Let’s just get this out of the way first, climate change is real and it is a direct consequence of our lack of regard for the scientific data. Whether everyone can agree to that statement is a different argument, but for the purpose of this article, let’s accept it.
By refusing to acknowledge this threat, we are unquestionably years behind creating solutions. However, we do have one, very comprehensible, 14-page document that lays the groundwork of what we should be doing to solve this problem we created, and that is the Green New Deal.
Sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) in February 2019, they unintentionally suggested solutions to our two biggest issues at the present time: COVID-19 and climate change. Without understanding the dire economic situation that would be 2020, this bill addresses how to become economically stable without it costing our planet’s health.
The bill states obvious findings off the bat: Human activity being the dominant cause of climate change, our increase of wildfires, severe storms and droughts, the list goes on and on.
But none of this is new information, we know this; we’ve been hearing statistics or predictions for years. So why do we have such hesitation to governmental solutions? The Green New Deal is not the end all, be all solution. But it’s a start. Nowhere within the proposal are there dollar signs, but a roadmap for the next 30 years to have government action to create real change.
With the price of renewable energy becoming cheaper than fossil fuels we are seeing an influx of public and private companies pouring money into renewable energy projects. Earlier this year, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, pledged to divest from fossil fuel projects. This is certainly the right direction, but we can’t let up the pressure. This is an all or nothing, zero sum game that we cannot afford to lose.
Additional companies, like Google, Amazon and a number of airlines have proposed the same goal, but we must continue rid Washington of the corrupt oil industry to fully commit ourselves. Ultimately, our federal subsidy system is broken, which is why we need government intervention.
We claim to believe in the concept of free markets, yet the government not so secretly plays favorites. They reward the same large industries that are slowly killing us with harmful environmental tactics. We need to stop subsidizing factory farming and the fossil fuel industry. Those subsidies could be much better spent helping us invest in new green technologies.
Ultimately, as important as it is to recycle, compost and reduce our personal carbon footprint, individual change will not get us out of the hole corporations’ subsidies and the oil industry has dug us deeper into.
At the end of all of this, as the bill states, it is this nation’s moral imperative to lead the charge in finding a solution. The bill also gets into the vast wealth inequalities facing American workers, as well as the need for economic stimulus to repair our aging infrastructure. As former presidential candidate Andrew Yang has stated, as more of our jobs become automated, the more we need to create millions of jobs so every person can make a living wage. Investing in the Green New Deal is the place to start, just as FDR did with the New Deal in the depression-era.
The solutions the Green New Deal proposes through a stimulus package target both green energy and infrastructure, so we can achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, create millions of living-wage jobs, invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States and secure clean air, water; healthy food; access to nature; and a sustainable environment. It also outlines how it intends to do this in a way conducive to helping build up a strong middle class through equal opportunity programs.
Those are goals that I think we can all agree on, so how to pay for it?
The people in opposition to the bill – and there are many as it failed to reach the Senate back in March 2019, receiving a 0-57 vote after many democrats refused to participate in a “stunt” vote – state it is absurdly expensive to implement, throwing out top estimates at above $93 trillion.
However, these opposers fail to take into account the economic havoc that will happen if we don’t address these issues. In 2018, the environmental watchdog group the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report listing 35 U.S. coastal communities expected to face chronic and disruptive flooding before the end of the century – from Miami Beach, Fla. to Hilton Head, S.C. to Atlantic City, N.J., all underwater. And the estimated cost to protect these coastal cities by building seawalls? $400 billion.
If we do nothing to stop the rise of climate change, the cost will not only increase for structural protection, but our health care. In 2018, NRDC experts and a University of California-San Francisco economist examined the health impacts and costs of 10 climate-sensitive case study events affecting 11 states in 2012, finding that just in those 10 studies, the health care costs totaled an estimated $10 billion (2018 dollars). That was just 11 states in one year.
Though the Green New Deal estimated cost seems significant at first, it will not all be taken from taxpayers in fell swoop, but over the course of 30 years, and not all from the taxpayers. Ultimately, if we do nothing, the cost of climate change will only incur in other sectors of our lives. Not to mention, there are plenty of ways to raise the money needed through the private sector. Lawmakers quickly jumped to conclusions and assumptions without understanding what this proposal was actually saying.
The election of Joe Biden is certainly pushing us back on the right path, but there is such a way to go to fix all of the progress we’ve lost the past four years. While the consequences of COVID-19 will be at the forefront of Biden’s first term, the Green New Deal is an established bill that addresses a way where we can solve two problems at once.
For a country that claims to be the greatest in the world, it’s about time we take ownership of the damage we have created. Donald Trump has continually put Band-Aids on our economy, ballooning our federal debt. It’s time we start planning for the future, consider life cycle costs and start making immediate sizeable action, and adapting ideas and goals of the Green New Deal is a good place to start.
Ford Seeman is the founder and president of Forest Founders