the flights. The space flights derided by some commentators as “joyrides” by billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson raise significant moral issues, given that (1) the lifestyles of very rich contribute a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions and (2) many of these billionaires made their fortunes through businesses with large climate footprints. A carbon-intensive business that essentially delivers the brief thrill of a weightless experience and a good view of the Earth does not help to solve the climate emergency. The expected climate damage is significant. In addition to ordinary greenhouse gas emissions, the black carbon (also known as “soot”) emitted by thousands of rockets could have a significantly higher greenhouse heating effect. Congressional hearings should get ahead of this issue before this industry catering to the ultra-rich takes off in earnest.

In addition, as a Senator I would support the following:

As a result of these changes in transportation policy, we can envision a near-term future when long distance and regional travel will take place via high-speed or regional rail, or low-carbon air travel, supplemented by clean-running networks of electric vehicles and an expanded use of pedestrian walkways and bicycle paths. Significant health co-benefits will follow, including a reduction of air pollution caused by fossil fuel vehicles and resulting lower rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Net Zero Industries

Manufacturing and other industries currently account for approximately 23% of greenhouse gas emissions. Electrification of power supplies can significantly reduce this contribution, but some industrial methods of production will likely prove difficult to electrify.

Some particularly difficult hurdles face the cement, steel, and chemical industries. In situations where clean power technologies are not feasible, then carbon capture technologies must be used. New products such as carbon-based cement and high-strength carbon fibers may also provide viable alternatives, which federal incentives should encourage. Methods to decarbonize steel production are now being explored in Sweden, Austria, and a few other countries. The United States should join in this technological race to make “green steel” — especially in Pennsylvania, the original steel capital of the world.

“Buy Clean, Buy Fair” legislation, such as the law adopted in California and similar bills under consideration in other states, can support industrial development in traditional American industries such as steel and glass, which are also traditionally unionized. “Buy Clean” refers to goods with low-carbon content. “Buy Fair” refers to requirements to procure goods and services from companies that follow fair labor standards, which means often preferring American unionized industries. Federal legislation following these models would spur innovation and climate progress.

Other new products using carbon as an input are being researched by the Global CO2 Initiative at the University of Michigan and elsewhere. These products could provide a substantial part of the answer to the need to decrease carbon emissions, especially in capture-and-reuse technologies.

As a Senator, I will support other federal actions that would encourage net zero businesses and a pro-climate industrial future including:

  • Fund research, development, and adoption of new technologies and processes to eliminate carbon emissions in the production of cement, steel, and various chemicals.
  • Establish federal procurement policies requiring decarbonized, pro-climate friendly, U.S.-made products.
  • Authorize and require uniform climate-content labelling standards for products (similar to Energy Star ratings).
  • Develop net zero industrial clusters or hubs, including in Pennsylvania, to create mutual synergies to lower carbon emissions and create new jobs. Co-locating businesses in this fashion can allow the efficient sharing of resources and waste-to-input cycles.
  • Adopt policies for industrial life-cycle production and process designs that allow for reuse and recycling of components. These policies fall under the heading of circular economy approaches that can apply to carbon use as well as other elements and materials.
  • Hold congressional hearings to solicit stakeholder views for pro-climate, zero carbon industrial transitions — and then act on them.
  • Protect the jobs of industrial workers in transitional sectors, and provide incentives for development of new industries in those areas that will be disproportionately affected by climate policy transitions or have been left out of previous economic development.

Some of the industrial transitions needed pose the most difficult problems within the overall set of climate solutions. If mobilized with a shared sense of urgency demanded by the climate emergency, however, the combined efforts of the government, businesses, and labor unions, can find ingenious solutions that will also strengthen our economy.

Sustainable Buildings

Energy use in residential and commercial buildings makes up about 13% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Clean electricity to power these buildings will go a long way toward reducing this load on the climate, and other federal incentives can help as well.

Decarbonizing the building stock of the United States will be a massive undertaking. The U.S. has 150 million existing buildings, and most of them will be in use through 2050, and around 30% more new buildings will be constructed. New buildings are easier and less expensive to construct in a carbon-neutral manner, but retrofitting older buildings to improve efficiency is also imperative to address the climate emergency.

The federal government can help make this transition through taking actions in the building sector, including: enhanced electrification (and phasing out, for example, of the use of gas for heating and cooking), increasing efficiency standards for appliances, retrofitting for energy efficiency (such as installing better insulation in homes and businesses), and other pro-climate practices to reduce the amount of “embodied carbon” used in design and construction.

U.S. contractors are also playing an important role, having recently issued a report on best practices. As one leader of this pro-climate business movement said: “How we build is less of the problem than what we build.” Landscape architects are also on the frontlines of positive climate developments.

As a Senator, I would advocate that the federal government must help these efforts by also doing the following.

Adopt a National Energy Carbon Building Code for all new and existing buildings, which would include:

  • For new buildings: net zero construction by 2025 with high-efficiency standards for cooling and heating, including appliances and windows; energy use harmonization with grid requirements, including passive energy designs when warranted; low embodied carbon standards, including low-carbon concrete; and required electric vehicle charging stations for certain building categories.
  • For existing buildings: require by 2025 that no domestic water heaters can be replaced with ones that use fossil fuel; require by 2025 that furnaces in designated climate zones cannot be replaced with units that use fossil fuel; require by 2025 the replacement of windows to improve energy performance (with tax incentives or subsidies for low-income owners); and increase energy efficiency requirements for larger buildings.

Amend the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to enable the following:

  • Upgrade policy standards by the Department of Energy under the current six-year schedule and remove federal preemption of higher state standards.
  • Enable the DOE to address carbon content and emissions, as well as energy efficiency when setting appliance standards.
  • Impose charges on new gas-fired appliances to provide incentives for electric options.
  • Expand coverage to other appliances that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

As well as these additional recommendations:

  • Enact a national Energy Efficiency Resource Standard to require all utilities to include energy-efficiency and resilience measures in planning for load growth and delivery.
  • Establish a national training program (with help from nonprofit and business partners such as the U.S. Green Building Council) for the certification of maintenance and operations staff to reduce energy use and eliminate energy waste in buildings.
  • Finance the construction, preservation, and rehabilitation of more affordable housing by increasing grants to states and community-based organizations. Expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and fully fund Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.
  • Reauthorize and increase spending for successful programs under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed under the Obama Administration in 2009, including the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, the State Energy Program, and the Weather Assistance Program that specifically targeted low-income households.

Spending for building energy-efficiency and extreme weather resilience will result in many new jobs that will be created in the neighborhoods of the buildings that receive this work. According to one report, the high number of these jobs follows from the fact that efficiency improvements and transitions to electrification are labor intensive. Also according to the report, because “most of the work must be done on site and therefore can’t be outsourced” and “all areas of the country have existing buildings,” federal funding for building improvements will benefit “all parts of the country — north and south, rural and urban.” In other words, this essential work must be done by local people for local homes and businesses, creating thousands of local jobs over an extended period of time.

Agriculture, Forestry, and Conservation

Although using fossil fuels for energy production, transportation, industry, and buildings account for the largest share contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture also contributes approximately 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions. On the positive side of the balance, forests mostly also act as a net carbon sink, offsetting some of the massive amounts of carbon emitted into the atmosphere by other human economic activities, and carbon sinks can be enhanced in both forest management and in the soil and plants used in farming.

Over half the land in the United States is devoted to farming and forests, and the use of these and other non-urban lands is therefore essential to climate solutions. Pennsylvania is 25% farmland and almost 60% forests.

Nobody is a closer observer of weather patterns than the farmer or the forester. For the many different crops grown in Pennsylvania, farming success depends on growing conditions, as well as the absence of destructive weather at key moments in the planting, growth, and harvesting cycle. Climate-caused heat waves and droughts can cause agricultural failures, resulting in crop scarcities and high food prices. Those who tend forests must also adapt to seasonal fluctuations. In a state like Pennsylvania where agriculture is a major industry, the impact of climate change poses a tremendous risk to the livelihoods of those who work in the industry as well as the health and food security of every resident.

Rural land and forests are also key for maintaining the biodiversity of plants and animal species. We are currently experiencing the sixth greatest extinction of species in the history of life on Earth. In Pennsylvania, at least 150 species have already been lost, and more than 350 are endangered. A significant cause of species extinctions is the unrestrained burning of fossil fuels and the resulting climate emergency. The economic costs of the loss of biodiversity — from the pollinators of crops, to the carbon sinks of forests, to the food production value of watersheds, to the simple pleasures of hearing birdsong — are virtually incalculable. The costs of the loss of what are called “ecosystem services” are at least in the tens of trillions of dollars.

Good stewardship of our farms, forests, and other land can help to preserve the precious biodiversity that we have left.

Federal authority must be used to preserve our natural systems from destructive economic exploitation. The Biden Administration embraces the goal of major environmental groups to preserve 30% of land and oceans by 2030 — or 30x30 — in its “America the Beautiful” report. At present, only 12% of land, 11% of inland water resources, and 26% of oceans are protected. The 30x30 commitment represents a significant opportunity to make progress on conservation, and as a Senator, I would sponsor legislation to make it a reality.

The Antiquities Act must also be preserved, and former President Trump’s shrinking of the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, and his removing of protection for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, should not only be reversed but taken as an opportunity to expand protection. The Endangered Species Act should also be returned to its former status as one of the most powerful environment statutes. In Pennsylvania, there are some success stories: the weasel-like fisher has made a comeback, as have the bald eagle and osprey, but many more species are still endangered or threatened.

Some general approaches that would lead to pro-climate improvements in both agriculture and forestry include better integrated spatial planning and coordination of regulation at different levels of government.

The Biden Administration has made significant advances supporting agriculture as a priority in the American Rescue Plan of 2021. Some specific additional federal policy recommendations for agriculture that I would advocate as a Senator include the following:

  • Create ARPA-Terra as another of the successful Advanced Research Projects Agency labs to focus on soil carbon sequestration technologies, the development of low-carbon biofuels, the development of low-carbon animal protein substitutes, technologies to reduce food waste, adaptation and mitigation strategies for dairy and livestock farming, new carbon-storing plants, and other pro-climate technologies and processes in land use.
  • Promote an inter-agency task force, with congressional oversight, to coordinate various activities relating to pro-climate land use in agriculture, forestry, and more generally.
  • Eliminate unequal treatment for farm subsidies and crop insurance of vegetables grown for human consumption as compared with those intended for animal consumption. Crop insurance should be available equally to all farmers.
  • Follow up on the rare bipartisan support for the Growing Climate Solutions Act by providing reliable carbon offset markets for credits in soil sequestration practices and other carbon sinks in farming and forestry.
  • Adopt a Farmers Post plan proposed by the World Wildlife Fund that would bring together farmers and consumers through direct one-day food delivery through the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Increase the availability of funding and financing for wind and solar farm options specifically for agricultural areas.
  • Expand funding for the Rural Utility Service, Rural House, and Rural Business Service for rural electrification through distributed renewable energy and efficiency upgrades, broadband infrastructure, and smart-grid solutions.

Pennsylvania’s forests ― the state is the only one named for its forests (“Penn’s Woods”) ― can contribute significantly to lowering greenhouse gas emissions by acting as large carbon sinks in trees, other vegetation, and forest soil. As a Senator, I would support federal policies that significantly aid in this effort, including:

Water Security

Reducing greenhouse gases via the various “stabilization wedges” in electricity, transportation, industry, buildings, and agriculture will likely mitigate the climate emergency by 2100, if we can meet the global net-zero goal by 2050. We could then look forward to recognizing success in the celebration of the American tricentennial in 2076.

At the same time as we pursue this goal of mitigation, we must also consider adaptation policies to deal with extreme weather events that are already baked into the present — and likely to get worse before they get better. In this respect, water is to adaptation as energy is to mitigation.

Many of the most severe climate consequences concern changes in the water cycle: droughts, floods, melting glaciers, sea-level rise, and intensifying storms. We need to build resilience to withstand and minimize this increasing expected climate damage from extreme weather events.

As a Senator, I would recommend the following actions at the federal level:

Ocean Policy

Our oceans blanket the planet and have served as a massive carbon sink that has mitigated much climate damage to date. We must now harness the power of the oceans for wind, wave, and other energy to help solve the climate emergency, and at the same time protect the fish and other life within them.

As in all climate solutions, principles of climate justice must apply, which in this context may be called “ocean justice.” This means communities of color and poor and working-class people are most heavily burdened by rising seas, declining fish stocks, and more intense storms.

As a Senator, here are some measures that I would favor for adoption:

Climate Education and Research

A disinformation campaign sponsored by fossil fuel companies and their allies has convinced some Americans that climate science is false and no climate emergency exists. Fortunately, recent polls show that science and truth are again winning the public opinion sweepstakes. In 2020, 57% of Americans believe climate science shows that global warming is caused by human activity, up from only 48% in 2014. In 2021, 61% of Americans surveyed said that climate action by the government should be a “high” or “very high” priority. The evidence is clear. A large and increasing majority of Americans across a large majority of the states, including Pennsylvania, believe in climate science and want to see action.

Climate education is needed first at the political level. This is one reason I feel compelled to make climate the top priority in my political campaign and urge others to do the same.

Educational efforts to advance climate science and understanding must be undertaken at all levels — from kindergarten to college. One recent good idea is to expand the portfolio and funding of the U.S. Global Change Research Program to coordinate federal action around climate training and education.

We need to ensure good access to job training, technical schools, and higher education in order to help people to realize their potential and best contribute their skills, which will also help to win the climate war. This access must include underserved communities that need educational and career-building resources. For example, increased federal support should fund the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program and other similar educational efforts.

A continuing focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education for young Americans from early schooling up through high school, technical schools, and college would give our students a competitive edge internationally with respect to innovation in fields related to finding climate solutions and putting them into practice.

As a Senator, I would also support the following recommendations for climate education:

  • Strengthen school-to-work pipelines in community and technical colleges, including technical certification and apprenticeship programs, as well as paid internships.
  • Fund research and development in clean technology, such as through various programs within the Department of Energy, including Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and a new ARPA-Terra to focus on agriculture and forestry.
  • Invest in next-generation transportation technologies, including improving batteries, increasing efficiency and sustainability in aviation and shipping, and inventing new low-carbon biofuels and synthetic fuels.
  • Fund research and development for efficient and economic carbon-removal methods that pull carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere to be stored in carbon sinks or used in new products.
  • Partner with universities and colleges as well as state governments for climate-related research and development through expanded grant and scholarship programs.
  • Establish student loan debt-forgiveness programs for clean energy and sustainability jobs.
  • Create a new Civilian Climate Corps (see also above in connection with a just transition and climate justice) to supplement climate-related opportunities in AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps. Polls indicate massive support: 65% of all voters, 64% of rural voters, and 68% of younger voters (under 45) favor creating a CCC. Half of all younger voters say they would consider working for a CCC. Recent legislation added $1 billion in funding for Americorps, and it would be useful to expand the idea of a two-year national service option open to all high school graduates. These kinds of programs help to break down socioeconomic and ethnic bubbles that can lead to division and misunderstanding.

Only through a recovery of a belief in and commitment to science can we win the climate war. Perhaps the myth of a new “Sputnik moment,” which may have galvanized American public opinion to invest in science education during the Cold War, would be useful to recreate today.

The Climate Imperative for Business and Finance

Business leaders and firms must become part of the global solution to the climate emergency. Fossil fuel interests continue to play a villainous role in terms of disinformation and deception, as exemplified by an Exxon-Mobil lobbyist bragging about his conversations to stall or stop climate legislation in the Senate. The big energy companies need to wake up, smell the coffee, read the science, and change their business strategies to become climate protectors rather than climate destroyers. Decades of them doing the opposite tell us that they aren’t likely to do so without a strong political and economic push.

At the same time, renewable energy companies are a big part of the climate solution. Economic and technological advances in solar and wind technologies have been breathtaking, driving the costs of solar energy down 89% and the costs of on-shore wind energy down 70% in only a decade. These companies are a source of massive job growth too. Economics as well as science is driving sustainable change.

Other business firms also should play a role, and government policies should encourage them to follow a moral climate imperative. Many companies are already tracking and setting internal targets to reduce their carbon footprints. An increasing number of large companies are now also putting pressure on their suppliers to do the same.

Investors, including large players on Wall Street, are also beginning to see the necessity of acting quickly on the climate emergency. Environment, social, and government (ESG) measurements are increasingly popular, and with good reason: many of these funds have been outperforming traditional ones. Many businesses stand to benefit by embracing a clean energy future, and doing so ahead of the curve allows them to best capitalize on new opportunities. Insurance, real estate, construction, transportation, telecommunications, and sustainable tourism and recreation are some business sectors that will have new opportunities.

Regulators can support trends in sustainable investing. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency should adopt uniform measurement and corporate disclosure standards for climate performance, including greenhouse gas emissions. Congressional hearings should be held to discuss different standards proposed by the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, and the Climate Disclosure Standards Board. Global harmonization of climate reporting standards is a long-term goal, and should draw on the evolution of public-private hybrid standards.

Large central banks and financial regulators should step up to the climate challenge too, contrary to Senator Toomey’s attack on this movement. Toomey’s argument that the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission should ignore the climate emergency and instead allow Congress to regulate the problem is particularly galling given his own terrible record on climate and environmental policy. The U.S. Federal Reserve joining the global Network for Greening the Financial System, a group of central banks exploring how bank management, supervision, and regulation should handle climate risk should be applauded.

Financially, we must recognize that a climate bubble of the unaccounted for costs of greenhouse gas emissions is embedded in the global financial system. There are only two possible outcomes. The first option is that the world succeeds in transitioning to a zero carbon future, and fossil fuel stocks will become significantly devalued because of “stranded assets” of coal, oil, and gas that cannot be burned. The second option is that the fossil fuel companies will succeed in continuing to produce, sell, and burn all of these assets, resulting in predictable widespread climate damage to the global economy.

Financial disruption is therefore inevitable, but we must avoid the second option because it will mean the end of civilization as we know it. The financial system can handle and help to manage the major transition that we need to make, but it cannot survive a total social collapse.

One important approach to bringing the externalized costs of climate damage into financial and business calculations is “putting a price on carbon.” A number of regulated trading regimes for greenhouse gas emissions now exist, and there is a need to harmonize them. Congress has had a number of bills introduced in the past few years that would adopt pricing schemes, such as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, and they have generally been applauded by environmental groups. However, it is essential to apply a climate justice lens to examine these proposals and make sure that the burdens of any charges and taxes, even if with public dividends to be paid, will not fall once again on the shoulders of those who are least able to afford it and least responsible for the damage. In other words, putting a price on carbon should not put the costs on everyday working families. Otherwise, pro-climate legislation in the form of putting a price on carbon will face a political backlash.

Just as the federal government should act to keep business firms and trading markets honest and fair, it should also act to encourage them to take the climate emergency seriously. As a Senator, I would advocate pursuing the following actions oriented toward climate solutions:

On the topic of the role of business in politics, one might also note that fossil fuel interests have been brazen in donating to candidates that will do their bidding. In 2020, they donated more to federal campaigns than renewable energy interests by a margin of 13 to 1.

Business people should support political candidates who make climate their top priority!

Paying to Protect Planet and People

We need to pay for climate solutions, and we have the means. Some balk at the figure of $1 trillion per year for a decade in the proposed THRIVE Act. But as discussed above, the US spent 40% of GDP during a few crucial years of World War II. In an emergency, the country rallied together to win. Today, spending 40% of GDP would be about $8 trillion per year. This puts the need to spend $1 trillion per year to address the climate emergency in true perspective.

Congress, as of this writing, is debating a watered down bipartisan infrastructure bill, which has carved out most if not all climate-related expenditures. We hear talk of balancing concerns about inflation or the budget deficit — as if the climate emergency does not exist, and as if the world is not literally on fire.

The climate emergency is different from a war because it requires an unprecedented peacetime mobilization that revamps our energy, transportation, building, industrial manufacturing, and agricultural systems. The evolution of these systems since the Industrial Revolution has been successful in terms of economic growth, but it has not taken into account the ever-increasing external costs of carbon, methane, and other greenhouse gas pollution on the climate. We now must reckon with the consequences.

We can accomplish the transition. Science fueled the tremendous economic expansion of the last several centuries, and science can provide solutions again. The technology is now available, and more will be invented, to reduce the economic costs of climate solutions. As social and economic incentives shift, the financial system will allocate capital to climate solutions, and it will starve companies with large carbon footprints, especially fossil fuel companies (including state-owned enterprises in the other countries) that fail to make a radical turn in their business strategies.

Just as in a global war, however, we need the government to direct policy to channel investments to win the larger fight. We need to spend approximately 5% of GDP per year for a total of $10 trillion over ten years. There are many different policy avenues we can take to begin to raise the necessary funds.

To begin with, President Biden’s proposed budget funds many pieces of the climate solution. The Penn Wharton Budget Model estimates that overall Biden’s proposal will raise $3.9 trillion over ten years through various tax reforms, including:

  • Reversing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (which mostly gave tax cuts to the wealthiest citizens).
  • Increasing income and social security taxes on households making over $400K.
  • Increasing the corporate tax rate to 28%.
  • Eliminating fossil fuel tax breaks.
  • Revising capital gains treatment, including eliminating the carried interest loophole.

This package, if passed through the narrow window of the reconciliation budget process (which is designed to avoid the ridiculous filibuster in the Senate) would fund a number of necessary programs, including the following directly related to climate solutions:

  • Transportation and infrastructure ($596 billion)
  • Clean energy tax incentives ($367 billion)
  • Broadband, electrical, and water infrastructure ($309 billion)
  • Housing and clean energy accelerator ($27 billion)
  • Federal bonds for state and local infrastructure ($12 billion)

Based on these rough estimates, if we can pass the Biden budget including the climate package through reconciliation (admittedly a big if given that the budget would need support from the likes of Senator Manchin from West Virginia in order to pass), then we’ll be a third of the way there.

In addition, there is one way that should be relatively uncontroversial to raise a significant additional chunk of needed revenue: cracking down on tax fraud and avoidance by richest Americans. The current head of the Internal Revenue Service has said that approximately $1 trillion in federal taxes goes uncollected every year because of tax evasion, tax fraud, and underenforcement! Recovery of these avoided taxes requires expenditures to increase IRS enforcement and to heighten reporting requirements, but curing this unfairness of tax avoidance by the wealthy would provide a significant boost to fund climate solutions. Recall also that the wealthiest citizens also bear a larger responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions that cause the climate problem, so it makes sense to apply these recovered funds to climate solutions. One good estimate puts the revenues that could be reclaimed by the IRS at $4 trillion over ten years.

We also know that the federal income tax system has been growing more and more unfair — what economists call regressive — since the Eisenhower Administration in the 1950s. To give an example, in 1970, the richest Americans paid about 50% of their income in taxes (all included), twice as much as everyday working people. By 2018, after the regressive tax reform passed by Republicans, billionaires pay less than everyday workers, such as steel workers, school teachers, and retirees.

Using a tax reform calculator, we can see that adjusting the individual income tax to 45% for incomes over $1 million, 50% for incomes over $5 million, and 52% for incomes over $20 million (which very roughly and more conservatively follows a tax proposal made by Bernie Sanders), as well as treating corporate dividends as regular income (as they were treated before 1983) and taxing capital gains as the same rate a personal income from labor (which is common sense), would produce additional revenue of $294 billion per year. Multiplying this estimate by twelve (the standard tax method) yields approximately $3.5 trillion over ten years.

Increasing the corporate tax rate would provide some additional revenues from those who can most easily afford it. President Biden’s proposal of a 28% corporate tax would roll back the 2017 tax reform giveaway to corporations of 21% rate. From 1951 to 1978, however, the corporate tax rate ranged from 48% to 52%. Raising the effective corporate rate to 35% (again similar to what Sanders has proposed) would provide approximately $3.1 trillion over ten years.

Additional progressive tax reforms can add to the fairness of the federal tax system and generate more funds to address the climate emergency. As Senator, I would recommend:

In general, there is broad public support for progressive taxes. A poll in June 2021 found that 69% of voters favored increasing taxes on the wealthy and business corporations. 67% supported raising taxes on those earning more than $400,000 annually. 62% supported President Biden’s proposal to raise the corporate tax to 28%.

In addition, budgetary savings are likely available by taking a close look at military spending. Seeing the climate emergency in terms of national defense likely will require some reallocations of priorities. As a Senator, I would suggest considering the following measures:

In more general terms, the climate emergency requires a rethinking of national defense priorities to focus on how defense spending can be either reduced or reallocated to target the largest global threat that we face today. We can afford to fight the climate emergency and should get to work.

A Climate Leader in the World

The United States cannot win the global climate war alone. An attitude of “America First” is as useless today as it was when first offered as an isolationist refusal to get involved in World Wars I and II (and even earlier).

Rejoining the Paris Agreement, as President Biden did on his first day in office, is one step back into the right direction. Much more must be done, however, and the United States must take a leadership position in this fight.

We need more accountability among cooperating nations, and sanctions against nations that do not cooperate. A climate duty should be imposed on embodied climate pollution in goods and services produced in countries that refuse to join global agreements. A partnership among the United States, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and other leading democracies on this score would likely create a global standard.

Of course, we must as a nation get our own house in order to lead effectively, and regain the credibility we have lost in recent years of climate denial. Actions will speak louder than words. One action needed is to make good on our promise to the Green Climate Fund to double U.S. funding for mitigation and triple funding for adaptation by 2024. Climate Envoy John Kerry has promised $1.25 billion for 2022. We should also help to revise world trade laws to become more environmentally friendly and pro-climate oriented.

Build Back Better will prove a more productive strategy than America First — which, if pursued, will lead only to mass violence, racist nationalism, and the destruction of our constitutional democracy. It is time to reject the America First delusion once and for all so that the United States can again return to its place as a leader in concert with the other great democracies of the world.

We can win the fight against the climate emergency by working together in an Alliance of Democracies.

Authoritarian regimes in Russia, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere are aligned with an anti-climate agenda tied to the unlimited burning of oil and gas. China seems also to have mixed motives, becoming a global leader in solar and wind equipment production, yet continuing to build and sponsor new coal plants at a rapid rate. The fast-growing Chinese economy has now surpassed the United States to become the largest culprit in the emissions of greenhouse gas pollution. China’s total current annual emissions have now passed all of the developed countries in the OECD combined, and China is approaching parity even in terms of per capita emissions.

The United States must lead by example, and rebuild our historically close ties to the other democratic nations of the world to find common ground for collective global action. We must come together to win against the climate emergency that has become the greatest enemy of all nations.

More Than a Hope or a Dream

The climate emergency will reveal whether the United States will continue to lead the world, and addressing it demands the equivalent of a war-time mobilization.

We must rise to meet this moment. The mobilization needed to win will have overwhelmingly positive economic ramifications for practically every sector of the American as well as the global economy. Economic opportunities and benefits from climate solutions will land in the laps of Pennsylvania’s energy workers, farmers, teachers, engineers, and many other occupations. Meeting the challenge will create many new jobs in energy production, transportation, and construction.

We know the climate emergency threatens to undermine the foundations of the global economy and the very habitability of our planet. But we have the tools available, right now, to make an historic investment in America and to carry out climate solutions that will last for generations.

We stand today at a pivotal juncture in world history, a decade that will be seen by historians in centuries to come as a turning point for humankind. It will be remembered either as the decade when we came together as one species to take action to confront the ultimate existential threat head-on, or the decade when we allowed profit-motivated fossil fuel companies and do-nothing politicians to determine our fate while the world around us literally burned.

It is as though a loud alarm clock is ringing everywhere in the world, and the most powerful people in the house (and Senate!) simply refuse to hear it.

They deny the science. They change the channel to pleasant-sounding news or entertainment instead of taking action and passing legislation.

If we do not answer the alarm with serious action, climate damage will take a toll on everyone. Many jobs will be lost, public health will decline, the number of climate refugees will increase, and violent wars will break out over increasingly scarce resources.

Given this bleak possible future, it is natural and easy to feel afraid. Rather than fear, however, the best response is to refuse to fall victim to denial, despair, distraction, or depression.

Instead, we must commit to action.

This green paper has outlined seven positive steps forward to deal with the climate emergency:

  1. Listen to the scientists.
  2. Elect pro-climate politicians.
  3. Treat the climate emergency as requiring a mobilization equivalent to a world war.
  4. Enact climate solutions that create good jobs for all.
  5. Center environmental justice considerations.
  6. Work on all parts of the climate problem.
  7. Work together across divisions to win!

History shows that we can win the climate war. In our country’s history, emergency situations have galvanized Americans to cooperate and act decisively. To respond to the climate emergency effectively, we need to mobilize our citizens and our economy to act at a similar scale within a narrowing window of time.

Americans, and specifically Pennsylvanians, have come together in the past to accomplish great, previously unthinkable projects: from building subways and skyscrapers; to constructing the National Road, the transcontinental railroad, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and the interstate highway system; to inventing computers and the internet; and even landing astronauts on the moon.

With similar investments, we can solve the global climate emergency too.

One way to make a serious start is by electing a strong pro-climate Democratic majority to the United States Senate in 2022, starting right here in the Keystone State.

If you agree, please click here to join our team, or visit

And stay tuned for more papers to come on other climate issues, Senate reform, and more!

Eric Orts
August 10, 2021

General References

The Biden Plan to Build a Modern, Sustainable Infrastructure and an Equitable Clean Energy Future,

Biden Administration, National Jobs Plan fact sheet,

Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force climate proposals,

European Union, Delivering the European Green Deal,

Governor Jay Inslee’s Evergreen Economy for America,

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protections, Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment 2021,

Political Economy Research Institute, Impacts of the Reimagine Appalachia & Clean Energy Transition Programs For Pennsylvania,

Project Drawdown, Solutions,

Sam Ricketts, Bracken Hendricks & Maggie Thomas, Evergreen Action Plan: A National Mobilization to Defeat the Climate Crisis and Build a Just and Thriving Clean Energy Economy,

Bernie Sanders, Green New Deal,

Tom Steyer’s Justice-Centered Climate Plan,

Sustainable Development Solutions Network USA, Zero Carbon Action Plan,

United Nations, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°,

United Nations, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis,

Note on the term “Green Paper”: In the spirit of climate action and the Green New Deal, I am calling this a green paper rather than a white paper or position paper.

I’m also borrowing from a tradition that distinguishes between “white papers” and “green papers.” According to this tradition, white papers are official statements of policy from the government. Green papers are proposals for discussion.

I am putting forward the ideas and policy positions here in the form of a green paper: inviting comments from anyone who would like to engage with me and my campaign team in good faith.

Please let me know about any errors and any suggestions for additions or subtractions. My team expects to treat this as a living document with some revisions to be made in coming months as this campaign moves forward. Please send any comments, suggestions, or other correspondence to



Eric Orts

Professor. Lawyer. Dad. Candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. Passionate about finally doing something about the climate emergency and changing the Senate.