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A breakdown of the Green New Deal

BY: Elizabeth Buerkle

In 2018, the UN Panel on Climate Change reported that it was critical we stayed below the 2 degree celsius warming to prevent catastrophic damage to the planet. If the temperature rises past that, ice sheets will melt and fail to reflect the sun’s rays, causing an exponential heat rise that will be impossible to stop. Trillions of dollars, millions of lives, and shifts to the globe that won’t be able to be undone for centuries. For the U.S., global warming past 2 degrees will cost upwards of one trillion by 2050, along with 99% of all coral reefs on earth, 350 million exposed to deadly heat stress, and mass migrations out of coastal areas.

On February 7th, 2019, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts introduced a nonbinding resolution to the House of Representatives known as the Green New Deal, a 14 page plan to shift the United States to an economy entirely based in renewable energy by 2030; a chance at slowing the rapid progression to a projected increase far past 2 degrees. The backlash that ensued deemed it a disastrous threat to the traditional economy, “...a garden variety of 20th century socialism” in the words of the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The controversy surrounding the document is potent, however it is rarely specified that it isn’t even an official piece of legislation that can be passed, rather simply a plan. The tactical framing of the resolution has shifted focus from the policies within the document to the politics of whether it will help or harm each party. In order to bring other confusions like that to light, here’s a breakdown of the Green New Deal.

It’s can be simplified to 4 goals:

  1. All energy is renewable, including the national grid

  2. Remove carbon emissions from agriculture and factory work

  3. Upgrade nationwide infrastructure, emphasis on public transportation

  4. Become an international leader in renewable energy, making sustainable technology to other nations a top export

Proposals for low-tech climate solutions include reforesting cultivated land, protecting marshes and wetlands, and minimizing the beef industry, which accounts for 41% of livestock greenhouse emissions. In fact, shifting dietary habits could account for 20% of the action needed to prevent the 2 degree celsius increase the UN warns against. Food and clean water will be guaranteed to all and will be shifted to local sources for each region, removing the need for long-range trucking transportation of groceries. Additionally, one common solution to reducing greenhouse emissions, a carbon tax, is mentioned nowhere in the document, for it can target low income families who rely on gas run automobiles. 

Along with environmental protection, there are also economic and social benefits provided as well. Millions of jobs will be created in sustainable fields like installing solar panels, rebuilding public infrastructure, vehicle manufacturing, and to prevent companies from threatening low wage employees with the risk of no work at all by restricting the outsourcing of labor to oversea factories. A nationwide minimum income would be put in place, guaranteeing a living wage for all, as well as paid vacations, family and medical leave, and retirement through the Full-Employment Program. Furthermore, medical bills would be spared for said workers by reducing pollution caused diseases like asthma, strokes, black lung for coal workers especially, and cancer. People that would initially lose their jobs from fossil fuel industries being uprooted are guaranteed jobs, education and training to shift into the new energy fields that would replace their former employers, not to mention protecting their right to unionize and bargain with their higher-ups to prevent oil barons morphing into solar and wind barons. One of the biggest focuses in the second part of the document is preventing the wealth gap from growing even larger after the shift takes place, “...prioritizing high-quality job creation and economic, social, and environmental benefits in frontline and vulnerable communities, and deindustrialized communities, that may otherwise struggle with the transition away from greenhouse gas-intensive industries.” It would prevent occurrences like the Standing Rock pipeline debacle, where a fracking company shifted its pollution causing infrastructure to a native reservation rather than an affluent white suburb. 

One of the most intimidating parts of the Green New Deal is that it takes into account that it’s too late to make changes incrementally. People will have to adjust quickly, money will be invested in giant amounts; a pretty 94.4 trillion dollars worth. People cry out demanding to know how we’ll pay for such legislation when no concerns were uttered during the 100 billion increase in the U.S. military budget, or the 2 trillion tax break given to billionaires. Congress will pass spending, the Treasury will provide, as has happened with countless other expensive pieces of legislation. The Green New Deal would provide support to the middle and lower class that can help prevent deflation (the real threat compared to inflation) that brought upon disasters like the crash of 2008. 

Welfare and Medicaid will also lose their purpose because the jobs created will provide economic stability to those that rely on them, saving the federal budget nearly 1.1 trillion. In fact, the investments taken on by the government to fund this shift would prove more effective than current stimulus checks used recently in the coronavirus economic crisis, since the pumping of checks into American pockets yields no payback in the form of infrastructure and new products, only direct inflation to the existing market. Not to mention that this investment will be funding human rights like clean food, water, and shelter, rather than weapons of mass destruction. Partisanship stands in the way of moving anywhere past the mere 14 page resolution, not a bill, as sitting members of congress hold snowballs to the cameras to claim climate change isn’t real. Action needs to be taken, and fast, and this document is one of the first attempts at doing so with data aligned with the UN Climate Panel. If we continue to brush it aside, the environment will continue to deteriorate before our eyes, and republican voting bases in Texas, Virginia, Louisiana and more will be lost under rising sea levels. 

*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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