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The Green New Deal from Below and the Future of Work

The Green New Deal from Below Means Jobs

Loading the DICE against pension funds Flawed economic thinking on climate has put your pension at risk

By Steve Keen - Carbon Tracker, July 2023

Pension funds are risking the retirement savings of millions of people by relying on economic research that ignores critical scientific evidence about the financial risks embedded within a warming climate.

This report reveals that many pension funds use investment models that predict global warming of 2 to 4.3°C will have only a minimal impact on member portfolios, relying on economists flawed estimates of damages from climate change, which predicts that even with 5 to 7°C of global warming, economic growth will continue. The report underscores that such economic studies cannot be reconciled with warnings from climate scientists that global warming on this scale would be “an existential threat to human civilisation.”

Loading the DICE against pension funds is a call to action for investment professionals to look at the compelling evidence we see in the climate science literature, and to implement investment strategies, particularly a rapid wind down of the fossil fuel system, based on a ‘no regrets’ precautionary approach. Behaving cautiously now and acting to avoid a 1.5°C increase (let alone the 4°C outcome featured in this report) will enable future generations to secure the prosperity and quality of life that comes from a healthy planet.

The Impact of Energy Investments on the Financial Value and the Carbon Footprint of Pension Funds

By Michael Zonta, Melanie Issett, Celinda Ma, and Olaf Weber - School of Environment, Enterprise and Development (SEED), University of Waterloo, June 26, 2023

This report presents the results of analyses conducted on a group of pension funds that face popular demands to decarbonize their investment holdings (Climate Safe Pensions Network (CSPN)). A key argument made by advocates is that fossil fuel-free portfolios would have seen superior investment performance during the last decade. The scope of the analyses includes the historical public equity investments of the funds and are based on data provided by either Bloomberg or Capital IQ2. The analyses were conducted between 2013 and 2022 for the funds with publicly accessible data. Data for eight of the funds were available, including:

Data for eight of the funds were available, including:

  • Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC)
  • Alaska Retirement Management Board (ARMB)
  • California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS)
  • California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS)
  • Colorado Public Employees' Retirement Association (CoPERA)
  • New York State Teachers' Retirement System (NYSTRS)
  • Oregon Public Employees' Retirement Fund (OPERF)
  • State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB)

if six of the eight U.S. public pension funds had divested 10 years ago, they would have been $21 billion richer, an average 13% higher return rate. These six pensions collectively represent approximately 3.4 million people.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Green Job Creation Projected to 'Offset' Fossil Fuel Job Losses in GOP States

By Kenny Stancil - Common Dreams, May 31, 2023

"Total employment in the nationwide U.S. energy sector could double or even triple by 2050 to meet the demand for wind turbines, solar panels, and transmission lines," according to a new study.

Achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by mid-century would lead to a net increase in energy-related employment nationwide, and Republican-voting states whose leaders have done the most to disparage climate action would see the largest growth in green jobs.

That's according to research published in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed journal Energy Policy. The new study, summarized Tuesday by Carbon Brief, undercuts the old right-wing canard that environmentally friendly policies are inherently bad for workers.

Four academics led by Dartmouth College engineering professor Erin Mayfield found that shifting to a net-zero economy could create millions of jobs in low-carbon sectors—enough to "offset" losses in the declining fossil fuel industry, not only in the aggregate but also in most dirty energy-producing states, which tend to be GOP strongholds.

"Total employment in the nationwide U.S. energy sector could double or even triple by 2050 to meet the demand for wind turbines, solar panels, and transmission lines," Carbon Brief reported. Such growth in clean power generation and dissemination "would outweigh losses in most of the country's fossil fuel-rich regions, as oil, coal, and gas operations close down."

The study adds to mounting evidence that so-called "red" states now dominated by Republicans and fossil fuel interests—including particularly sunny and windy ones like Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming—stand to reap the biggest rewards from the green industrial policy provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act passed by congressional Democrats and signed into law by President Joe Biden last year.

At the same time, the authors acknowledge that some GOP-controlled dirty energy-producing states, such as North Dakota, are likely to see net decreases in energy sector employment, and they stress that "many communities will still require help to ensure a 'just transition' away from fossil fuels," as Carbon Brief noted.

Why we need a reform of the EU electricity market and how we can make it more socially just

Editorial: The Jevons Paradox Myth

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, April 6, 2023

As the climate crises deepens and the push to decarbonize the world's energy systems intensifies, a chorus of skeptical and pessimistic voices continually warns against placing hope in renewable energy as a solution (whether partial or wholly), arguing instead for vastly reducing energy consumption (as well as everything else). One of the most commonly invoked pieces of putative evidence made to bolster the argument is the oft cited, but poorly understood concept known as "Jevon's Paradox" (see also Wikipedia for a quick reference).

For example, in an article featured on the degrowth blog, Resilience (run by degrowth advocate Richard Heinberg), "Resources for a better future: Jevons Paradox", author Sam Bliss declares:

In 1865, (English economist William Stanley) Jevons found that as each new steam engine design made the use of coal more efficient, Britain used more coal overall, not less.

These efficiency improvements made coal cheaper, because steam engines, including the ones used to pump water out of coal mines, required less coal to produce a given amount of useful energy. Yet increasingly efficient steam engines made coal more valuable too, since so much useful energy could be produced from a given amount of coal.

That might be the real paradox: the ability to use a resource more efficiently makes it both cheaper and more valuable at the same time.

In Jevons’ time, more and more coal became profitable to extract as more and more uses of coal became profitable. Incomes increased as coal-fired industrial capitalism took off, and profits were continually invested to expand production further.
A century and a half later, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that as industrial processes have gotten more efficient at using dozens of different materials and energy sources, the overall use of these materials and energy sources has grown in nearly every case. The few exceptions are almost all materials whose use has been limited or banned for reasons of toxicity, like asbestos and mercury.

In an economy designed to grow, the Jevons paradox is all but inevitable. Some call it the Jevons phenomenon because of its ubiquity. Purposefully limiting ourselves might provide a way out.

This is by no means the only such example, nor is it even necessarily the most illustrative one, but it perfectly summarizes the all too often careless application of what is an overused and debatable trope.

There are several problems with Jevon’s Paradox and the way in which Bliss presents it:

Degrowth? A Succinct Reaction

By Michael Albert - ZNet, April 6, 2023

Degrowth is a vague term. On the one hand, Degrowth arouses fear of personal impoverishment. On the other hand, Degrowth encompasses a wide array of policies that seek social enrichment. While Degrowth emerged from many sources and while it features many facets, it has few if any positive institutional commitments. Instead, Degrowth mainly features a thematic commitment. To avoid ecological disaster and even total ecological collapse, society needs to substantially cut production and consumption. Some Degrowthers say we must cut by as much as 90 percent. Other Degrowthers have in mind an unspecified but much lower reduction.

In most accounts, the origin of Degrowth traces back to the 1970s and particularly, though not exclusively, to the work of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen. A survey undertaken in 2014 found 220 Degrowth-focused texts. A similar survey in late 2020 found 1166 such texts. Other accounts now report upwards of 3,000 or more. So Degrowth is a rapidly growing focus in academia, but it also stretches beyond campuses, particularly in Europe (especially Spain) and to a lesser degree in North America.

One theme common to virtually all variants of the Degrowth school, movement, or perspective, (which of these you call Degrowth depends on how you assess it), is the observation that infinite growth on a finite planet must result in escalating ecological crises and eventual collapse. This observation owes first to Roegen who derivatively felt that even no growth, often called a steady state economy, wasn’t viable. Roegan argued that society instead needed (and now needs) serious cutbacks. Regarding Degrowth writ large, it is often overlooked that the basic theme that you can’t build infinitely on a finite foundation is trivially true. It is also often overlooked that to use this truism to argue for Degrowth would by the same logic motivate that there should have always been Degrowth on our always finite planet. Roegen wanted major cutbacks in the 1970s. Were he alive at the time, he could with the same logic have called for them in 1790. Of course, he could reply now, but not then, yes but now we are hitting a wall. Now disaster looms. True, but unless elaborated, the finite planet argument doesn’t say why particular outputs are bad. It doesn’t say how to determine the worthiness or badness of production choices. It doesn’t tell us under what conditions production we deem bad should be reduced or eliminated. It doesn’t tell us what areas of growth are not only not damaging but even beneficial and sometimes absolutely essential.

What then, we might reasonably ask, is likable about Degrowth? If you seek to transcend gender, sexual, race, religious, ethnic, class, and political hierarchies of income, wealth, circumstance, and power, if you seek to attain a society that delivers diversity, solidarity, equity, self management, internationalism, and ecological sustainability/reciprocity, what should you like about Degrowth.

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