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The Cost of Climate Change Is Jobs

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The weather in South Africa is beautiful -- warm during the day, cool and breezy at night. This is a unique and fitting place to stage the United Nations Climate Change Conference, as South Africa prepares for the impacts of climate change.

The costs of adapting to climate change are not limited to South Africa or other countries that the UNFCCC framework considers "developing." The cost is something that we in the United States deal with on a daily basis, even if there are still powerful "climate deniers" in Congress who aren't willing to admit it. From the costs of increasingly severe weather events to the rising cost of food from climate-related droughts, Americans pay for global warming every day.

But the biggest cost that we pay is in lost opportunity. As it stands, the U.S. is failing to take advantage of the opportunities to create good jobs by addressing climate change. This makes less and less sense as our economy struggles to regain its footing, and as millions of Americans continue to search for work.

The BlueGreen Alliance is in Durban this week advocating for a framework to address climate change that spurs economic growth and job creation in the United States. The 15 partners of the BlueGreen Alliance -- 11 of America's largest labor unions and four of its most influential environmental organizations -- released a statement this week, "Fighting Climate Change, Creating Jobs," which advocates international climate action grounded in science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets, urging the U.S. to pursue emissions reductions as aggressively as possible by taking all feasible steps to meet current near term targets. This can be achieved through investments and policies that will build a strong clean energy economy, create new jobs for American workers and improve U.S. competitiveness in the global economy.

We can accomplish these goals through smart policies and strategic investments in building a truly 21st century American economy. Growing the production of clean energy in the United States while making our transportation systems, industries, building stock, transmission and communications systems more efficient will both create jobs and ensure that America is competitive in an increasingly efficient global economy.

On Friday, the Labor Department announced that the American economy had gained about 120,000 jobs in November. A positive number is a good number. But we have to face facts: we aren't going to put eight million people back to work with a piecemeal approach to our economy. It's no longer acceptable to sit on the sidelines and hope that jobs will be created and that our economy will recover by returning to an unsustainable pre-2008 economic model. It's no longer an option to deny the impact of climate change on our economy. We need action to build the industries that will drive our future economy in the United States, and we need it now.

In Durban this week, thousands of people from around the world are gathering to advocate for an agreement that will avert the worst impacts of climate change and help impacted nations adapt. Whether in South Africa or in the United States, the cost of climate change is deep and far reaching. It's costing us money. It's costing us economic growth. And it's costing us jobs.

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