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Discovering the “Green-Collar” job market: How Climate Change is creating new employment opportunities

In the next fifty years, climate change will threaten nearly every facet of human society. Being the resilient species we are, there are many new opportunities for innovation under this stressor. There are countless jobs that service both climate change mitigation and adaptation. Many of these jobs do not require a traditional college degree, and with a little technical training, can offer great salaries. 

Nearly all jobs will be environmental jobs as the effects of climate change impact all sectors of the economy. Careers in construction, infrastructure, and manufacturing are heavily impacted by climate change and are already adapting to the changing world. These jobs either come from emerging markets, like renewable energy, or from industries that are providing environmental services in response to climate change.  

The “green-collar” job sector is growing, especially as governments are increasing funding programs for training. Jobs in the public sector, like public transportation and infrastructure, while not new, are essential in the response to climate change. Certifications, licenses, and vocational degrees offer increased pay, without a traditional 4-year degree. Of course, there is always the option to learn after entering these fields. 

(All salary estimates are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics unless otherwise noted). Read below to get prepared to find out climate change jobs near you.

Opportunities in Construction & Infrastructure:

In 2020 alone, natural disasters created over 2 trillion dollars in damage in the United States. Ranging from private homes to bridges and roads, these events will only continue to cost us. As the likelihood of severe storm events increases under climate change, the construction industry will need to learn to adapt to this new reality and build back better. Climate disasters increase the need for jobs in disaster relief and recovery, as well as better new construction. 

  • Construction will address damaged structures, as well as renovate existing structures to be more resilient. In flood-prone areas, houses will need to be lifted or otherwise protected from floodwaters. Repairs will be plentiful, as fire and water damage from extreme climate events will need to be addressed. 
    • General and Adaptation Construction: $52,000 / year median salary
    • Hazardous Materials Removal Workers (including mold): $49,000 / year median salary
  • The insurance business is booming under climate change, as flooding and fire events require more insurance coverage. If you want to stay away from manual labor, working in insurance can offer a lucrative alternative.
    • Insurance Underwriters: $80,000 / year median salary
    • Insurance Sales Agents: $69,000 / year median salary
  • As with private construction, public infrastructure is directly threatened by the physical effects of climate change. Public infrastructure, like bridges, tunnels, and roads, is in desperate need of replacement, especially as fires, floods, and storms threaten their structural integrity. Jobs in public transportation also support a shift in transportation needs, as increased funding brings new job openings.
  • Rail Transportation Workers: $65,000 / year median salary
  • Transportation Inspectors: $86,000 / year median salary

NOW HIRING: Central Oregon Disaster Restoration is looking for a Disaster Response Estimator, a position in which the Estimator contacts those affected by disasters and offers solutions for rebuilding.

A Flooded town seen from above.
With more flooding in the cities, construction jobs will be in demand for climate adaptation.

Opportunities in Manufacturing:

Many fear automation is stealing jobs from humans, but the new and innovative technologies created in response to climate change offer new opportunities in manufacturing. Battery technology, 3D printing, and environmental safety are becoming more standard across manufacturing, production, and engineering. Learning how to use these new technologies can offer a great new avenue in times of change.

In the case of cars, batteries will be the main energy source in the future. So naturally, a lot of emphasis will be put in making the technology more efficient and more reliable. These are a few battery technologies that may be mainstream in the near future: Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are currently used in the majority of electric vehicles, and it’s likely that they will remain dominant into the next decade. Several manufacturers, including Tesla and Nissan, have invested heavily in this technology.

Solid-state batteries have solid components and provide several advantages: no worry of electrolyte leaks or fires (provided a flame-resistant electrolyte is used), extended lifetime, decreased need for bulky and expensive cooling mechanisms, and the ability to operate in an extended temperature range. 

Aluminum-ion batteries are similar to LIBs but have an aluminum anode providing increased safety at a decreased cost over LIBs, but research is still in its infancy.

Lithium-sulfur batteries (Li/S)offer a higher theoretical energy density and a lower cost than LIBs. And finally Metal-air batteries that have a pure-metal anode and an ambient air cathode. As the cathode typically makes up most of the weight in a battery, having one made of air is a major advantage.

  • With more products relying on batteries, from cars to cell phones, knowing how to repair batteries can be a marketable skill, without a high degree.
    • Battery Technician: $58-63,000 / year median salary
  • 3D Printing is a new frontier for construction and manufacturing–some companies are even building houses with it. Learning how to operate 3D printing at a large scale can be a great skill. An interest in drafting and 3D modeling can bring about even more.
  • Companies are becoming increasingly vested in ensuring environmental and occupational health standards, as one scandal can ruin a company.
    • Occupational Health and Safety Specialists: $74-78,000 / year median salary
    • Environmental Engineering Technologists and Technicians: $56,000 / year median salary

NOW HIRING: Mighty Buildings in Oakland, CA is hiring a Mixer Operator and Mixer Operator Helper. The Mixer Operators prepare materials for 3D printed houses.

Battery in the back of a car trunk.
Battery technicians will be in demand in the future as more electric cars enter the streets.

Opportunities in Agriculture and Land Management

The agricultural techniques of the last 80 years have produced massive amounts of food security, but also massive amounts of pollution and environmental degradation. New trends in organic agriculture and regenerative land management offer a counter to these destructive techniques, but they’re more labor-intensive. If an individual has knowledge of organic agriculture or native plant management, they are invaluable to this new way of thinking about our relationship to nature. 

  • Forest Fire Inspector and Prevention Specialist: $52,000 / year median salary
  • Organic Farmer:  $45-50,000 / year median salary

NOW HIRING: Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and Forestry is hiring entry-level foresters. This position’s responsibilities are to implement forestry conservation and management programs, and wildland fire management. This is a great entry and educational role in forestry.

Forest Carbon Offset projects
Forest Carbon Offset projects are ways for forest and land owners to generate revenue streams from their forests without cutting their trees.

Another interesting opportunity in the agriculture sector related to climate change are forest carbon offset projects. Carbon markets can provide a new source of income for forest owners implementing practices that increase or retain forest carbon. As forests grow, the trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and store it within their growing biomass (trunk, branches, leaves and root systems). A “forest carbon offset,” is a metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)—the emission of which is avoided or newly stored—that is purchased by greenhouse gas emitters to compensate for emissions occurring elsewhere. Meaning factories and manufacturers and otther polluting industries can pay forest owners to keep their trees growing and alive. It’s a win-win.

To introduce you to the fantastic topic of forest carbon offsets, I recommend the following short video by SCS Global Services, a company that conducts assessments of carbon offset projects around the world to certify how much CO2 a piece of forest has absorbed from the atmosphere.

Opportunities in the Energy sector

As we transition away from fossil fuels, millions of jobs will be lost. From coal miners to oil rig technicians, these are not the jobs of the future. If the opportunity arises to switch from the fossil fuel industry to the clean energy sector, it would be wise to take it. Fossil fuel jobs are not guaranteed in the future, but clean energy still has room to grow. Check out these jobs in clean energy, which have a high potential for career development. 

  • Solar and wind are growing industries, with positions available for all skill levels. One can start as an installer and grow to be a foreman or supervisor. Other jobs include sales, which do not require manual labor and offer commission bonuses.
    • Solar Panels Installer: $48,000 / year median salary
    • Solar Energy Installation Supervisor: $55,000 / year median salary
    • Solar Sales Representative: $70,000 / year median salary
    • Wind Turbine Service Technician: $59,000 / year median salary
  • As we focus on electrification using renewable energy sources, our power grid will come to need revamping. Energy Auditors analyze energy usage and offer solutions and alternatives. With minimal education, individuals can become energy auditors for projects in any state or industry. 
    • Energy Auditor: $56,000 / year median salary
    • Power Line Installer and Repairers: $74k

NOW HIRING: Hytech Solar Inc in New York is hiring Solar Panel Installers with one year of construction experience. HyTech, as well as many other companies across the country, are offering competitive rates in this emerging market. Even with no solar experience, these offer great opportunities and great pay.

Wind turbines in the northeast of Brazil guarantee electricity for thousands of areas.

OTHER OPPORTUNITIES

There are many economic opportunities as a result of climate change. With a little capital investment or education, individuals can earn more and make a bigger change. Landowners can earn money from protecting land under carbon sequestration and conservation systems. Investing in emerging companies that respond to climate change directly can bring about further change. With enough experience, an individual may start a new small business in any of the above fields to increase their earnings. There is no shortage of “green-collar” jobs in the twenty-first century, and getting in early is your best shot.

And before any controversies, you NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT Climate change includes both human-induced global warming and its large-scale impacts on weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are more rapid than any known events in Earth’s history.

Max Francisco