Green New Deal

May. 13, 2019

There has been a lot of misinformation regarding the Green New Deal and I thought I would explore it this week. First, it’s always best to go straight to the actual document, which anyone can access and read at: https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hres109/BILLS-116hres109ih.pdf

Basically the Green New Deal offers goals to:

  • achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers
  • create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States
  • invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century by making public investments in the research and development of new clean and renewable energy technologies and industries;
  • secure for all people of the United States for generations to come—  (i) clean air and water; (ii) climate and community resiliency; (iii) healthy food; (iv) access to nature; and (v) a sustainable environment.

The document is simply a statement of goals, but it does not have any regulations, laws or rules. The language is general and more a set of principles and aims rather than policies. It details how climate change affects the economy, the environment, and national security and outlines goals and projects for a 10-year national mobilization.

The term “Green New Deal” was first used by Pulitzer Prize-winner Thomas Friedman in January 2007. FDR’s New Deal is a great reference point for the Green New Deal. The New Deal created a number of ambitious government programs focused on massive infrastructural investment during the Great Depression, and set the foundation for many environmental, artistic, and public works achievements in American life. To some extent, it’s this generation’s moon shot in that it will take a national effort to achieve the goals of transitioning into sustainable energy and healthy agricultural practices.  

In terms of the misinformation offered about the document, hamburgers and air travel are not going to be outlawed. Fast rail and other transportation options can help reduce the need for air travel. There are also more humane and environmentally sustainable ways of cattle ranching that do not involve agribusiness feedlots and maximum production overcrowding protocols that are not healthy for the livestock or the people who consume them.

There has been an erroneous claim that the Green New Deal could cost $93 trillion dollars. That claim is being questioned. But what is the cost of doing nothing?

Here is some information from a paper published in Nature Climate Change about the costs of climate change:

  • $26 billion in annual losses due to worsened air quality
  • $140 billion due to temperature-related deaths
  • $160 billion in lost labor
  • $120 billion in yearly damage to coastal property
  • Changes to electricity demand and supply would cost $9.2 billion per year.
  • Damage to rail systems would cost $5.5 billion
  •  more than $21 billion more for roads and bridges.
  • Increased rainfall totals will stress urban drainage systems, to the tune of $5.6 billion per year.
  • The mosquito-borne West Nile and Zika viruses will expand their range dramatically, costing $3.3 billion.
  • Inland flooding will cost $8 billion more, along with $4.6 billion due to water quality issues, and
  • $2 billion in lost winter recreation revenue
  • Damage to various ecosystems will carry extreme costs, from $3.1 billion in damage to freshwater fish stocks to $4.1 billion in losses on coral reefs.

All told, the study suggests, largely unchecked warming would cost about $520 billion dollars across these sectors every year by 2090. So inaction will cost money also.

Taking action will be costly, but if done well, it can also create economic benefits. Shifting to a sustainable energy economy can bring back manufacturing here in the United States. Why are we buying our wind turbines and solar panels from other countries instead of building, exporting and leading the world in this area? Putting people to work on green projects, similar to the way FDR put people to work on big projects, will stimulate the economy. And we do need an electrical grid update, public transportation improvements.

Specific policies supporting renewable energy would offer clear economic benefits. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that a “high-end” renewable energy standard could increase jobs in the sector—which already employs close to a million people in the U.S.—by 47 percent. The aforementioned Global Commission report found that “ambitious climate action” could generate more than 65 million new low-carbon jobs in 2030.  A report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate found that “bold action” could result in a direct economic gain of $26 trillion by 2030—a likely underestimation.

So, read the Green New Deal for yourself and see how radical it seems given the current environmental situation and the warnings we have been receiving from the scientific community for decades.