Climate Change may be a partisan topic in the US, but in Paris this week leaders from around the world will gather to craft a global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Conservatives may be skeptical of climate science, but Texas is better poised than any state to take advantage of the inevitable shift to green energy.
“Our findings suggest that renewable energy has entered the mainstream and is ready to play a leading role in mitigating global climate change,” says Felix Mormann, associate professor of law at the University of Miami,
The general narrative for Republicans has been that addressing climate change hinders our economy, but nothing could be further from the truth. Failing to address climate change will hurt agriculture, ranching, tourism, real estate and other major industries in Texas. There is mounting pressure put on fossil fuel industry, but while oilfield and refinery workers can be retrained to manufacture and maintain solar panels and wind turbines, we don’t have the luxury of reinventing or doing without those other industries.
Not only, but Republican state leaders often tout the state’s job numbers without pointing to the progressive local leadership of its biggest drivers, our bustling major cities. Thankfully some local officials from our state have opted to attend the Paris talks, among them are Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Austin City Councilwoman Leslie Pool and Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea. Earlier this year the City of Austin continued to exemplify how taking the lead on addressing climate change can also be economically advantageous. The cities of San Antonio, Houston and Dallas have all made major strides in reducing their carbon footprint and continue to be leaders in growth, job creation, and economic activity.
The slump in the oil and gas markets has already led to devastating job losses in Texas and a downward adjustment of the state’s expected revenue. Texas isn’t just an oil state, it is an energy state, and state leaders should be considering how taking advantage of Texas’ other natural resources instead of propping up the current fossil fuel industry. Ted Cruz‘s presidential campaign has been taking hits in Iowa over his support of oil subsidies over ethanol while maintaining personal investments and taking large donations from the oil and gas industry.
Business tends to run a few steps ahead of government which is why many of the traditional “oil companies” have begun to clean up their energy investment portfolio as well as their dirty images. Consider BP, they rebranded from British Petroleum to Beyond Petroleum, and the same could be done in Texas given its abundant solar and wind potential. It was also recently discovered that Texas has significant uranium deposits in South Texas that could fuel nuclear plants.
The opportunity for jobs is apparent, but energy independence and national security are among the other positive outcomes. In a report by the PEW Charitable Trusts, “U.S. military officials and former Republican Senator John Warner warn that America’s dependence on foreign oil puts our armed forces in harm’s way, and that the effects of climate change could lead to political instability and humanitarian crises.”
Some Republicans have tried to push back on America taking the lead on climate change because China is the world’s largest carbon producer. However, China is finally realizing that ignoring pleas from the international community has led to worsening health conditions, and increasingly destructive weather events in their own country. According to NewsWeek the slow move to adapt the Chinese energy industry is as much connected to political pressure and lobbying in China as it is in the US Congress. “Coal is the dirtiest of fuels, and China’s “airpocalypse” is intimately linked to its huge and politically powerful industry.” Responding the scapegoating of China Gal Luft, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security says, ““I don’t think the rest of the world understands how aggressive China has already been in diversifying its [fuel mix]…or how much worse the situation would be had they not.”
The bottom line is, we shouldn’t have to wait for cities to be under water along the Gulf Coast or you need a face mask to breathe in cities before we take action, especially while the state’s windstorm insurance program is teetering on failure and our coastline continues to erode. Coincidentally, most of the state’s refining capacity is also situated along the coast.
Conservatives have every reason to join progressives in calling for aggressive moves to capitalize off the economic opportunities presented by climate science. Texas was an innovator in the energy industry in the 20th Century, and we can do it again in the 21st.