There is little disagreement about whether global warming happening, only some, like Gov. Sarah Palin, question whether it is caused by people. Beyond that fight, there is another debate: what could be the effect of these environmental factors on jobs?
While "green collar jobs" were overshadowed during the general election by the financial meltdown, they remain a top component of President-elect Obama's energy plan, with predictions of 5,000,000 new jobs. Could the green sector be that important to our future economy?
According to a report on CNN.com, the effect of environmental factors on jobs could be an employment boom, or bust. The Apollo Institute, an organization that wants a government renewable energy project, predicts three million new green jobs over the next ten years. However, the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California Berkeley expects closer to one million new jobs by 2020.
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Agriculture and Green and Careers
Those who support renewable energy believe there will be new jobs for technicians in solar power, jobs at manufacturers that make parts for wind and solar equipment, and jobs in agriculture, harvesting biomasses.
Dan Kammen, a professor in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California Berkeley, told CNN.com that these jobs would not get outsourced, an obvious bonus for American workers. Professor Kammen must believe in Obama's vision, since Kammen put his money where his mouth is, contributing $250 during the primaries to Barrack Obama.
Careers Environmental Science Field: Ethanol?
George Sterzinger, head of the Renewable Energy Policy Project, agrees. He told CNN.com "The installation of solar panels is not something that can be exported. These are good, skilled, well-paying jobs." He added that farmers are commanding a higher price for their corn because of the increase in ethanol. However, Robert Brusca, a chief economist at Fact and Opinion Economics, says that new jobs in ethanol would simply be filled with people shifted over from picking crops for agriculture.
Government Environmental Jobs
George Sterzinger believes that the U.S. government should invest in the green job sector and has called for government-backed loans for renewable energy companies. He told CNN.com, "We're losing ground to Germany on this. You need the policies; it's not just going to happen automatically."
List Environmental Careers, Today
There are green-friendly jobs available today. According to the PayScale Research Center, some of them pay pretty well. An environmental scientist/specialist can earn an average salary of $50,000 or more. Solar Energy Systems Designers are also in the same range.
There are also good jobs for people who have not gone to college: the pay for Solar Energy and Wind Generating System Installers runs from $15 to $20/hour. Note of caution: the small number of profiles PayScale has collected for these jobs indicates the green economy is still small.
How does your salary compare to environmental careers? The PayScale Salary Calculator is a quick and easy way to compare positions. When you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale's full salary survey.