When it comes to jobs, climate change promises a mixed bag, but concrete action on addressing a warming world presents a singular opportunity for more of the substantial job creation already underway.
A July 2019 report by the International Labour Organization concluded that “[an] increase in heat stress resulting from global warming is projected to lead to global productivity losses equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs in the year 2030.” The estimate is conservative, its authors warned, as it assumes a global mean temperature rise of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Extreme heat is hazardous to human health, so it should not come as a surprise that agriculture, in which 940 million people work, is expected to be the sector most affected by a warmer world. Construction, refuse collection, repair, transportation, tourism, and sports also among the other fields projected to suffer the fallout of hotter temperatures.
But in crisis comes opportunity, and the nascent renewable energy sector offers a surfeit of just that. As the video below states, the two fastest growing occupations in the entire job market are solar panel installers and wind turbine technicians. According to the same International Labour Organization report, decarbonizing the energy sector, electrifying transportation, reforestation, and carbon capture and storage technologies will eliminate some jobs while creating many more. A 2018 I.L.O. report saw a net gain of 18 million jobs—in construction, manufacturing, copper mining, renewable energy production, and biomass crop cultivation—by achieving sustainability in the energy sector.
Forbes reported in 2019 that “building new renewable energy is cheaper than running existing coal plants and prices get cheaper every year.” Meanwhile, states’ and utilities’ clean energy goals are driving demand for workers to build renewable energy infrastructure.
In discussing the importance of not building new fossil-fuel infrastructure that would lock in decades of future greenhouse gas emissions, the environmentalist and author Bill McKibben wrote on The New Yorker’s website that the fossil-fuel industry “is losing financial muscle with each passing week” during the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020.
McKibben referred to a Financial Times interview with BP’s chief executive officer, who “noted that as crude prices have plunged, renewable energy projects had been able to attract funding, suggesting the pandemic has weakened the investment case for oil. ‘It’s the model that is increasingly respected and admired by investors as being resilient and having a different risk profile,’ he said.”