Concentrations of greenhouse gases hit a record high last year despite a temporary slowdown in new emissions during the coronavirus pandemic, a new United Nations report found. The announcement of this grim new milestone comes days before world leaders of the G-20 summit meet in Rome to hash out a plan for reducing global warming.
Heightened alarm about climate change has sparked demand for environmental specialists who can help corporate and government leaders build a greener, more climate-resilient world. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in environmental science and specialties are projected to grow 8% the next decade, which is as fast as the average U.S. job growth rate.
"Both the government and companies understand that climate change is here and that they need to mitigate or try to stop it from getting worse," Valeria Orozco, the director of sustainability at Indeed, tells CNBC Make It. The ongoing pandemic has only fed into demand for such roles, Orozco adds. "There's an environmental health component to climate change, but also to the coronavirus pandemic," she explains. "People want more open, green spaces, because the transmission rate is lower outdoors, which is especially important for more densely populated regions, and people care more now about indoor air quality and ventilation to curb the spread of the virus."
Here are the six fastest-growing jobs with an environmental focus over the next decade, according to the BLS:
Environmental jobs are multifaceted. There's the civil engineers who pay close attention to building structures resilient to larger, more intense natural disasters, for example, so cities can recover from extreme weather events quicker. There's also the solar panel installers who help people adopt renewable energy sources, and environmental managers who urge companies to consider the risks associated with climate change and follow environmental regulations outlined by the government. "In all these roles, professionals want people to ask themselves: 'What does climate change mean for our lives, our business, and our operations?'" Orozco notes.
Wind turbine service technicians and solar photovoltaic installers top the list of fast-growing jobs as more companies and homeowners consider switching from fossil fuels to wind and solar power. The International Energy Agency reports that renewables are expected to dominate 2021 energy investments, about 70% of the $530 billion countries spend on new power.
Other jobs, including environmental science and protection technicians, soil and plant scientists as well as foresters, closely monitor plants, land and other natural resources for changes or signs of contamination. Foresters and forest fire inspectors, in particular, have become more critical due to an increase in wildfires in the U.S. West, BLS Division Chief Michael Wolf notes.
Several of these roles require an associate's or bachelor's degree, research experience and science knowledge. However, Orozco says that having strong communication skills is a critical trait someone needs to succeed in an environmental role. "People view sustainability with a lot of cynicism," she says. "You have to be able to build trust, credibility and communicate with your colleagues about sensitive issues in an objective, balanced manner, because if no one likes you, your technical skills won't take you very far."