ARS Highlights and News
- ARS LAUNCHED 7-1-2020
- ARS is Developing a Call for Research in Enhanced Recycling of Plastic Coated Paperboards - Forests and Forest Products Sector
Technology Driven Change -- Moving Forward on Climate Change Policy Wisely and Respectfully
Recommendation: Move forward aggressively supporting public policy that moves toward thoughtful and effective transition away from a fossil fuel based economy to an economy based on renewable energy resources that effectively fight climate change as an existential threat. Do so, however, with thoughtful consideration for jobs lost in those regions or locations that can demonstrate strong current or historical alignment to an economic base dependent on fossil fuel related technologies. Consideration might include some form of opportunity zone policy offering, education support for displaced workers, and tax and low interest loan support for new industries and enterprises working toward implementation of new technology based economies in the affected regions.
Background: The new administration is moving quickly to re-enter the Paris Accords for fighting climate change, stop the Keystone Pipeline, and reexamine oil and gas leasing on federal lands. All of this is part of a strong focus on integrating climate change into all aspects of federal policy development, and in accord with climate change being the existential threat it is often described as. This initial start is by far the strongest effort to battle climate change in US history. A great start but one that also is engaging potent opposition around concerns for job loss and cost. Can the momentum be maintained to achieve real reductions in climate change or will it be lost to the urgency of immediate job loss in a down economy?
An argument that the new administration is pressing hard is that the response to climate change will lead to new technology jobs in renewable energy and related fields, jobs that will offset those lost shifting away from fossil fuels. The lost jobs in the coal, oil and allied energy industries, jobs that have helped to fuel much of the prosperity of the last century, are certainly difficult to part with and especially so in the many communities where they are the engine of the economy. A way of life and even aspects of our culture are intimately tied to them, so the coming change is not something that those most closely involved can easily accept. But is it time to accelerate the change, one that has been in progress for several decades, and a change needed to combat an existential threat?
While it is never easy to accept and even accelerate job loss, it is an axiom of technology change that new technology often brings more jobs and a greater prosperity in the long term, along with benefits to society that improve quality of life for many. There are many examples, all with associated change and job loss in the near term, all with dislocation and pain for those most closely impacted, but all with greater job opportunity and benefits to society in the long term.
One only needs to remember some well-known examples of change such as the advent of the automobile and all that followed; the fossil fuel industry itself; the invention and wide application of refrigeration; and the coming of the internet, to compare the initial dislocations from large scale job loss to the eventual benefits in both jobs and life quality, just to name a few. In every case major jobs, industries, and a way of life were lost. The horse and buggy and all associated technologies, whale oil, ice block cutters, and the fine paper industry, were either at least partially relegated to history or changed materially forever. How often do you visit a Blacksmith in modern times? A visit to almost any paper mill town in New England, the Midwest, or Canada, can show in real time the impact of the now ubiquitous world of electronic communications on those towns. For those closely associated with the paper industry, as I have been, a visit to a paper mill town with a closed mill always is a reminder of a way of life that has been or is being lost in many places. But, anyone willing to not move forward with the Internet?
Fighting climate change will not yield as obvious a beneficial technology change, no Internet is on the other side, but a viable world may be. Change will happen, our choice is to do it wisely, respectfully, and for Climate Change, to do it fast enough to matter.
John Gast -ARS Founder, submitted January, 2021