The Climate is-a-Changing

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Intro

 

I, Ryan Martin and wealthADELPHIA fully accept the science of human caused climate change, as do over 90% of climate scientists. There is such overwhelming consensus and evidence to back anthropogenic climate change that some geologists call for a new geological epoch, the anthropocene era — one in which geology is shaped by humanity. If 90% of epidemiologists projected a deadly virus would devastate the population, wouldn’t you get vaccinated? (I also fully support the science behind vaccines, FYI.)

This week I spoke with Micah Gold-Markel about his company Solar States and all of the benefits of solar energy. There are financial incentives for investing in solar panels. First, a 30% dollar for dollar tax credit. This means, if you owe $4,000, but have a $3,000 credit, you only $1,000 to the IRS. Philadelphia also has net-metering, meaning solar customers connected to the grid can sell up to 200% of their annual electricity needs back to the utility company at the market rate. In addition to the 30% credit, businesses can receive between 50%-60% of the cost in accelerated / bonus depreciation. The Philadelphia Energy Authority also created the Solarize program, a collective-residential purchasing program. Houses can be paid for in bulk, reducing the individual cost. 


History 

 

Interestingly, climate science dates back to the early 1800s, with Fourier, one of the first scientists to question how the Earth is heated. He realized there must be a trapping force, what we know today as the greenhouse effect. Over the next several decades, advances were made by Fourier and Tyndall, with the identification of carbon-dioxide as a heat-trapping gas. However, it is Svante Arrhenius, who first posited the changing climate was partially due to human activity. This wasn’t a controversial claim, just a logical conclusion. If carbon dioxide affects the climate and factories burn coal, which releases carbon dioxide, human beings are influencing the climate. Arrhenius was not advising any changes be made, just noting a scientific fact. At late 19th century rates, it would have taken at least a few centuries the change to be significant. Obviously, humans utilized fossil fuels at an ever increasing rate, speeding up the rate of change.

 

Today 

The phrase “fossil fuels” has a negative connotation to those who’ve dedicated their lives in the energy sector. Micah says we shouldn’t attack those blue collar workers, but rather thank them. After all, all of our technological advancements are due to fossil fuels. However we need to adapt to the evidence linking fossil fuel to climate change. A related point Micah makes, is renewable energy is often the domain of the elite and the wealthy. This turns off some blue collar citizens. Micah first heard the term “green collar economy” in 2008 at a Van Jones talk. Micah strongly feels that solar energy needs to work to be more inclusive, which will certainly convince more people of its potential. 

I agree with Micah on this subject. I will not go into all of the intricacies of Trump’s election, but part of the puzzle seems clear: Trump listened to a group of people who feel forgotten about and disenfranchised.  Let me be clear — I am not saying that rural whites have suffered more than African Americans. I am also not commenting on whether or not Trump was feigning interest or being genuine. 

Whatever the case, he made trips to the rust-belt, and other areas that have been decimated by offshoring manufacturing. The late 70s, early 80s marked a rightward shift in the Democratic party, abandoning the New Deal stances that underpinned the party since FDR. It was a shift toward globalisation, cheap capital, and increased worker insecurity. 

The rust-belt, was hit hard by neoliberalism, angering residents, rightfully so. Conservatives mobilize this sect of individuals against climate science and are often successful. This was a tactic long before Trump. (But certainly taken to absurd levels by him. Think clean coal.) Education and job training needs to happen in these areas in order to foster trust in solar. 

We could see highly egalitarian economic growth, not witnessed since the post-war era. Infrastructure in the US is crumbling and Donald Trump has repeatedly discussed his desire to improve it. (A point with which I agree.) Job training programs and a bit more government could create a huge spike in solar installation projects. These could help bring the US into the 21st century and help create a model for other countries looking to do the same. An added benefit, rarely discussed, but of huge importance — energy independence. Instead of carefully laid machinations going awry in the Middle East, why not simply harness the power of the sun? (To be clear, this is the least of the reasons we should stop our campaign in the Middle East.)

These are many of the same points that Van Jones made in “The Green Collar Economy,” the impetus behind Micah founding Solar States. He makes the point, quite well, that conservatives and liberals should agree and converge on the issue of alternative energy, albeit with different motivations. Liberals because of climate change and potential egalitarian growth. Conservatives for energy independence and job creation. 

Van Jones points out the potential for solar panel manufacturing in the US, which Micah and I briefly discussed. Suniva, a recently bankrupt US based Solar panel manufacturer, filed a petition to impose a steep tariff on any imported solar panels, which would essentially double the cost of solar installation. This ridiculous proposal would destroy jobs. Instead, create incentives for US based manufacturing — instead of increasing the cost of one, decrease the cost of the other. It would grow jobs on two fronts. There be more (or at least level) demand for solar installation and manufacturing facilities would open to produce US made panels. 

There is a clever rewriting of American history by “the masters of mankind,” fostering a belief that we need to go back to a time when the government wasn’t involved in the economy — the free market capitalist myth of America. A more apt name is state-capitalism. The government has always been involved in our economy. The government frequently contracts private companies — this is government involvement in the economy. During the 50s and 60s, the government invested heavily in telecommunications, giving us the cellphone. In the 80s it was computer chips and artificial intelligence, giving us the smartphone and the advent of AI. Government is heavily involved in energy, awarding vast subsidies to the fossil fuels. Again, the machinations to control oil in the Middle East, a subsidy, albeit one paid in blood, not money. Note our alliance with Saudi Arabia, which frequently ranks abominably on human rights indexes.  

 

Tomorrow

I won’t discuss the science of climate change here. There are ample resources dedicated to that. But, I will say this, the climate is changing, and unless we can convince those who disagree, the human species in heading for total annihilation. 

Renewable energy can be our saving grace. It, as the attack on Pearl Harbor once did, can “awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” We can mitigate climate change, create equitable growth, and fully move the United States and the world into the 21st century. Micah and Solar States understand this great challenge and responsibility and are doing their part to awaken others. Hopefully this post shakes the sleep out of your eyes.