There’s a telling quote in the Associated Press’s story today about how President Donald Trump voters in Texas are coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Wayne Christopher, a conservative Republican and evangelical Christian, is starting to believe that maybe human-caused climate change is something the federal government should address—but he’s torn. “It’s a Catch-22 kind of thing,” he said. “Do you want to build your economy, or do you want to save the world?”
Republicans have successfully convinced Christopher, and so many other conservative voters, that oil and gas extraction is vital to growing the economy. That’s simply not true. Solar power is the fastest-growing source of new energy worldwide, and the trend is expected to continue. The renewable energy industry is more labor-intensive than the fossil fuel industry, meaning that “more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuels,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. The International Renewable Energy Agency has said doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix would increase the global GDP in 2030 by $1.3 trillion. Stabilizing the climate would also provide significant economic benefit—billions of dollars saved from lessening the severity of extreme weather and sea level rise, as well as billions more from the avoided health impacts of a warmer, more polluted atmosphere.
It’s easy to see why Christopher sees economic growth and climate action as an either/or proposition: He’s been listening to Republican leaders, who have pushed this message for years. But fault also lies with Democrats, who are more focused on the threat of climate change than the economic opportunities it presents. The party needs to show Americans how reducing global warming and creating jobs go hand in hand—that there’s no catch whatsoever.