Climate Change and the 2018 Job Market

As climate temperatures increase, once-stable systems and states around the planet will change as well, from delicate ecosystems, to average storm patterns, to planting and harvesting cycles in the zones where our food grows. Changes are already underway, and most of these changes are proving to be messy and driven by multiple vectors that aren’t always easy to measure.

This list of messy, not-always predictable shifts will include one with high stakes over the short-term: the job market. How people work, what we earn, and the stability of the industries that keep us afloat are likely to fluctuate for a while, and it stands to reason that while some jobs fade from the marketplace—like jobs that involve coal extraction—others will appear on the landscape and become more common—like jobs that involve solar panel installation.

Everything changes and as the new arrives, the old fades away, or so we might assume. But the broad shifts facing the job market may or may not take on predictable patterns that allow us to make economic and cultural forecasts that play out exactly as we expect.   

While Cargill may close processing plants and lay off workers as a result of draught-driven drops in the beef industry, ski resorts may hire more technicians to install and maintain equipment that creates fake snow. But these are micro-changes. Can we back up and look for broad patterns within this crosshatch of arrows indicating minor traffic fluctuations into one industry and out of another one? Here are a few key questions that might simplify the issue.

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What skills will bring more opportunity over the next ten years?

Here’s a broad overview on the changing job market produced this year by the BBC. This report scratches the surface of the deeper questions that will shape education and training opportunities in the future. If more students decide to pursue careers in solar and wind engineering than fossil fuel exploration, those who work in education and job-preparation will need to shift to keep up. Climate change may dominate the landscape for the next generation the way tech did for the last.

Will infrastructure jobs increase, and if so, where?

If people leave coastal areas and slowly migrate inland, this will turn the big, slow wheels of massive infrastructure changes, from building construction to traffic expansion and alterations in roads, bridges, sewer and power grids, architecture, and city planning.

What about information distribution?

A changing world demands ever increasing flows of information. Millions of eyes and ears around the planet are already starved for news, facts, commentary, and information leadership. How will we know what we need to know to keep up? And who will provide us with this knowledge? And how will these providers be paid? Jobs in journalism, research, analysis, and media will probably experience spikes in demand. So will jobs for those involved in the related fields of policy-making and science.

Have you thought about what might happen to your own industry as the climate changes? If not, maybe 2018 will be a good time to start.