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Why Climate vs Jobs is a false narrative

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In recent years, the dominating narrative on climate change has been the imposing of a choice. We either choose to protect the environment by limiting economic sectors which cause harmful emissions or support economic growth and endanger the planet and our future.

Most of the time we get so lost in these extremely polarized standpoints that we forget the issue is much more complex than we, the media, and politicians make it out to be. Perhaps there are other alternatives, which we choose to ignore just for the sake of arguing. 

In March earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed an order at the Environmental Protection Agency, which, according to officials, prioritized the creation and sustainment of work opportunities, while overlooking the federal government’s enforcement of climate change regulations. This act in a larger sense averts USA’s general approach to the two main factors that impact climate change: rising temperatures and sea levels. The President stated that his decision is the foundation of more profitable production and the creation of more work spaces.

However, Trump didn’t stop there.

In June, the President announced that the USA will be withdrawing from the Paris climate accord of 2016. The Paris Agreement is agreed upon by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The agreement includes measures, goals, and financing plans to reduce global warming among the countries that have signed the agreement.

Various limiting measures are included in the greenhouse gas emissions mitigation plans, including banning of petrol and diesel, less use coal for electricity production, and other. In turn, these limitations are severely harmful and deteriorating for numerous economic sectors involved in generating energy supply.

Trump’s argument for backing out of the agreement is that this decision will provide more jobs for American workers. He stated that according to research the cost of staying in the Paris Agreement will be the loss of 2.7 million jobs by 2025. Although it is understandable that Trump wants to satisfy the needs of his political supporters, this decision has been feared and criticized by specialists and influencers alike.

Trump's opponents stated that his abrupt decision augurs the imminent death of USA as a powerful international leader. Political analysts have expressed concerns that other world leaders will back out of the agreement in favor of short term economic boost. Bill Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg (below) have severely criticized Trump’s withdraw from the agreement via Twitter and Facebook respectively, stating that this decision is detrimental to both USA’s political future and the world’s upcoming generations.

Just last week, Chile showed the other side of the coin. On the 22nd of August, the Chilean government rejected a billion-dollar proposal for a mining project due to the harm it would cause to the environment, and more specifically to endangered species in the area. In order to fully understand Chile’s standpoint, we need to put this decision in wider economic context.

Chile is considered to possess a high-income economy, which allows the country to rank itself amongst the most prosperous and successful states in Latin America.

One of the main reasons for Chile’s considerable affluence is its mining sector, which accounted for 59.5% of exports in 2012. The Chilean government recognizes the sector’s economic stability and opportunity for growth and has thus adjusted its mining industry legislation to be more favorable to foreign investments. Furthermore, Chile has naturally substantial copper resources, making the country the world’s copper mining hub, accounting for one-third of the world’s copper output.

The government’s recent decision might be considered as a turning point in Chile’s legislation on climate change and industry limitations.

The rejected Dominga Project was proposed by Andes Iron, a Chilean mining company, for the construction of a 2.5 billion dollars copper and iron mine in Coquimbo region, the construction of which would involve immense infrastructural alterations in the region.

The project became an issue once environmentalists stated that the planned constructions were in close proximity to the Humboldt Penguin Reserve. The penguins’ survival and procreation depend on their existence in a safe and undisturbed environment, since they are endangered species. The reserve also protects sea turtles, humpback whales, sperm whales, sea lion, bottlenose dolphins, albatross, and other species that would suffer from the possible changes.

Chile’s Minister of Environment Marcelo Mena told BBC: "I firmly believe in development, but it cannot be at the cost of our environmental heritage or cause risk to health, or to unique ecological areas in the world."

Both the media and the political narrative of economic growth against climate change have been overly simplified and has thus become an issue of polarized debates.

We don’t necessarily have to make a choice. While it is still too early to discuss a global switch to renewable energy sources, the change has to start somewhere.

In the recent chaos of political shifts and drastic climate changes, we need to take a step back and consider what we want our future to be. The economic sectors harmful to the economy could invest in infiltration systems so that production continues without damages to the environment. If this proves to be an impossible measure, workers can be re-oriented to other sectors of employment.

Furthermore, renewable energy generation offers numerous work spaces. There are a lot of different viewpoints and alternatives to the present narrative on climate change and jobs. We need to be accepting and willing to understand these changes in order to create a future where both economic growth and the sustainment of ecological welfare can exist in a healthy symbiosis.

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