Opponents of taking drastic climate action say it would result in the loss of thousands of jobs and additional burdens put on the taxpayer. Orts, on the other hand, says reducing carbon emissions and creating jobs don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
“You do have to make a transition from oil and gas jobs and coal miner jobs to renewable energy jobs, and people are concerned about that,” Orts said. In August, his campaign released his Green Paper on the Climate Emergency and Jobs, in which he calls out the Senate for “several decades of inaction.” The paper outlines Orts’ ideas to triple President Joe Biden’s proposed funding for climate infrastructure, accelerate goals for phasing out the use of fossil fuels and protect 30% of federal lands and oceans by 2030.
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With such high ambitions, Orts states that making fiscal moves such as taxing financial transactions and adjusting the defense budget can help pay for his proposals.
“We argue for what’s called a just transition. In other words, you have to treat people fairly. You can’t just say, ‘sorry your job has to disappear for the general good,’” Orts said. “What you have to do instead is have a clear plan that provides people for payments, actual monetary payments, to be moving from one job to another, or if one job [you’re] making a little bit less than the previous job … The transition to an energy economy should not just fall on the people who are having to change their jobs.”
Orts also recognized that before the country can address climate change, it must reform the Senate. One of several social media ads the Orts campaign says he will be “the 51st vote for the climate.” He’s joined in with other Democratic candidates calling for an end to the filibuster.
“Most of my business students that I have been teaching, it’s not controversial to them that we need to deal with the climate issue. They can be Republican, they can be Democrat or they can be independent. The younger people see this as an important issue because it is their lives and they see it within their lifetimes,” he said.
Orts’ claims his tenure at Wharton has given him a better perspective of what young voters are searching for, and, he says, almost all agree climate change is a serious problem. Borick said polling tends to agree. A national survey on energy and environment issues conducted by Muhlenberg earlier this year found that 75% of adult Americans believe there is solid evidence that temperatures have risen over the last four decades. Nearly half of those respondents were below 45 years of age.
“You’re hoping to leverage [climate change], certainly among Democratic voters and younger voters,” Borick said. “It’s an important issue, but to rise to the level of some of the other, more well-known and well-funded candidates like Fetterman and Lamb, we haven’t seen it yet.”
Going forward, Orts believes that his climate campaign will capture the attention of those young voters and other Pennsylvanians worried about the future of the commonwealth. No other Senate candidates are prioritizing one issue quite like Orts. Whether or not the issue of climate change is strong enough to put him in line with other big names remains to be seen.
“We’re an underdog, but we believe that once the message gets out and people start to pick up the message that we’re going to have a winning case to be made to the people of Pennsylvania.”