Here’s what will make you optimistic about fighting climate change

A searchable map showing the estimated public health and employment opportunities that come with the transition away from fossil fuels.

There’s no denying that a lot of the news about the climate crisis is bad. While the threat of water shortages looms large in parts of South Africa, a devastating heatwave in China has turned deadly and Europe is suffering from a severe heatwave of the United States. self. For many people, this is stressful. According to a 2019 survey by the American Psychological Association, two-thirds of participants reported having climate anxiety.

But Alexander Gard-Murray derives some optimism from the fact that so many people are worried about the crisis. A postdoctoral research associate at Brown University’s Climate Solutions Laboratory, he says that all the added worry really means ‘more people are actually aware of and actually doing it. hard work on this. “

Gard-Murray recently released the Climate Opportunity Map. This interactive tool allows users to see examples of the immediate benefits where they live — in the form of new jobs or health benefits — that can come from phasing out fossil fuels. All advantages are estimated and based on projections and data largely derived from government and academic research.

Gard-Murray spoke with Bloomberg Green about the map, clean energy jobs, and how taking action on climate change is more than just protecting glaciers or helping future generations. Transcripts have been edited for length and clarity.

There are plenty of reasons to be discouraged about climate change. So what is your pitch for optimism??

I am more optimistic today than when I started working on climate. When I started working on climate change 10 years ago, it was clear we had more time to act than we do now and the warnings were, in some cases, less dire than they are today. But I think politicians have taken it less seriously than a decade ago, and I also think the immediate benefits that society can see [from climate action] unclear more than a decade ago. And the last part is what this map is trying to capture.

What is the Climate Opportunity Map and how does it work?

The idea behind the map is that there is a lot of information about the climate. And a lot of great information, both from scientists and from journalists, has focused on the damage and risks that climate change creates. But I think it’s important not to overlook that there are also immediate benefits – what economists and climate scientists call co-benefits. Basically, the positive economic effects of acting on climate change. Climate opportunity mapping means taking those big headline numbers for countries and trying to estimate how much of it will accumulate in specific regions to bring it back home where people were born. living.

Can you talk about some of those immediate co-benefits? What will people see if they enter their zip code into the map?

First and foremost, work. I think the most obvious benefit of taking ambitious action on climate change is that there will be more jobs almost everywhere in America. There will be jobs to build renewable energy sources, build wind turbines, build solar panels, install solar panels on roofs, build hydroelectricity. [plants]. That will take a lot of work and will use a lot of people. And when they’re built, they’ll need to be up and running. There will also be a lot of jobs, improved energy efficiency. The easiest way to replace fossil fuels for energy is just to use less energy and there are so many ways we can make our buildings, our lives more efficient and those ways as well. will use a lot of people.

At the same time, we are also likely to lose our jobs, right? So do you take those into account? Your reaction to people who point out oil and gas jobs may be out of the question.

This map does not attempt to model every sector of the economy. There are other attempts to capture a comprehensive picture, and those efforts show net job gains. So there will be more jobs in America if we act ambitiously on climate change than if we go down the current path. This map focuses only on a few key areas where the work will be achieved immediately.

But it is true that in some areas there will need to be a transformation and I think it is important when we make green investments that they are combined with [social] programs to help people in oil, gas and coal communities transition. I think people don’t necessarily know what the solar potential is in their area, or what the wind potential is.

The map also mentions the health benefits of climate action. Can you talk a little more about those opportunities?

We mainly focus on the lives saved from air pollution reduction. The EPA has done a lot of research on how reducing emissions from fossil fuels will also reduce air pollution because when you cut down on a dirty engine, you also cut down on the number of particles in the air. So we take those EPA estimates, for the county level, and then aggregate those estimates. But there are other health benefits that aren’t even included here yet, and we hope to expand the map in the future. For example, if you switch to a gas stove, your indoor air quality will be higher.

What are you hoping people take away from this map?

I hope that someone looking at this map will see that the benefits of climate action don’t just happen abroad. It’s not just about saving low-lying island nations, although they do deserve it. It’s not just about saving polar ice caps and glaciers, although they are in dire need of saving. It’s not just about saving, or helping our great-grandchildren. It’s about creating immediate benefits over the next few decades in the communities where people live. More succinctly, I hope the users of this map see that their area can gain something from this transition.

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