What’s in the Air? The Green New Deal

Photo credit: by Becker1999, from the Flickr album, "Tell Democrats: We Need a Green New Deal" (CC BY 2.0)

The steam is rising again as the Green New Deal resolution makes its way to the floor of Congress. The GND is a plan for economic growth that addresses changes in climate and inequalities. The GND resolution, prepared by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey is the closest thing to an actual bill that Congress has been asked to consider. The resolution, introduced on February 7, outlines goals for the federal government and sets a tone for to the 2020 presidential election. 

The GND resolution discusses the history of America’s environmental action and its relation to economic conditions against a backdrop of an impending climate crisis. Statistics on workers, infrastructure, and carbon emissions raise alarm and spur action about what needs to be done in the coming election.

The resolution lays out the United States’ historical role in contributing to the problem of climate and its responsibility to address the climate crisis:

Whereas, because the United States has historically been responsible for a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions, having emitted 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions through 2014, and has a high technological capacity, the United States must take a leading role in reducing emissions through economic transformation.

Most of the items in the resolution call the need for the United States to take the first steps to bring about change in order to get other nations to follow. For just a few months in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez has already made an impact from helping put together this resolution.

Photo credit: by Becker1999, from the Flickr album, “Tell Democrats: We Need a Green New Deal” (CC BY 2.0)

Ocasio-Cortez advocacy for the Green New Deal has helped inspire groups like the Sunrise Movement to mobilize nationally. In order to understand the potential of the GND, it is important to figure out where it came from. The concept of a Green New Deal is not new, in a 2007 New York Times article by columnist Thomas Friedman, as a wake-up initiative to address climate issues. In, ‘A Warning From the Garden’, Friedman explained that his motivation is the idea that “if we undertake the green version, it has the potential to create a whole new clean power industry to spur our economy into the 21st century.”

Friedman recognized the need for a change in energy use if citizens desired to continue to call this earth home. Though his article briefly discussed a hypothesis for changing the environment on a national scale, it became the launching board for what the Green New Deal has become today.

Outlined by a recent Data Progress report, “A Green New Deal,” Greg Carlock, Emily Mangan, and Sean McElwee argue that a Green New Deal:

  • is necessary to meet the scale and urgency of environmental challenges facing the United States, based on the best available research.
  • can bring job growth and economic opportunity, with a particular focus on historically disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.
  • is popular among American voters and can mobilize them in 2018.
  • can be executed in a way that is environmentally just and distributes benefits equitably.
  • is financially feasible and necessary.

The work done by Ocasio-Cortez and Markey show the potential the GND could have and as stated from the preamble, it could be “a historic opportunity to create millions of good, high-wage jobs in the United States”. The passion for the deal from Ocasio-Cortez and student supporters are evident, sparking conversation all over the political sphere. 

The GND turn up the heat on major corporations on excessive resource use and finally out the wealthy in check. If the deal is carefully figured out and intentionally planned, it could become a reality in the coming year and election of 2020.

While some critics have pointed to the lack of specific policy proposals in the Green New Deal resolution offered by Ocasio-Cortez and Markey, veteran environmental journalist David Roberts explained in Vox just how significant the GND resolution is: 

It’s worth noting just what a high-wire act the authors of this resolution are attempting. It has to offer enough specifics to give it real shape and ambition, without over-prescribing solutions or prejudging differences over secondary questions. It has to please a diverse range of interest groups, from environmental justice to labor to climate, without alienating any of them. It has to stand up to intense scrutiny (much of it sure to be bad faith), with lots of people gunning for it from both the right and center.

And, of course, it eventually has to give birth to real legislation.

Given all those demands, the resolution does a remarkably good job of threading the needle. It is bold and unmistakably progressive, matched to the problem as defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, while avoiding a few needless fights and leaving room for plenty of debate over priorities and policy tools.

The Green New Deal has environmental improvement motivations in mind, and could potentially be the solution activists have been looking for, and the way to fix the damage pf climate change.  

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