Dear Senator Rubio — Thanks for Your Recent Climate Change Letter to Constituents

Open Letter by Ross McCluney, Cape Canaveral, constituent of Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). In Reply to Sen Rubio’s “Responding to your message” email. You wrote and I reply:

There is no question that the earth’s climate is changing, just as it always has.

Yes, but, in the past, it has always changed slowly, “glacially slowly” as the saying goes. That saying is no longer apt in this case, because the receding of land glaciers has accelerated considerably in response to the accelerated warming of the Earth over the last century or so. The current rate of change greatly exceeds all but the most dramatic climate changes of the very distant past.

Scientists continue to debate human activity’s contribution to that change.

Not really. Credentialed scientists are nearly unanimous about the accelerating contribution of excess greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and the consequent accelerating warming of the planet. One reason is their discovery of additional feedback loops which accelerate the increased loading of the atmosphere with such gases. Reference: https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/ which contains this statement on climate change from 18 scientific associations: “Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.” (2009) Additional sources: Scientific American 2014, Science Journal 2004, Think Progress 2016, Union of Concerned Scientists (Accessed 8 Apr 2017), The Guardian (Accessed 8 Apr 2017), Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (2016).

As a policymaker, I have a responsibility to consider the costs and benefits of proposed policies and regulations as we seek to improve public safety and preserve our environment for future generations without unnecessarily inflicting financial burdens on families, workers, and job creators. In the case of government regulations intended to stop climate change, unilateral action by the United States to reduce carbon emissions would be a very costly gesture that slows economic growth, takes away workers’ jobs, and increases families’ energy prices — all while doing nothing to change the weather.

Your last sentence is just plain wrong. In 2012, there were a total of 137,650 permanent coal-related jobs nationwide [1], and 806,831 oil and gas jobs as of 2011 [2]. By contrast, there were 3,401,279 green jobs in 2011 [3]. The Department of Energy predicts using conservative estimates that by 2030 there will be over half a million wind jobs alone [4].

The overall job story is that renewable energy will provide more and higher paying jobs, with more diverse opportunities [5].

This is because 1 million dollars of oil and natural gas output directly creates 0.8 jobs, and $1 million of coal produces 1.9 jobs. Compare that to building retrofits for energy efficiency (7 jobs per million dollars), mass transit services (11 jobs), building the smart grid (4.3), wind (4.6), solar (5.4), and biomass power generation (7.4 jobs per million dollars) [6].

The green economy already supports more jobs than the fossil fuel economy, and has for years, even though renewable energy accounts for only 11.98% of our domestically produced energy [7]. (Additional supporting references [8–11] below.)

That does not mean we should ignore the impacts of climate change. I strongly support efforts to mitigate the effects of severe weather and flooding. On July 14, 2016, I introduced the Assessing Coastal Areas to Assist States Act (S. 3228), which directs the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to perform an assessment of specific vulnerable coastlines, including Florida. This important study will provide information that will help us identify the mitigation measures necessary to protect our families, homes, businesses, and economy from storms and changes in sea levels. I am pleased to report that, at my request, this legislation was included in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). I voted for WRDA when it passed the U.S. Senate on September 15, 2016. The U.S. House of Representatives passed its own version of the bill on September 28, 2016. I voted for the final version of WRDA on December 10, 2016, and was pleased President Obama signed it into law on December 16, 2016.

This is one of many reasonable responses the Congress can make to prepare for the growing adverse consequences of a warming world, as we see substantial increases in the frequency, strengths, and economic losses of tornadoes and hurricanes.

I believe we should encourage and invest in new technologies and advancements that will lead to cleaner, more efficient and more diverse energy resources. I believe in finding common ground on sound ideas that achieve real results. For example, in May 2015, I joined U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) in introducing the America INNOVATES Act (S. 1187), which would streamline management at the Department of Energy’s national laboratories, increase research and development of energy technologies, and spur innovation by improving the ability of our national laboratories to collaborate with innovators in the private sector.

This is another good response the Congress can make to prepare for the coming changes.

Unfortunately, I believe these actions, alone, will be insufficient to speed the transition already underway. The transition of which I write is:

· Away from fossil fuel combustion (which produces most of the greenhouse gases)

· Away from methane escaping from natural gas wells

· Away from methane produced during industrial meat production

(Note: methane is, molecule-for-molecule, a much greater contributor to global warming than is carbon dioxide.)

· Toward greatly accelerated use of clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar, which have greatly reduced greenhouse gas emissions (the miniscule amount of these comes mostly from the manufacture of some components of the wind and solar conversion equipment).

Finally, I note that in October 2016 you said that cutting emissions won’t help sea level rise and that you opposed curbing emissions laws as economists tell you that emission rules will “destroy” jobs and increase the cost of living “dramatically” without really affecting the environment. In February 2016, you put it more starkly:

“I do not believe that we have to destroy our economy in order to protect our environment.”

Fortunately, a recent study by Devashree Saha and Mark Muro of Brookings shed light on this proposition. Saha showed that in the U.S. we have already decoupled CO2 emissions from the growth of the economy, as measured by the GDP. Below is one of their plots, illustrating the split dramatically.

Clearly, a nation determined to switch slowly and steadily away from burning fossil fuels can also keep economic growth alive and healthy. It is also happening globally, but somewhat less dramatically.

The fact is that we now know how to transition completely away from the combustion of fossil fuels to live more safely and happily with energy efficiency and a variety of clean and essentially inexhaustible sources of energy that will not only stop greenhouse gas emissions but stop global warming.

The problem is, this transition is just not going fast enough to keep up with and reverse climate change in time for us to avoid the most severe consequences of current climate change acceleration.

Senator Rubio, the Republican Climate Leadership Council has offered a Carbon Dividend proposal, which can reverse the greenhouse gas emissions growth that is producing global warming. When James A. Baker III announced the Council’s creation, he said now that Republicans control the Presidency as well as the House and Senate, they must take a leadership role in finding solutions to the very serious problem of climate change. He added that the idea “gives Republicans a seat at the table on an important issue and does so in keeping with Republican principles.”

In addition, Republican members of the House of Representatives recently introduced the Republican Climate Resolution which supports the need to take action to address climate change. The Resolution (H.Res.195) is being introduced by a group of 17 Republican House Members led by Reps. Elise Stefanik, Carlos Curbelo, and Ryan Costello. They cited “conservative principles to protect, conserve, and be good stewards of our environment.”

Finally, the strictly non-partisan, non-profit Citizens’ Climate Lobby, formed in 2007, is focused on creating national policies to address climate change, primarily their Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal. As of this writing CCL has 398 active chapters around the world, most in the United States, where its membership is growing rapidly. The momentum toward a rising carbon fee with the proceeds given to U.S. citizens through periodic monthly or quarterly payments just keeps accelerating.

I note that the bi-partisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the House recently grew to 36 members, half Democrat and half Republican. The two chairs of this caucus, one a Republican the other a Democrat, are both from South Florida. How about talking to these two nearby climate leaders about forming a similar bi-partisan caucus in the Senate. I’m sure you have the persuasive abilities to get it started.

Revised to add new material, 20 April 2017

References

1. US Department of Labor: Mine Safety and Health at a Glance. June 30, 2013.

2. Josh Wright. “A Broader Look at America’s Fossil Fuels Jobs Boom”. Mar 16, 2012. Blog Post. Economic Modelling Specialists International. Last accessed: 7–21–14.

3. US Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment in Green Goods and Services 2011. March 19, 2013.

4. “20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply.” July, 2008. US Department of Energy. p. 209.

5. Martin, Scott. “Green jobs pay better as clean-tech sector booms”. Published: 7/13/2011. USA Today. Last accessed 7–21–14.

6. Robertson, Joseph. “Building a Green Economy” 2010. The Citizens Climate Lobby. p. 18.

7. US Energy Information Administration. “Electric Power Monthly”. April 2013. Last Accessed: 7–21–14.

8. Sklar, Scott. “New Solar Jobs Statistics Released, But Other Renewables Are Growing Too.Renewable Energy World, January 28, 2014. Last Accessed: 7–21–14.

9. While Coal Loses Nearly 50,000 Jobs, Wind and Solar Add 79,000, The Energy Collective, April 9, 2015

10. Solar jobs already outnumber coal jobs — Fortune, Jan 16, 2015

11. The 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) finds that the Traditional Energy and Energy Efficiency sectors today employ approximately 6.4 million Americans. These sectors increased in 2016 by just under 5 percent, adding over 300,000 net new jobs, roughly 14% of all those created in the country.

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