by ALYSSA SPENCER
According to UMW environmental science professors, President Biden’s environmental policy will open doors for graduates within the major.
On Feb. 19, Biden formally rejoined the United States into the Paris climate agreement, an international agreement dedicated to averting the effects of climate change. This act, in combination with the promises he made to combat climate change and environmental injustice, sparks excitement and newfound hope within many environmental science majors and their professors at the University of Mary Washington.
Professor John Tippett, an adjunct professor of earth and environmental sciences, believes that Biden and his plans would indeed help foster new jobs for his students.
“Biden has a much stronger environmental agenda which will open up more jobs in the field,” he said.
Professor Tippett said that the past four years under the Trump administration have made an impact on those already in environmental science-related careers. He cited the Environmental Protection Agency, which saw nearly 1,600 employees leave the organization in the first 18 months of President Trump’s term, as an example of a workplace that will potentially create new opportunities for graduates.
“The prior administration was so openly hostile to the role of science and in particular, environmental regulation, that a lot of professional scientists left environmental agencies over the past several years,” said Tippett. “What you will probably see is that a lot of mid-level and upper-level positions will promote existing [employees] into those positions, which frees up more entry-level opportunities.”
Tippett said that this trend should put graduates in good standing in upcoming years.
Melanie Szulczewski, an associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, said that a common misconception related to building a greener future is that jobs will be lost, when in fact the change to the new industry has been shown to create jobs.
“Some like to promote the idea that helping the environment means hurting the economy and getting rid of jobs, and while it’s true that some jobs will go away like those in the coal mining industry, other jobs will be created,” said Szulczewski. “In addition, Biden himself has claimed that because sustainability is so closely tied to social justice, he’s going to be looking at solutions such as making a living wage, encouraging job training, and so forth.”
Many industries that aim to curb climate change or foster greener energy and policies have been negatively impacted in the past few years, but both Tippett and Szulczewski believe that they are on the rise once again.
“Jobs related to the climate, renewable energy, and jobs involving innovative methods for carbon sequestration show the most promise,” said Tippett. “There is a lot of private sector work being done such as consultants that help local governments develop renewable energy plans, or private businesses that create markets for carbon sequestration so that businesses can pay into a fund and they can get their carbon dioxide negated. All of this innovative stuff is happening right now in the private sector, that will go along with the government taking a stronger role in the environment.”
Szulczewski believed that the most growth will be seen in the renewable energy sector.
“Energy is something that we need in our everyday life. We need it to drive to work or school, to power our houses, and even to get proper drinking water. The transition to renewables is not an easy task, but it’s the most cost comparable sector out there right now.”
Tippett concurred, claiming that economics and politics are creating much momentum in the green energy sector. “We see the general trend towards renewable energy because coal is no longer cost-competitive, making renewables more economically viable. So, that’s pure economics driving that, but now we have an administration that is incentivizing all of those actions.”
Lydia Samson, a senior environmental science major, believes that job opportunities in environmental science will rise, but not because of Biden. “The number of opportunities will come from general need as the climate crisis worsens, not necessarily because of any federal push for more jobs in the environmental science field,” she said.
Samson has ambitions to become an environmental lawyer and is optimistic that her job will fare well in the upcoming years.
“I’m planning on attending law school this fall and have somewhat high hopes about job opportunities after graduation, as I’ve been told that environmental law is currently the fastest-growing subfield of legal practices.”
Szulczewski has high hopes for the upcoming graduating class—more hope now than in the past 13 years she has worked at UMW.
“There has never been so much momentum and reason to believe that we are actually going to see change. The fact that we have seen some improvements even in the past four years means that now it is going to be exponentially better. There is no better time to be hopeful, to go out there, start working, and quite literally save the planet.”