We’ve been celebrating Earth Day for half a century and we’re always told we need to choose between growing our economy or protecting the environment. But in reality, it’s not an either or—study after study finds environmental protections have net economic benefits. And this Earth Day, with the ongoing COVID-induced recession and looming climate crisis, it’s more important than ever to reject this false choice. In fact, there are already clean energy jobs in all 50 states. In the coming years, 1 million Americans will have direct clean energy jobs and clean energy will drive $1 trillion of investment into the U.S. economy.
And today, Earth Day’s call for good stewardship has never been more important. We face an urgent need to combat the climate crisis to prevent irreparable harm, with little time to make progress. Growing our share of clean energy is a cornerstone of this fight, and wind and solar are now the most affordable sources of new electricity. But it’s not all about cutting carbon—renewables benefit the environment in a number of ways, and Earth Day offers a great opportunity to examine how they’re helping to create a cleaner tomorrow:
- Clean energy avoids 52 million cars’ worth of CO2 every year. Project Drawdown, a comprehensive examination of 100 different solutions to climate change, with input from more than 100 of the world’s foremost climate researchers, finds land-based wind power is the second most effective way to reduce emissions, utility-scale solar 8th, and offshore wind 22
- Wind and solar help reduce air pollution like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter that create smog and trigger asthma attacks. This literally saves lives—the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) found wind and solar production from 2007 to 2015 generated over $100 billion in air-quality and public health benefits, mainly by helping to avoid up to 12,700 premature deaths.
- Wind and solar save 113 billion gallons of water a year since they don’t use it for cooling, unlike coal, gas and nuclear plants, which are the country’s largest freshwater users, consuming even more than the agricultural industry.
Importantly, growing America’s share of clean energy and realizing even more of these environmental benefits doesn’t need to come at the expense of our economy and can in fact be what stimulates it. Wind technician and solar installer are two of the country’s three fastest growing jobs, clean energy brings billions of dollars of investment into rural communities, and there could be 1 million clean energy jobs by 2030. So this Earth Day, let’s recognize we have clean energy technologies that can power our lives and economy while protecting our environment—with lots more on the way.