A new CBS News poll shows a majority of Americans have a pessimistic view about prospects for the environment, with 57 percent believing it will be worse for the next generation. Only 12 percent believe the environment will be better than it is today.
But a new book by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Charles Pope, former executive director of the Sierra Club, offers a more optimistic view. It’s called “Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet” (St. Martin’s Press).
On “CBS This Morning” Monday, Bloomberg said that leadership in finding solutions to environmental problems may come down to the foresight of cities, rather than federal or state governments.
“Local governments influence how we get around, what fuels we can burn, whether or not we are compliant with the rules,” he said. “People who want to live cleaner, breathe cleaner air, drink more pure water, have a better economy, it’s in the cities where they can change things.”
He said the book was a reaction to pessimism about government action — or perceived inaction. “Carl and I got together and said, ‘Everybody’s so pessimistic, but we really are making a big difference.’ We are going to meet the COP21 goals without any help from the federal government, basically,” he said, referring to targets for reducing greenhouse gases set in the Paris climate accords.
Pope added, “In fact, the United States has reduced its carbon emissions by a larger ratio than any other major industrial nation. We’ve already accomplished two-thirds of what President Obama promised to accomplish by 2025, and this is being driven by public sentiment at the local level, by leaders from cities and by innovation by American businesses.”
When co-anchor Norah O’Donnell asked about two of the world’s largest polluters, China and India, Bloomberg responded, “China, in all fairness, is one of the countries that is working the hardest to clean things up. Why? Because you can’t see across the street, the pollution is so bad. They’ve woken up and said, ‘We just are not going to stay in power unless we do something.’ And so they are closing coal-fired power plants, they are closing cement plants, they are closing steel plants, and moving them away from the cities.”
“And India just announced that they will not build any more coal-fired power plants for the next decade,” said Pope. “They’ve put a complete suspension on starting new coal-fired power plants, because in India right now if you put out a bid, solar comes in first, wind comes in second, coal comes in a poor third, in terms of cost.”
“We are now at a point at which alternative means of creating energy are lower than fossil fuel?” asked co-anchor Charlie Rose.
“Cleaner means cheaper,” Pope said. “Cheaper equals cleaner. That’s what clean energy has become.”
Bloomberg also condemned President Trump’s rollback of pollution controls for mining companies, which the president called “job-killing.” “If we start putting the tailings of these coal mines into the rivers —which an EPA regulation just got rolled back and will now permit — people downstream are going to all of sudden wake up one day and find they and their kids have been poisoned,” Bloomberg said.
Mr. Trump, who is seeking to cut the Envrionmental Protection Agency’s budget by about one-third, promised to end a supposed “war on coal” and bring back jobs for unemployed coal miners.
“Unfortunately for people who work in the coal injury, technology is devastating them,” Bloomberg said. “Back in 1925, there were 800,000 people that worked in coal; in 1980 there were 250,000. Today there’s 55,000 — and production has gone up. It’s all technology that’s destroying jobs.
“We can’t just sit here and say ‘woe to us’ or ‘woe to the coal miners.’ We’ve got to do something. And what you have to do is help them train for other jobs because those [coal] jobs aren’t going to come back.”
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“But you have an administration in Washington that says it’s going to reduce the standards from the EPA, that it’s going to withdraw from the Paris agreement,” said Rose.
“Hopefully that won’t happen,” Bloomberg said. “Hopefully they’ll get some sense and say, ‘Look, America’s going to meet its goals anyway. It would send a bad message. Let’s go along to try to work from within rather than from without.’
“But no matter what they do, we are going toward a world where coal is going to be less-used, where fewer people are going to be working in the industry, and we’ve got to find ways to get jobs for people not just in this industry but in lots of industries around the world being pushed out by technology. And you don’t do it by going and creating jobs you don’t need; you have to create jobs we need.
“A good example is, we have lots of soldiers, veterans. We’ve got take care of them. We’ve got to find jobs for veterans. But you don’t go start a war to give them jobs. You find things that they can do and that we need in society and there are ways to do that.”
Pope said, “Let’s look at the reality: We didn’t make America great by keeping buggy whips going in the 1920s. We made America great by building the world’s greatest auto industry. We have the opportunity to build the world’s greatest clean energy industry. We ought to be embracing the future. Already clean energy employs five times as many people as natural gas, coal, and oil combined. So there are hundreds of thousands of jobs in the clean energy industry. There can be millions, and cities are competing with each other to see who can get the most of them. That’s what’s great about cities. They compete to move forward, not to look backward.”
For more info:
- “Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet” by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope (St. Martin’s Press); Also available in Trade Paperback, eBook, Digital Audio Download and Audio CD formats
- Report: Boom and Bust 2017: Tracking the Global Coal Plant Pipeline (CoalSwarm, Sierra Club and Greenpeace)
- Bloomberg Philanthropies: Environment
- Sierra Club
for more features.