The New Green Deal: America's last great chance
The last few weeks have seen a changing of the guard in Democratic politics, as newly elected progressive representatives are beginning to throw their weight around in their new workplace. The new legislative session doesn’t begin until Thursday, Jan. 3, but Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made her voice heard last month when she joined a group of climate change protestors outside of Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office calling for, among other things, the single most ambitious climate change legislature ever to be introduced.
Ocasio-Cortez’s New Green Deal is a response to dire news from the climate change front. Within the last few weeks, several reputable sources, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and President Donald Trump’s own White House, have released reports warning that we have perhaps less than 10 years to drastically reverse the effect of extreme pollution in our environment. The panel unanimously called for a worldwide effort to reduce pollution and transition fully away from fossil fuels, a position that scientists have been backing with increased urgency since the 1970s. Government response has been lukewarm at best; however, Ocasio-Cortez and the progressive left of the Democratic Party are looking to change that with the ambitious Green New Deal. The concept behind the program, like the name might imply, is heavily influenced by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous New Deal, which helped lift the United States out of the Great Depression in the 1930s. Like the original deal, Ocasio-Cortez’s plan would focus largely on developing green infrastructure within the United States, with a concentration on converting the national power grid to zero-emissions and developing increased solar and wind power output. The progressives sponsoring the deal, which includes 14 other House Democrats besides Ocasio-Cortez, argue that the massive building program will revitalize a crumbling American infrastructure and create millions of new jobs. The first step that the plan outlines would involve the Speaker of the House reinstating the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, but the larger effects – if the plan came to pass –would completely revamp the American energy system, with the overall goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2035. It seems like an impossible deal, born to die in the cold, uncaring hands of Congress. But this could be America’s last great chance to put climate change right, before the damage becomes irreversible.
The costs of global warming will be catastrophic and easily justify bold and decisive movement. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already estimates that the cost of repair to infrastructure as a result of climate change will top $300 billion by the end of the century – a number that will only continue to rise as the crisis progresses. It’s a number that looks even larger compared to the $147 billion annually that Green New Deal investing would add to the country’s gross domestic product, as well as 1.1 million new jobs in the first year. America has invested in infrastructure programs of this scale before, and time and time again it has proven to have been a massive boon to the economy. People would vote for it, too: more than 70 percent of Americans support strong green policy, and more than half believe that investing in green infrastructure will create jobs. The numbers are there; all that’s left is the policy.
It’s here that all movement on green progress has been stalled, usually by hundreds of millions of dollars spent by oil and natural gas lobbyists on both sides of the aisle. Republicans especially have been slow to accept climate change data, but no one is an innocent party; nearly $25 million has been spread around from oil and gas lobbyists, $4 million of it to Democrats. But even some who could never be described as “progressive” have voiced support for a radical green program, going as far back as to Mr. Radical Centrist himself Thomas Friedman in 2007, who advocated for a carbon tax and as much as $51 billion in “green stimulus” to drive development.
We’re sitting at the tail end of 40 years of climate change denial propaganda, and every attempt to stir development has stalled. Instead, the United States has settled for half-measures, cover-ups and denial, a bad combination for a country which ranks No. 2 in carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. If Democrats want to make a move on climate change, it has to be bold, decisive and unified. They have to want to change the world, to be willing to unshackle themselves from oil and gas money and set an example for the rest of the world. If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is willing to lead the way, who are we to stop her? It doesn’t seem like anyone could if they tried anyway.