Biden wants $ 10 billion for a climate army. It is not enough

Yesterday President Joe Biden unveiled his long-awaited US employment plan, a wish list to repair the country’s crumbling infrastructure, revitalize manufacturing and research, and tackle the climate crisis. The United States would in itself make the biggest investment in job creation (personal care – so hot right now) since the postwar period – $ 2 trillion – creating millions of jobs to rebuild the world. post-pandemic economy.

Hidden deep within the US Jobs Plan is a single phrase that calls for mobilizing an army of a worker-only American type: “This $ 10 billion investment will put a new, diverse generation of Americans to work. conservation of our public lands and waters, strengthening the community. resilience and the promotion of environmental justice through a new Civilian Climate Body, while making well-paying union jobs accessible to more Americans.

The Civilian Climate Corps is the Civilian Conservation Corps by another name. In 1933, the U.S. government created the CCC, an unprecedented Depression-era program that put 3 million Americans to work building national parks, repairing roads and dams, and combating fires. This has gone a long way in creating the American landscape we enjoy today. “A lot of the activities of the original Civilian Conservation Corps were both about getting people to work, obviously, but also about improving accessibility and the infrastructure around our natural resources,” says Zeke Hausfather, climatologist and climate director. and energy at the Breakthrough Institute, which advocates for action on climate change. “I still see that there is definitely a need for a lot of this. But I believe that today there is also a need for more direct activities at community level in this broader category of climate resilience and adaptation.

This is because the emergency that the Civilian Conservation Corps of the OG was supposed to respond to was primarily unemployment. The resulting improvements in infrastructure and natural resources have been substantial, but secondary. The rebooted version is intended to tackle a beast that is at once more complex, more dangerous and more expensive: the climate crisis, already here and already deadly. We need people to restore wetlands to act as buffers against storm surge. We need people to do controlled burns in the West to always bigger Forest fires at the bay. We need people to plant trees to cool cities as climate change turns urban areas in ovens thanks to the heat island effect, in which the concrete absorbs the sun’s energy during the day and releases it slowly at night.

At the macro level, these are all manifestations of climate change: temperatures are increasingly extreme, droughts more severe and storms more fierce. But at the micro level, these are all issues that communities need help to tackle. It costs money to clear brush around a city to ward off forest fires, or to open dedicated cooling centers in urban areas so people can escape heat waves. So while the original CCC aimed to restore nature and infrastructure more broadly, the Civilian Climate Corps could – and should – also work to prepare urban areas for the climate crisis.

There is, however, a problem right from the start. “The scale proposed by Biden will be far from what is really needed,” says environmental economist Mark Paul of the New College of Florida. “The president asked for $ 10 billion, which might be enough to put in somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 workers in total.” By comparison, the Civilian Conservation Corps employed over 500,000 workers at its peak and 3 million over the life of the program. “If we just adapt that to today’s population,” Paul adds, “the 21st century CCC is expected to employ around 1.5 million workers at its largest size, and possibly over 9 million workers. for the duration of the program. “

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Given the scale and severity of the climate crisis, the Civilian Climate Corps should far more people than its predecessor during the Great Depression. “The national park system alone has a larger maintenance backlog than the whole program Biden has proposed here,” says Paul. “So there is no shortage of work to be done. But we need to see more leadership from the White House on this issue to show that it is engaged in the climate crisis. “

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