By Marvin Wilcher
Nationwide — The effects of greenhouse gases on Climate Change and the policies on how we deal with it have been a disaster/nonstarter for United States and our infrastructure. We have already destabilized the earth’s climate and passed the point of no return. Now we can let the effects of global warming continue to surprise us each year at an ever increasing annual rate; costing us from $100-200 billion dollars – or we can become proactive and turn this climate dilemma into the industrial revolution of the 21st Century. If we are bold and willing, our actions can bring enormous prosperity and a rising middle class not seen since the original industrial revolution in the early 19th century.
The question was and is: what defines bad? Personally, I thought bad was extreme cold, incrementally rising sea levels, whatever that is; a few bad storms every other year and an occasional drought here and there. Did we really think that we would have Superstorm Sandy and its disastrous infrastructural impacts? Did we really believe just 2 years ago that California would have not just a bad drought, or an extreme drought, but worst of all, an exceptional drought? While by now it is many years past tense, did we really think that we would have Hurricane Katrina and Gustave in Louisiana where infrastructure was destroyed and the power lines would be down for weeks? Consider the lack of preparedness in Atlanta where drivers were stuck in their cars on the freeway in freezing cold weather for up to 12 hours. What about the economic impact far and wide of more than 10,000 flights being cancelled? Did we think that our winter electric bill could go from $250 per month to $650 per month during the same winter?
My memory tells me (and I could be wrong) that we didn’t. Yes we have seen some bad storms over the past decades, but now it seems to be happening every other year, instead of every 7 to 10 years, and getting more intense each time. Well guess what? Climate change arrived unmistakably with Superstorm Sandy and Atlanta’s “cold road madness” and its here to stay. It’s going to get much worse every year from here on in. Hotter in some places and colder in others. Unfortunately we have past the point of no return. Our Carbon foot print is larger than any shoe size we could imagine.
In the future, being trapped on the freeway for 12 hours will become 36 hours. Not going outside for 2 or 3 days will become 15 days. Power lines down for 10 days could become power lines down for 30 to 45 days or more. Not having enough water to water your lawn will become not having enough water to water your crops; and all of this on an annual basis. This new United States climate could last as much as 200 or 300 years, getting worse each year. My guess is that our kids are going to be very disappointed in us and may even despise us, not so much for what we did but for what we didn’t do. Yes, we polluted the skies, the water and the land. Yes, we released carbon dioxide at an alarming rate, but instead of doing something about it we simply did next to nothing. Whether it will have happened for political or economic reasons, weather is going to force a change so severe on our grandkids that we may wish that we were not alive to see the effects.
Let’s be reasonable, we should all be fair to ourselves. Living in a highly advanced industrial society is new to all of us who are alive today. We have not been dealing with this for the last 300 years. It’s not like poverty or slavery where we should have figured it out by now. Dramatic climate change is relatively new to Americans, and the East Indians, and the Chinese and the Germans and everyone else.
Regardless of when and where you enter the picture, it’s time for all of us to wake up! It’s time to shake off stupidity and head-in-the-sand based ignorance. It’s time to put up our hands and defend our faces from the annual climate blows being thrown at us, or the long term damage to our beautiful way of life will not be cosmetically fixable.
If we are really honest we know that as we reduce carbon emissions, China and India are going to increase emissions. So the issue of worldwide global warming for this particular discussion is immaterial. It’s too late. This is not to say we should stop doing our part to minimize the threat of global warming – but that our short term problem is the climate change taking effect in our own back yard and not the global warming of the country across the ocean. Yes: the U.S’s need to prepare for the climate change trauma that is about to hit us is actually more critical than the need to reduce greenhouse gases, especially when for every 1 ton of carbon dioxide we reduce, China increases its carbon dioxide output by a factor of 2.
Equally important to climate change in our own back yard is the economic opportunity that climate change preparation affords us. And yes, the United States still leads the world in business, technology and arguably maybe even democracy. So we must do all we can to lead the world into this economic bonanza directly in front of us. The U.S. must become what we really are: opportunistic, creative, imaginative, optimistic, inventive and quite honestly driven. We must lead the world towards a new paradigm.
This paradigm shift is not just about reducing carbon output and all of us greenies feeling better about our Tesla’s (and by the way, I think Tesla is a phenomenal company), or putting solar panels on our roofs – it’s about the huge economic windfall that will come from building the infrastructure of the future – new types of homes, roads, bridges, waterways, water desalination plants, power transmission systems, weather alert systems, emergency command centers, large scale evacuation pathways and systems required to survive in the new hotter and colder world.
If we just ride along “as is,” climate change will eventually cost the United States alone more than $250 billion dollars per year in climate related damage to cities and states. If we don’t prepare now, by the year 2020 when the really catastrophic climate changes effects kick in and the costs rise dramatically, we may be financially incapable of warding off economic Armageddon. We may lose the American way of life as we know it. While the movie Day After Tomorrow seems like an apocalyptic fantasy at this moment, there is actually some basis in reality for those weather effects. Do your own research and you will see for yourself. While proper preparation will be costly, lack of preparation will be even more costly.
What we need now is “The Climate Survival Plan.” This plan must be proposed by both President Barack Obama and controlling members of both the House and the Senate. The Climate Survival Plan needs to include the following:
* Infrastructure Preparedness
– Our electrical grids need upgrading throughout the country. This would cost more than $450 billion dollars over the next 20 years, but would create more than 13 million direct and indirect jobs and generate estimated $220 billion dollars in tax revenue.
– Multiple desalination plants are needed for clean water accessibility. Each plant costs an average of $500 million dollars to build, and would create 15,000 jobs. We need at least 5 plants in California alone. At a cost of $2.5 billion dollars, this will create 75,000 new jobs, nearly 2 billion dollars in income generated, and an estimated $1.2 billion dollars in tax revenue for the government.
– We need an additional $100 billion dollars each year for the next 10 years to upgrade our roads and bridges. This effort will create at least 30 million new jobs and an estimated tax revenue of $490 billion dollars.
– Coastal water breaks and flood preparedness are necessary, including coastal breakers along much of the eastern seaboard. This would mean a potential work project from $36 to $72 billion dollars. This effort would create upwards of 1.5 million jobs and generate an estimated tax revenue back to the government of $49 million dollars
* Emergency Services & Shelter
– Every major city with populations greater than 2,000,000 should have short term shelters for a small portion of its residents, and every state should have at least 2 major long term shelters for a small portion of its residents. The estimated cost is not clear, but it would cost a minimum of $75 billion dollars, creating at least 2.2 million jobs and the tax revenue would be at least $36 billion dollars.
* Additionally we need to build, upgrade and prepare for:
– Hospital and critical care for large groups
– Energy efficiency upgrades for all federal buildings
– Evacuation plans for groups of 1,000,000 or more at a time
– Technology, data and financial record backup centers across the globe and in the sky.
– Citizen training and preparedness programs city by city across the nation
– Farming and livestock preparation programs
In conclusion, we are going to have to deal with these weather changes one way or another. We can suffer the loss of hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens’ lives and trillions of dollars of lost infrastructure caused by the failure to prepare. Or we can be proactive and actually prosper through the allocation of significantly less dollars – spent now – that both builds a new national economy and prepares us for the next chapter of
Marvin Wilcher (www.MarvinWilcher.net) is President of NationWize Solar (www.natwize.com) and Managing Director at Solar Capital Inc. with offices in California and Louisiana. Mr. Wilcher also sponsors a clean energy camp for kids called Camp Green USA (CampGreenUSA.com).