It’s easy to get turned off by all of the overheated campaign rhetoric and endless commercials involved with tomorrow’s election. This is not your typical election, and, to put it mildly, there’s a lot riding on the outcome, not the least of which is the future health of our planet.
Climate change has been on the ballot for several election cycles, but this year it’s moved a bit closer to center stage. It was a welcome sight to see it get a healthy amount of airtime during the two presidential debates, as well as the VP debate.
The two candidates touched on some key climate issues during the debates, from the future of fracking to environmental racism, but what wasn’t discussed, and rarely is, are the costs associated with climate change. And those costs are massive. The U.S. has suffered $500 billion in losses due to climate-fueled natural disasters over the past five years, and, according to a 2018 report released by the U.S. government, climate events could cost the country half a trillion dollars every year by 2090. How long do we need to absorb these kind of economic body blows before we are irrevocably damaged? Although job creation from clean energy was discussed and is real, absent from the debates was any mention of the huge costs we have already paid (and will continue to pay) for our climate inaction.
A majority of registered voters understand this and say that climate change will be a factor in whom they vote for as president. Not surprisingly, there is a huge difference in how Biden and Trump supporters view its importance. Sixty-eight percent of voters who intend to vote for Biden say climate change is very important to their decision, while only 11% of Trump supporters share this opinion.
We also know there’s an enormous looming shortfall in local and federal budgets to deal with climate change and energy upgrade projects, so how are we going to pay for what needs to be done? How are we going to make our buildings more energy efficient, resilient and sustainable, which are all critical pieces in the fight against climate change.
I believe it’s the private sector, with all of the significant resources it has to offer, that needs to step up and fill the void. This includes implementing innovative financing options like energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) and Sustainable Energy as a Service (SEaaS).
Of the two candidates, Biden has offered more plans on how to retrofit our buildings; his campaign has pledged to upgrade four million buildings in the next four years and has a target of cutting the carbon footprint of our national building stock in half by 2035. Trump’s campaign offers up scant specifics in this area, but the President favors oil, gas and coal interests, so whatever he proposes would likely cater to these audiences. Both candidates lack a detailed roadmap on how climate-related projects will be financed.
The results of this election will reverberate for many years. Let’s hope that one of the winners Tuesday night is planet Earth.