Editorial cartoon by Leah Ronkin
Climate change is a common topic of discussion in current politics. Democratic presidential hopefuls have all laid out the ways they plan on tackling it. The president has tweeted about it. The science is clear: climate change is a ticking time bomb, and if we don’t find ways to address it, property and life alike will be lost. Perhaps the most comprehensive plan to deal with climate change is the Green New Deal.
The Green New Deal is a potential House resolution proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The title is a derivative of the New Deal, the series of sweeping resolutions passed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to end the Great Depression. Similarly, the Green New Deal aims to put a halt to climate change. The phrase was first used in 2007 by journalist Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, where he argued in favor of sweeping climate reforms.
In February 2019, Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey released a resolution outlining the plans for their Green New Deal. This thrust the issue into the public spotlight.
The goals discussed in the Green New Deal encompass all aspects of American life. Clean energy is a central point of the resolution, which seeks within 10 years to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, “as much as technologically possible;” meet 100% of energy needs with clean energy and overhaul transport to be clean. Other technological goals include improving public transport, upgrading buildings to increase efficiency, and building updated infrastructure to build resilience against climate-related natural disasters.
The Green New Deal does not limit itself to a solely technology-based solution, though. Instead, it recognizes that to bring the United States into the future, strides must also be made in human rights and equality. The most widely encompassing goal is for the federal government to provide everyone in the country with free healthcare, housing, economic security, clean water and food.
These basic human needs must be met by the U.S. government in order for all Americans to truly have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as the Constitution outlines. The resolution also discusses the importance of providing higher education to all citizens of the U.S., with a particular emphasis on outreach to historically disadvantaged and marginalized communities. It advocates for racial justice and equal pay for men and women.
These strides are absolutely necessary to make to bring America back into a position of global respect. By backing out of the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Accords, two global agreements intended to combat climate change, America has taken the role of the Earth’s grandfather: clinging on to old ways. We need to resume our position as a change-maker and a leader of progress.
Like any major proposal for reform, the Green New Deal is incredibly controversial. Most of its support comes from the Democratic party, particularly those further to the political left, such as Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Rashida Talib and Rep. John Lewis. Republicans, including President Donald Trump, are largely opposed to the resolution.
The primary arguments against the resolution are that it is unrealistic and would be too expensive. Some have also referred to it as “socialist.” Climate change deniers, who consider climate change to be a “hoax,” or blown out of proportion, are also generally opposed to the Green New Deal.
These arguments, though, are generally bad-faith criticism of change for tradition’s sake. Nonrenewable energy giants have their fingers in every aspect of American life, including politics. The same companies that are causing climate change are actively opposing the Green New Deal because it would hurt their bottom line.
However, progress should not be halted purely for the sake of profits. The clean and renewable energy markets are developing quickly, and the U.S. is quickly being outpaced by China and other countries that are focusing their efforts on seizing this opportunity.
The Green New Deal could very well be expensive to start up, but the U.S. has no problem spending countless billions of dollars on military conflicts and tax cuts for the wealthy. It is only when progress is on the menu that politicians begin to loudly complain about the proposed resolution.
Climate change is an urgent and growing threat currently going unaddressed by the U.S. government. It is destroying ecosystems and worsening natural disasters. People are dying in hurricanes and wildfires that will continue to worsen, if we do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
This is an enormous and complex problem, and it needs a solution on an enormous and complex scale. The Green New Deal provides a well thought-out and well-planned solution that would reshape America into a giant prepared to face the future and make it better.
This story was originally published in the December 2019 Eagle Eye print edition.