In February of 2019, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey introduced the Green New Deal resolution in the United States Congress.
The ambitious resolution calls for a 10-year mobilization to address climate change and economic inequality. Supporters hail the Green New Deal as a transformative plan that could create millions of jobs while slashing emissions.
Critics of the deal have argued that it may be too costly, too specific, and even not environmentally-focused enough!
In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the pros and cons of the Green New Deal.
The Green New Deal: A beginner’s guide
What is the Green New Deal, really?
The Green New Deal is a congressional resolution that outlines a comprehensive strategy for addressing climate change.
This resolution suggests that the federal government should cease reliance on fossil fuels and reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. It also aims to guarantee new high-paying employment in green energy sectors as a result of this transition.
However, nothing in the proposal would become legally required as the resolution is non-binding.
The Green New Deal takes its name and inspiration from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s major government transformation. This series of projects – also known as the New Deal – was established to assist the United States to recover from the Great Depression, from 1933-1939.
The term “Green New Deal” was first used by Pulitzer Prize-winner Thomas Friedman in January 2007, but didn’t gain popularity until 2019.
What does the deal hope to achieve?
The Green New Deal is a proposal for legislation that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also tackling other issues such as economic disparity and racial discrimination.
Supporters of the Green New Deal believe that change can’t just be achieved through technology alone, but that the deal must also tackle poverty, income disparity, and racism.
The resolution came up following two major reports published last year by the United Nations and federal scientists who warned that if global temperatures continue to rise, the world will experience more severe heat waves, fires, and droughts.
According to the report, climate change is expected to cost the US economy billions of dollars by the end of the century.
Sally Benson, co-director of the Precourt Institute for Energy deemed the resolution to be catalytic in nature. It opened new conversations regarding this subject.
She opined: “The Green New Deal is sparking an important and necessary conversation around the urgency of climate change. It’s a catalyst for a plan that will put us on an accelerated path to decarbonization.”
“That starts with putting a price on carbon to incentivize industry to reduce emissions and unleash market forces to drive the best approaches to scale. Beyond these market forces, the government should step up funding of research, maintain regulations that drive energy efficiency and lead modernization of the electricity grid.”
The Green New Deal: Its advantages and disadvantages
How will the deal benefit US citizens?
The Green New Deal plans to implement a $100 trillion economic stimulus package over ten years to create millions of jobs.
Americans would be provided high-quality employment backed by labor unions by redirecting money from the fossil fuel sector to green technology. The agreement ensures that underrepresented people, such as migrants, indigenous peoples, and people of color, are included.
Another key benefit would be savings. According to the supporters of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT): “The federal government can spend money on public priorities without raising revenue, and it won’t wreck the nation’s economy to do so.”
In addition, since the deal could result in the decline of diseases caused by fossil fuels, it would likely result in healthcare savings, as well as military savings as there will be no reason to safeguard fuel supplies abroad.
The party’s platform calls for a comprehensive carbon tax strategy to complement these measures.
What are its disadvantages?
Nothing is clear yet. However, these are a few concerns at this stage.
First, it will likely be expensive. The Green New Deal is estimated to cost as much as $93 trillion. The plan’s goal is to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in the United States by 2030. While it will be expensive at first, Ocasio-Cortez herself has said that the act will pay for itself through increased economic activity.
Second, social and political opposition. In the view of Mark Jacobson, director of Stanford’s Atmosphere/Energy Program:
”There is no technical or economic weakness, but social and political opposition is formidable. The fossil fuel industry has a lot at stake, and they sow doubt and oppose all legislation that will phase them out […] In addition, many people don’t care one way or the other and just don’t want to change their current lifestyle, so it is hard to encourage them to change.”
Third, according to Sarah Benson another big potential problem in the implementation of the GND would be in the need to broadly implement technologies that aren’t yet fully developed:
“We need to move as quickly as we can with technologies that are ready to go, like wind and solar power, and continue to develop other critical components of a deeply decarbonized energy system like large-scale weekly to seasonal energy storage.”
What do people think of the Green New Deal?
This massive overhaul is too radical for some, with some accusing the deal of being too socialist, extreme, or unattainable. Some are even concerned that their burgers will be taken away as a result of it!
These natural catastrophes and disasters are frightening images of the future for young people. As a consequence, they are the ones pushing for government action. They are the worldwide protesters leading strikes and sit-ins to expose bad leadership.
Young people and the Green New Deal
In a time of economic uncertainty and environmental crisis, some young people are experiencing new levels of “eco-anxiety” and “climate activism burnout.”
With a growing mental-health epidemic on college campuses, the looming burden of skyrocketing student debt, and the intimidating prospect of inheriting a planet on the verge of disaster, it’s no surprise that these millennials have been labeled the “burnout generation.”
The Green New Deal provides faint hope in a seemingly never-ending chain of new problems.
Some of the objectives outlined in the resolution — job security during a period of wage stagnation, investment in clean air, and water should resonate even in small towns.
Greta Thunberg on the Green New Deal
Likewise, Swedish young environmental activist Greta Thunberg seems to think otherwise.
Despite warnings from Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg that GND amounted to “surrender,” international organizations are pushing for Green New Deal policies abroad, leveraging the coronavirus outbreak.
In her words, she says that “Such a law sends a strong signal that real significant action is taking place when in fact it is not,” she said in Brussels. “Nature doesn’t bargain, and you cannot make deals with physics.”
How will the Green New Deal affect life in America?
Mark Jacobson, voiced his opinion on the Green New Deal’s strengths saying that “Such a transition will eliminate 62,000 air pollution deaths per year in the U.S, saving taxpayers $600 billion a year.
Climate cost savings to the world due to reducing U.S. emissions would be $3.3 trillion a year. These savings would continue for 100 years. The transition would create 2 million net jobs over those lost in the U.S.”
In the Green New Deal, it’ll be difficult for fossil fuel industries to be backed up and supported. And while it still has a long way to go before being enough, the Green New Deal has certainly changed the debate.
How can I get involved?
Climate change is an emergency that demands a rapid, non-partisan response from governments, businesses, groups, and individuals based on what scientists recommend must be done to avert disaster.
While The Green New Deal is more on the policy-making side primarily with the hands of legislators, it does not prevent normal individuals like us from helping in the fight against climate change. Even in our everyday systems, we can make a difference — like through the way we bank.