THE BLOG
09/24/2012 01:09 pm ET Updated Nov 24, 2012

The Case for Revolution (An American Clean Revolution That Is)

This is a challenging time for America.

The economy registers only a modest recovery. For many Americans, the great financial crisis of 2008 has not truly ended, four years on and counting. Growth is not forthcoming. Job creation is not happening fast enough. China has overtaken the U.S. as the world's number one filer of patents.

At the same time, the immediate and damaging effects of climate change are being felt by businesses and communities. This year's extreme weather affected 80 percent of the country and could cost the U.S. economy $50 billion. And this, sadly, could only be the beginning.

For many, addressing the first challenge means not acting on climate. For The Climate Group, these twin challenges are not only connected -- they share a common solution.

At the 4th Climate Week NYC which kicks off this week, The Climate Group has brought together an unusual coalition of U.S. business leaders, international statesmen, academics, farmers, former military leaders and others to argue for 'an American Clean Revolution'. They will say that there needs to be a swift, massive scale-up of clean energy and smart technologies to create a prosperous economy that boosts growth, creates jobs, and addresses the challenge of a changing climate effectively.

In a report it is launching this week, it argues that there are five key reasons why America is strongly-placed to make this turn-around:

Competitiveness: A clean revolution will play to America's strengths in innovation and entrepreneurship and keep it competitive. By 2030 clean tech innovation could be adding $155 billion a year extra to the economy if investments are made today: with the right government policies, this figure could grow to $244 billion a year. That's $3 trillion in additional GDP gains.

Growth: Although more domestic gas, oil and coal might deliver a quick economic 'hit', the clean economy has untapped and environmentally sustainable wealth-creating potential. A national energy efficiency strategy could unlock $1.2 trillion in savings by 2020. Abundant renewable energy resources in states like Arizona, and Colorado could create $137 billion in investment and power 7 million homes. And clean economy jobs pay 13 percent more compared to the average.

Security: A clean economy can end America's reliance on foreign oil and mitigate the danger of climate change as a 'threat multiplier. In 2011, every American paid over $1,000 buying foreign oil. The military cost of protecting U.S. oil supplies is estimated at $50-$140 billion per year. Oil imports have accounted for as much as 40 percent of the U.S. yearly trade deficit.

Infrastructure: Transforming outdated buildings, transit systems and power stations to become smarter and more efficient will future proof America's infrastructure. Spending $476 million to upgrade the national grid over 20 years will deliver $2 trillion in consumer savings. Without investment America's aging infrastructure could cost the economy $1.3 trillion by 2020.

The Cost of Inaction: Failing to cut fossil fuel use and mitigate and adapt to climate change will increase public health problems and the cost of extreme events. Average US weather-related insurance losses are now six times greater than in the 1980s: climate change will compound this rising cost. Climate change will bring more droughts like this year's, which cost the economy an estimated $50 billion. A warmer climate is bringing new diseases. A record 2,000 cases of West Nile Virus were recorded in 2012, causing 87 deaths.

The case for a clean, innovation-based economic revolution is clear and makes both political and business sense. For America to win the new energy race, it needs to maintain its lead in clean energy investment, and strengthen its lead on low carbon innovation. It also needs to foster leadership in the private sector and encourage its entrepreneurs.

America is well-placed to lead the revolution. But it must want to play to win.