Let's get real about the Leap Manifesto: it's not a job killer

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      Watching the news yesterday, it would be easy to conclude that the Leap Manifesto was conceived by a bunch of naive youngsters who know nothing about how economies work.

      The document calls for a rapid transition to an economy powered by renewable energy, much greater respect for indigenous peoples, dramatic improvements to public transit, a progressive carbon tax, higher resource royalties, financial-transaction taxes, and higher income taxes on corporations and wealthy people.

      B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan declared that it didn't reflect the values of British Columbians. Alberta NDP premier Rachel Notley was even harsher in her condemnation.

      CBC TV commentator Rex Murphy characterized the authors of the Leap Manifesto as job killers. The dismissive tone of CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge and Postmedia columnist Andrew Coyne reinforced the notion that the Leap Manifesto was dreamed up by a bunch of crackpots.

      They either chose to ignore or are ignorant of the renewable-energy revolution occurring around the world. In the case of Horgan, I don't believe he's unaware of what's taking place in this sector.

      As B.C. writer and legal scholar David Boyd pointed out in his recent book, The Optimistic Environmentalist: Progressing Towards a Greener Future, the International Energy Agency has consistently underestimated the take-up of solar energy. That's because analysts failed to take into account how quickly the price of photovoltaics would fall.

      What's happening with renewable energy is akin to the change in telecommunications from landlines to cellphones. It's occurring at an exponential rate because of lower costs.

      "Canada's solar industry has grown 100 times over the past decade," Boyd told the Straight last year. "Canada's wind industry is in the top 10 globally without any federal support. If there were actually federal programs to support those industries, we would be at the top of the leaderboard, and we would have less pollution as a country. We would have more green jobs. We would have a more sustainable economy and we would all be better off."

      This is what the Leap Manifesto authors are advocating: more jobs.

      Author David Boyd (with daughter Meredith) believes renewable energy can save the planet.
      Davy Rippner

      Meanwhile, the Solar Foundation reported that its industry added 35,052 new jobs last year in the U.S. This was a 20 percent increase, bringing total employment in this area to 208,859 in 2015.

      Think Progress's Ryan Koronowski reported that the solar-installation sector employed 77 percent more people than the coal-mining industry.

      In a 2015 report, the IEA forecast renewable energy to rise to 26 percent of global production by 2020, up from 22 percent in 2013.

      "China alone will account for nearly 40% of total renewable power capacity growth and requires almost one-third of new investment to 2020," the report states.

      Think Progress and Boyd aren't the only ones who've chronicled the rapid rise in adoption of renewable energy. Australian scientist Tim Flannery's recent book, Atmosphere of Hope: The Search for Solutions to the Climate Crisis, also highlighted this issue.

      In an interview with the Straight last October, Flannery said that the pace of solar-power development has been "one of the great triumphs of the last 10 years".

      "For the last 30 years, cost reductions in solar have been on the order of 10 percent per annum. Constantly, year in and year out, for 30 years," Flannery said. "I'm very excited about it. I think solar is going to be the future, especially when we have battery storage or some storage mechanism."

      Australia's Tim Flannery has chronicled sharp decreases in the price of solar power.

      Harvard University science historian Naomi Oreskes recently told the Straight that focusing on the integration of electricity grids, feed-in tariffs, and demand-response pricing could ensure that all electricity in North America is produced from renewable sources.

      If grids were better connected, it would offer the opportunity of hydroelectric power from B.C. or Quebec replacing coal-fired power in other provinces and some states. And she says that research has already demonstrated the feasibility of this happening.

      "Imagine now that we have Mexico in the mix as well, and you've got all that fantastic solar capacity in the southwest United States and Mexico," Oreskes said. "They've done the modelling to show that there is enough power between hydro, wind, and solar to fully power North America so long as you have grid integration to solve the intermittency problem. That's actually a very exciting result because this technology already exists."

      Feed-in tariffs are payments to people who generate their own clean electricity, perhaps through photovoltaic panels or wind power. They feed it back into the grid and collect cash in return.

      Demand-response pricing involves adjusting electricity prices depending on overall usage. This offers incentives to people to use power in off-peak periods.

      After describing the nitty-gritty structural issues that are required to bring about big changes, Oreskes quipped, "My slogan is I can change my light bulbs but I can't change my electricity grid."

      Oreskes, coauthor of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, was in Vancouver on April 5 to deliver the spring Wall Exchange lecture at the Vogue Theatre. It was sponsored by UBC's Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.

      Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes says grid integration is key to promoting renewables.

      Flannery revealed in Atmosphere of Hope that former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell introduced a carbon tax after reading one of his earlier books, The Weather Makers.

      Perhaps the time has come for Horgan, Notley, Mansbridge, and Coyne to delve into Atmosphere of Hope and The Optimistic Environmentalist and open their eyes to possibilities presented by the Leap Manifesto.

      While they're at it, they might also want to read "How We Can Afford The Leap?" by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives researchers Bruce Campbell, Seth Klein, and Marc Lee.

      Forget about Rex Murphy: he's been on the payroll of Canada's fossil-fuel industry and has already demonstrated that he doesn't believe what the climate scientists are saying.