A healthy environment fuels the economy

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Last week, The Hill reported about a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll that found that 72 percent of Republicans surveyed said the economy should be prioritized over the environment, even at the risk of ignoring climate change. 

To those who say, “it’s the economy stupid,” I say: a healthy environment fuels the economy. 

These poll respondents are missing the point; the environment is the economy. The climate crisis isn’t only an environmental problem; it’s an existential problem that affects all facets of our lives, including the economy. In fact, I would contend that if Americans want to solve our current economic woes, leaning into clean energy innovation sparked by free enterprise is the way to do it. 

The global renewable energy market was valued at $1.1 trillion in 2022 and that amount is expected to grow at a healthy clip: 17 percent between now and 2030. Those investments now only fuel our economy, they create jobs and better the environment, as well as solving climate change, a politically agnostic crisis begging for some bipartisan cooperation. 

We no longer live in a binary world where one has to choose between the economy and environmental protection. In particular, climate change poses a great threat not only to the natural environment but to the home insurance industry, tourism and agriculture, just to name a few major economic sectors directly impacted by a changing climate. We need to start looking at these issues of intersectionality.

Those lawmakers who put the environment in a separate box from the economy are going to look awfully ridiculous trying to legislate underwater because their capitals are submerged by rising seas. 

Keep beating the drum on the economy, and bemoan inflation—those are important issues. But the truth is, the climate crisis presents the opening the eco-hesitant have been looking for on the environment. Americans have spent the summer of 2023 staring down the barrel of warming oceans and heat waves that are unbearable without air conditioning. People in red and blue states are hot and seeking relief. 

Now is the time for lawmakers and voters alike to recognize—just like all roads lead to Rome — all issues lead back to climate and environment. Move beyond name-calling and partisan bickering to pass policies that encourage innovators, scientists, and kids at their 5th grade science fairs to get to work and find solutions to solve the climate crisis.

With more than half of Americans experiencing extreme weather just this year alone, surely three out of four people can agree that it’s desirable to be able to stay in our homes — as opposed to moving because of sea level rise, wildfires, drought and just because the home insurance industry moved out of our state. Surely three out of four people can agree that the planet is worth saving — and that American ingenuity can play a key role.  

Mary Anna Mancuso is a political strategist based in South Florida and a spokesperson for RepublicEn.org, a growing group of conservatives who care about climate change.

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