THE GREEN JOBS MOVEMENT – A SALVATION OR A MYTH?

Originally published in Type Magazine, Örebro University.

New technologies are often presented and of many “important” people out there as the ultimate solution to climate change. Certainly there is something romantic about the idea that we can consume and get rid of the problem where consumption, at the same time as it “saves the environment”, leads to more jobs in a world that is struggling with high unemployment rates and increasing social inequality.

World Economic Forum did a survey with its members about the next 12-18 months and its challenges, which resulted in the Top Ten Trends for 2014 in which persistent structural unemployment ranked third and inaction on climate change fifth among very varied challenges like megacities, conflicts in Africa and the Middle East and the spread of misinformation on the web.

Vindkraftverk 3_redLoud and clear it is put out there that unemployment is seen by many as one of the biggest challenges for the closest future where Europeans and North Americans are the ones pointing it out most of all. In Europe we are dealing with maybe the highest rate of unemployment in the world with countries as Spain and Greece leading the rather sad race.

But on closer inspection the WEF list it is argued that inaction on climate change is likely to be ranked number one if the consequences of climate change were not as underestimated as they are. “Because the fact is that if we don’t take action in a timely fashion at the scale that we need, climate has the potential to wipe out the progress we have made over the past 20 years in economic development, in social development, in environmental protection. It is the major ‘wipe out’ factor.” A clear indication that climate change and its effects are strongly interlinked with unemployment and social situations around the world.

But does climate change give us more or less to do?

Looking into the future it is said in the WEPs survey and the comments following that it is time to reform the economy we are living in and above all, the energy system and that this implies a future we actually should feel excited about.

”There is action, and it’s moving in the right direction, but it’s not moving fast enough. For example, we have $1 trillion of cumulative investment in renewable energy. That’s good news, but it’s not enough. We need $1 trillion per year.” and continuing that ”.. to accelerate the introduction of renewable energies into the energy matrix doesn’t just have positive climate change implications, it transports us into the cutting-edge future of a low-carbon economy. That’s the wonderful thing about the climate – it’s the bridge to an exciting future that we should all feel very attracted towards.”

Reasoning in this way climate change gives us more jobs in the form of “green jobs” in the renewable energy sector and is, therefore, clearly a positive environmental problem. Who does not want more to do? And, if we do not have to change our behaviour as well, we just produce as much energy as needed but in another way. But to get there it requires large investment in education so that future generations can meet the needs of renewable energy technology and other technology to live more environmentally friendly. That is, we must not only work harder, but we must also study even more. The economic solution to climate change and high unemployment rates served on a plate, but is it even true or is it just a little green lie parasitizing the serious environmental movement?

The ”Green Jobs” phenomenonVindkraftverk 2_red

The “Green Jobs” phenomenon is not a new thing is supported by many present day politician´s and is after the financial crisis of 2008 put into financial stimulus packages all over the world as part of the solution to structural unemployment.

In his book, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix our Two Biggest Problems, Van Jones, former Bush Administration employee argue that the jobs and the climate changes is interlinked by the ”green jobs” movement ”The best way to fight both global warming and urban poverty is by creating millions of green jobs” Van Jones points out that these Green Jobs should be about weatherizing buildings, installing solar panels, and constructing mass-transit systems as examples.

There is of course also climate scepticism, arguing maybe not only that the climate change is a scam, but that the measures taken by the government (as investments in renewable energy) also are bogus, corrupted or both.

Reading the blog theclimatescam.se- written by a number of professors and other academics in different areas of research and different universities in Sweden one of the writers, Per Welander, points out in his blog post Staten och den gröna korruptionen”, ”The Government and the green corruption” that ” When politicians speak about new green jobs they forget the things that doesn´t show- all jobs that are destroyed or never created. New jobs through wind power are created through more expensive electrical bills. These are no ”real jobs” since many other jobs is hindered and the net is negative. There are several scientific studies that show that for every green job 2-3 real jobs are lost. ”

In the post Welander does not point out the sources to these scientific studies, but have other sources and when asking him he points out another post written by him and the sources to this post “Myten om gröna jobb”, “The myth about green jobs”. This argument maybe (still) feels like it is not well substantiated, but the Swedish National Institute of Economic Research actually implies the same in the report Gröna jobb – vad är det och finns de?, Green Jobs- what is it and does it exist?. In this report they state that ventures on Green jobs is likely to have two effects on employment, it creates jobs and jobs disappear, continuing that the net effect in the long term is likely to be small.

Talking to Rolf Lidström, researcher on Örebro University, the circumstances surrounding Green Jobs becomes clearer, ” The fossil fuel energy- industry is not so interested in liquidate themselves, they first want to exploit what they can and what they have”. A lot of the companies are putting an interest into solar panels, Lidström continues, but they probably will not change until they are done with the source they have. At least not until very big consequences of the climate change appear that cannot be ignored. If and when this occurs the society have the potential to change very quickly, Lidström says, giving the example what happened with the ozone-problem.But Lidström though continues with saying that the difficulties with carbon dioxide are that we do not really have any viable options right now.

Vindkraftverk 1_redAsking Lidström if the climate change actually has any effect on the work market, he answers that in the short term it does not have to have. Our society today is built upon a lot of energy to a low cost (own comment: the estimated costs of that amount renewable energy is much higher). We have free movement within Europe for European citizens and it is cheap to move around since the transport costs is very low, but if this is about to change either you find a substitute for fossil fuel and then not so big changes will occur or if not the society is about to change, Lidström concludes.

But this is likely to change since the fossil fuel- prices is likely to rise to higher levels than today Lidström continues resulting in making it more worth to repair our things then throw them away when they break. It is such a low cost today to exploit nature resources compared to the cost for employees and work hours, but if this is levelled out there will be more of a service society. If the balance between the cost for fossil fuel and cost for personnel are changing, the result will be the creation of more or less jobs.

As Lidström points out earlier in a historical context we have managed to solve the environmental problems that have been presented. So the question now is how far we must go before it comes to a change. In 50 years we might say, “that was then when we had a climate problem” Lidström reflects, continuing that we might suffer the effects, but not adding any more carbon to the atmosphere, but will surely have other problems. We tend to solve one environmental problem, but create another in the process, and of course this gives us a lot to do, but will the green jobs solve the structural unemployment problem today, as presented by many politicians as the salvation or is it just a way for politicians hiding the fact that we have to do so much more than just invest in renewable energy to solve the climate- and unemployment problem?

By Katarina Wohlfart

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