How does the green new deal work? Why green new deal is good? Every few years, they gather to tell us what’s happening to our warming planet. In 2018, they had some news. “It’s very clear that half a degree matters.”
This is a chart of how much the global temperature has gone up since we discovered fossil fuels. For a long time, scientists said that we should try to stay under this line: 1.5 degrees celsius. But that really, we’d be okay if we ended up below this line: 2 degrees.
Now they were saying, that wasn’t quite right. That we’re not safe in this zone. And that hitting this line will mean a spike in mass migration, wildfires, deadly heat stress – and it’s going to cost us. “Trillions of dollars, millions of lives. Irreversible, forever. Changes that cannot be undone in centuries.”
That’s what happens if we get warming to stop here. And right now, we’re on track to go way past that. “If action is not taken, it will take the planet into an unprecedented climate future, if we compare it to what has happened during all of human evolutionary history.” We don’t have a plan for this. So a group of American activists started to make one.
They recruited a Congresswoman and a senator to turn it into a Congressional resolution. It’s the first step of a plan that has mostly yet to be written. It’s called the Green New Deal. And inside, there’s something we might not want to hear. This is the Green New Deal resolution. It’s only 14 pages.
And to understand what’s in it, it’s important to understand what’s not. “It is not a bill. It’s not legislation. It’s not a policy proposal. It’s not anything that you could pass and make law.” This is my colleague David Roberts. Dave’s written a lot about the Green New Deal.
And he says the 14-page resolution is just a first step. “The idea was, what’s our shared understanding of the problem, and what’s necessary to solve it?” The Green New Deal contains basically two big ideas. The first is this question of what we need to do to solve the impending climate crisis.
The Green New Deal says what climate scientists say: We need to completely stop burning fossil fuels — “as much as technologically feasible.” “So that means things like rethinking vehicles, energy efficiency standards for buildings, changing the ways we make steel and concrete.” That’s Rhiana Gunn-Wright.
She’s part of the think tank that came up with the Green New Deal. “Policy director at New Consensus.” Rhiana writes policy. And she likes to rattle off the things that moving away from fossil fuels will entail. “Moving to electric vehicles. Make that home energy efficient. The food that you buy will be grown locally.”
The Green New Deal requires building a lot of new things, the things to power the world, without fossil fuels. And that’ll create new jobs, new industries, an entire new economy. But Rhiana also emphasizes that this is going to inflict a cost. “It’s going to be a massive undertaking, because we’re asking how do we rethink the ways we use energy in our society.”
A key principle of the Green New Deal is that it’s too late to incrementally move away from fossil fuels. It has to happen quickly, and dramatically. Or as Dave puts it: “People don’t seem to get, zero emissions means zero oil business, zero natural gas business. No coal business, no internal combustion engine auto business.
The number “zero” means it all has to go.”” Here’s what decarbonizing will do. When we rip out fossil fuels from the economy, people are going to lose their jobs. And that means they’ll lose their health care and maybe their homes. But the Green New Deal also has a second part.
And this part acknowledges that transitioning Americans away from fossil fuels is a huge and difficult ask — especially at a time when so many live in economic uncertainty. “How can we go to the American people and say ‘I sure hope you aren’t one of the people who loses a job, because then you might die, sick on the street. Good luck. Now will you sign my bill?'”
This is the contradiction that the Green New Deal describes. It’s the part we may not want to hear: That we need to take action, and also that taking action will cause pain. Imagine you’re a coal worker. If the US decarbonizes, you are going to suffer.
So this second part is a set of promises, for how Americans will be protected during the transition away from fossil fuels. “Jobs guarantee, public employment, universal healthcare, education and training.” “The basic elements of economic freedom that ought to be promised and due to every citizen of the richest country in the world.”
And these promises aren’t just for protecting coal workers. They’re meant to keep all inequality from getting even worse during the transition. Because think about what direction wealth, and power, usually flow in — when new things get built. It’s the communities with the most political clout who decide where things can and can’t be built.
Wealthy corporations jump in to build those projects. And the good jobs go to people who can afford to get trained for them. “The folks who have the fewest barriers will be the ones who benefit the most, and you’re just going to see a replication of the issues that we have now.” In other words, anyone who’s historically missed out on those benefits — especially the poor, and people of color — could end up even worse off.
So the Green New Deal says, we should rebuild the American economy — in a way that allows opportunity to flow more fairly. “The Green New Deal is about: While we have this chance, why don’t we think about that proactively to change it in the ways that people have been calling for it to be changed for generations at this point.” So the first part of the Green New Deal is a set of goals to avoid a global disaster.
The second part says we should do it in a way that helps ordinary Americans come out better on the other side. And that’s it. That’s all that’s in these 14 pages. It’s just a first step. And now, Rhiana’s job is to figure out how to go from this 14-page resolution to an actual Green New Deal – a road map for what government needs to do next. And their goal is that, if Democrats win power in 2020, there’s a plan ready to execute.
For now, though, the Green New Deal is just asking our leaders to acknowledge the scale of the problems we face. “This disastrous plan …” “… would be a massive government takeover…” “… it would stifle innovation…” “… wasteful and reckless spending…” “… rather than setting realistic goals… ” “… we would go from about 94 million cows to zero cows…” “… that resolution will not pass the Senate.
Because there’s no way to pay for it…” “Desctructive, socialist, daydream.” The Green New Deal is a longshot. But right now it’s also the only plan that acknowledges what we know is coming. “What is the world that we want? What is the country that we want? And how do we get there? And how do we get there in a way that is just, and how do we get there in a way that stabilizes the climate and heals our planet? Because if we don’t do that, then there will be no paradigm because there will be nothing to fight for.”
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