Florida labor groups calls for climate change action

The Northwest Florida AFL-CIO recently passed a resolution urging Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott to develop a plan for reducing carbon pollution from the state’s power plants. Carbon pollution from power plants is a primary cause of climate change.

Florida will be especially hard hit by the affects of climate change. A recent report by a business group that favors climate change action predicts that if nothing is done, climate change could cause between $15 billion and $23 billion worth of Florida property to be underwater by 2050.

The Florida labor group’s resolution calls on Gov. Scott to act quickly to develop a plan for reducing the state’s carbon pollution. The plan, says the resolution, should aim to create more clean energy jobs by encouraging the development of solar and other sources of clean energy.

The plan should also support the development of “more efficient technologies and upgrade our infrastructure to grow quality jobs in the Florida panhandle.”

President Obama’s new Clean Power Plan requires states to develop plans for reducing power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent, and the labor group said that Florida’s future demands that the governor take immediate action toward accomplishing this goal.

“Gov. Scott has a choice to make about the future of Florida,” said James Lingley, president of the Northwest Florida AFL-CIO. “Put forward a clean energy jobs plan that is as good for working families as it is for the planet, or sacrifice the control of how the state will meet these new emission standards. We believe that Florida is capable of meeting the goal of reducing carbon pollution while growing family-sustaining jobs for workers around the state.”

Gov. Scott like other Republican governors has been reluctant to act on President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, arguing that any plan to reduce power plant carbon pollution will hurt business and damage the economy.

But a report by the Risky Business Project, co-chaired by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and hedge fund manager Thomas Steyer, argues that taking no action to reverse climate change will hurt business and the economy even more.

The report quantifies the cost of doing nothing to reverse climate change.

In addition to putting billions of dollars worth of Florida property underwater, says the report, “$240 billion dollars worth of (Florida) property will likely be at risk during high tide that is not at risk today.”

The report says that climate change will cause more days of higher temperatures in the Southeast region of the US where Florida is located. As a result, “we are likely to see an additional 15 to 21 deaths per 100,000 people every year in this region over the course of the century due to increases in heat-related mortality, with urban residents at greater risk due to the heat island effect. At the current population of the Southeast, that translates into 11,000 to 36,000 additional deaths per year.”

The report also says that higher temperatures will reduce labor productivity in the region.

The Northwest Florida AFL-CIO sees the Clean Power Plan as an opportunity to save the state from the disastrous consequences of climate change and at the same time to develop and implement new technologies that will create good paying jobs.

According to the Solar Foundation, the solar energy industry is one of the fastest growing sources of new jobs in the US. In 2013, the solar industry employed 142,689 people in the US, up by nearly 20 percent over the number employed in 2012.

For the most part, these are good paying jobs. The median average hourly pay for a solar installer is $20, the mean average is $23.63.

“The time has come for Florida to live up to being the Sunshine State,” said Buck Hill, president of the Big Bend chapter of the Northwest AFL-CIO. “With a clean energy jobs plan, Gov. Scott can put Florida to work by unleashing the power of the sun.”

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