Perspective: For climate change measures to work, they must be profitable
Most people living in poverty can’t buy electric cars, but they will embrace affordable measures that make their lives better
There is no path to fighting climate change without making the solutions profitable.
This is probably a shocking statement for many, but it’s actually fairly simple. With almost 10% of the global population living on less than $2 a day, and 13.4% of Americans living in poverty, people will always prioritize their survival, putting food on their table and providing for their families. As they should.
Unfortunately, the dialogue on climate thus far has largely been focused on ideas that appear solely applicable for the upper class. Electric vehicle costs are dropping, but they remain more expensive up-front than a normal internal combustion vehicle. People are being told that in order to save the planet, they must use energy sources that are more expensive than the alternative — a solution they can’t afford.
When something is cost-effective and consumers can actually save money by choosing a cheaper and more sustainable alternative, that’s when we all win.
However, when something is cost-effective and consumers can actually save money by choosing a cheaper and more sustainable alternative, that’s when we all win.
Take natural gas, for example. The price of natural gas dropped significantly in the past few decades due to technological breakthroughs, spurring the closure of more than 100 coal plants in America alone. This allowed influential companies like Southern Company to transition to natural gas and other energy sources at a rapid rate. Southern Company, which is the second-largest power provider in the United States, has decreased its coal dependency from 69% in 2007 to 17% today. Remarkable — yet simple — changes like that have allowed the United States to lead the world in reducing emissions since the turn of the century. Of course, this has also lowered energy prices for nearly all Americans, too.
Examples of profit providing pro-climate results can be seen in our own homes, as well. Many Americans have switched to Nest, an at-home heating and cooling technology. Nest, which generated $726 million in revenue in 2017, allows everyday Americans to control their energy usage from an app. Families like mine have saved thousands of dollars in energy bills, lessened our overall energy usage and provided a profit for an up-and-coming company.
Wind and solar prices have dropped significantly, aiding their expansion into countless unlikely areas. Hybrid vehicles are often less expensive than regular vehicles and have saved tens of millions of dollars at the pump each year. And unlike the big-government policies that many people are pushing for, these sorts of solutions actually have staying power. In fact, job creation related to sustainability has been one of the fastest-growing sectors in the country. The global economic market for climate-related initiatives is expected to be dozens of trillions of dollars in the next few decades and create 65 million jobs.
That’s something Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets right — climate solutions can’t just serve the upper class. Unfortunately, the AOC approach of more government control, more regulation and less competition for new technology only perpetuates this problem. We need climate solutions that work for all classes of people, not just the upper class.
Working-class people have to be able to fight climate change without thinking about it more, paying more and dramatically changing their way of life.
Benji Backer is the founder and president of the American Conservation Coalition and a Deseret News contributor.