What is The Green New Deal?

You have most likely at some point in the past 3 years read, or heard someone talking about The Green New Deal. You know it has something to do with the environment, but what exactly is it? This article provides insight into what The Green New Deal is, how it will affect American livelihoods, and why it is necessary for solving the climate crisis.

A heat wave striking Western Canada last week may have been the reason for up to 500 deaths. On Friday, 34 Saskatchewan communities set records for their hottest temperature ever recorded. Lytton, a town in British Columbia set a Canadian record last week reaching a temp of 49.6 degrees Celsius. Eight other townships in British Columbia set temperature records by more than 10 degrees from what the previous record was. Following the heat wave was an explosion of forest fires that devastated Lytton, killing at least 2 people. With all of the craziness that has gone on in the past year and a half, these headlines do not spark the same interest as Donald Trump holding a bible in front of a church during civil unrest or news about a deadly disease that is spreading like wildfire in North America. Just like climate change, it’s not all about the single event taking place, rather multiple events compiling over time to make a much bigger problem. That is the same way I think of the public’s reaction to these stories. Maybe 1, 2, or even 10 stories don’t quite grab your attention, but once these headlines start stringing along, they will start to turn your head. These headlines cannot be normalized or we face the fear of climate complacency. 

So, what can we do to avoid these headlines? For starters, we can learn how our everyday lives add to the changing climate and see what we can do to lessen this impact. This is a very positive thing to do and multiplied by millions of people will show results. Unfortunately, this won’t be enough. The reality is we can try our best to change our ways but if the government and large corporations are not on board then defeating this climate crisis will be near impossible. This is where The Green New Deal comes into play. 

Figure 1 – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Left) and Sen Ed Markey (Right) announce the Green New Deal on February 7th, 2019.

America is one of the top contributors in the world of greenhouse gases, while also having substantial influence on many other countries around the world. This is why climate action from The United States is so important in winning this battle. On February 7th, 2019 Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen Ed Markey (D-Mass) announced a congressional resolution that if implemented, has the hopes to solve the climate crisis. The resolution they presented was called “The Green New Deal”, a blueprint for America to gradually move toward renewable energy and off of fossil fuels while creating new high-paying jobs in the clean energy sector. The actual report is only 14 pages long linked here

To save you the time of reading through the whole document I will lay out the main points. There are two main things the deal is targeting. The first is avoiding climate disasters by meeting the goals of what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released. The second is to create jobs and boost the economy. The Green New Deal says that the world must be carbon neutral by 2050 and America has a pivotal role to play in achieving this goal. From transportation to agriculture, the Green New Deal calls to dramatically reduce the number of Greenhouse Gases being burned in a 10-year mobilization. During this time the deal says America must source 100% of the country’s electricity from renewable and zero-emissions power, invest in electric vehicle power, and upgrade buildings across the country to a more efficient and eco-friendly model. The adoption of these changes will create a wide range of well-paying jobs. The deal also has a social justice aspect as it will attempt to pay particular attention to minority groups and communities who will be disproportionately affected by economic transitions like The Green New Deal. This is a non-binding resolution which means if it does pass through congress then nothing within the deal will actually become law.

Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen Ed Markey have popularized The Green New Deal in the past couple of years but were not the originators. The Green New Deal can be traced back as far as 2003 in a San Francisco Chronicle article and then again popularized by Thomas Friedman in a New York Times Article in 2007. Barack Obama gave the phrase traction in 2009 with his stimulus that favoured environmental initiatives. The current version contains the most aggressive goals for both the environment and the economy.

How Will the Government Execute The Green New Deal?

Figure 2 – How the American government plans to execute The Green New Deal.

The idea of implementing the monumental changes that The Green New Deal proposes may be scary or unnerving. This is normal as the proposal is quite opposite of anything we have experienced in our lifetime. The greatest thing about The Green New Deal is it not only tackles issues to do with the environment but it also creates vast amounts of opportunity. New well-paying jobs in the clean energy sector will become available, along with the expansion of workers needed for the building of new and existing sustainable infrastructure. Approximately 2 million more jobs will be created than lost.

So why do we need The Green New Deal? The United Nations International Climate Science Panel came out with a report in 2018 that stated by 2030 the effects of a changing climate may become irreversible. Without intense action, we could lose the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet which would raise water levels another 4 inches. Without these ice sheets, there is amplified feedback of a warming globe as less heat is reflected from the ice and more absorbed by the ocean. This increase in water temperatures could kill over 90% of the world’s coral reefs by 2050. The increase in heat could also kill up to 100 million humans from increased drought, heat waves, and infectious diseases. The earth’s average temperature is rising faster than at any point in history, revealing that human action is disrupting the earth’s cycle and is set to cause drastic changes. The main reason to implement The Green New Deal, or something that achieves IPCC environmental goals, is to save the world from a climate disaster and possible collapse. 

Climate scientists and experts around the world have pointed us in one direction, act on climate issues or face life-threatening consequences. The Green New Deal is an option, but not the only one available. The point is, action must take place one way or another as we cannot afford to further stall and debate over facts. Planet earth has been around for 4.5 billion years, humans and our ancestors have existed on this planet for 6 million years, and now, in 2021, we are the ones who have been tasked with this information. We are the ones who can change the course of the planet and all that lives on it, for good, or for worse.

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