The Green New Details

US House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY14) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) released their Green New Deal Proposal this week. It’s a Resolution, which means it’s not a new law, but more like a statement of purpose or broad blueprint, which (if adopted) would guide (but not bind) the development of the law.

Here’s the Congressional summary of the resolution, but it’s worth reading the actual text of the proposal, which is easily readable for non-lawyers (and which will inoculate you from the hot takes from people who clearly didn’t read the proposal, only others’ summaries). It starts by acknowledging the climate crisis described by the IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 ºC and Fourth National Climate Assessment—and it’s clear they actually read the IPCC summary for policy makers, which outlines which drastic changes are necessary to prevent literally billions from dying of thirst, forest fires, etc. Those changes “include attention to poverty and sustainable development.”

The GND proposal states that, as a primary polluter, the US has a responsibility to lead in “reducing emissions through economic transformation,” and ties climate change to income inequality, declining life expectancy in the US, and racial and gender wealth divides, noting that climate issues disproportionately affect “indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth” (or “frontline and vulnerable communities”). It notes that climate change is a national security threat.

It proposes a 10-year national mobilization to build resilience to extreme weather and other climate disasters, to repair and upgrade US infrastructure, and to switch to entirely green energy. There’s a long list of ways to do that which we won’t recap here, but which touch on manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, environmental clean-up, and educational opportunities, in coordination and consultation with “frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions, worker cooperatives, civil society groups, academia, and businesses.” It ends with the promise of “providing all people of the United States with—(i) high-quality health care; (ii) affordable, safe, and adequate housing; (iii) economic security; and (iv) clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and access to nature.”

Critics have predictably demanded to know how we’ll pay for it (ignoring the even higher cost of inaction) and likened it to a socialist fever dream or total government control.

On the issue of how we’ll pay for it: investment website The Motley Fool has an explainer of AOC’s 70% top marginal tax rate idea, in which Americans with more than $10 million/year in income would pay 70% on income above $10 million. Her proposal is separate from the Green New Deal, but obviously related.

Further reading:

Representative Ocasio-Cortez, whose educational background is in economics, understands as few leaders seem to do that our problems of late have been problems of deflation, not inflation. She also knows well that both inequality and the loss of our middle class have both caused and been worsened by these deflationary trends, along with their mirror images in the financial markets: our asset price hyperinflations – ‘bubbles’ – and busts. Her Green New Deal aims to do nothing short of reversing this slow-motion national suicide – and end our ongoing ‘planet-cide’ in the process.

—”The Green New Deal: How We Will Pay For It Isn’t ‘A Thing’ – And Inflation Isn’t Either” (Robert Hockett, Forbes, 16 Jan 2019)

Frontline and vulnerable communities stand to get it coming and going, from the problem and from the solutions. And unlike big energy companies pursuing growth, unlike idle billionaires fascinated with new tech, unlike banks and financial institutions seeking out new income streams, unlike incumbent industries fat from decades of subsidies, frontline and vulnerable communities do not have the means to fund campaigns and hire expensive lobbyists. They do not have the means to make their voice heard in the scrum of politics.

That’s why progressives exist: to amplify the voices of those without power (a class that includes future generations).

—”There’s now an official Green New Deal. Here’s what’s in it.: A close look at the fights it picks and the fights it avoids.” (David Roberts, 7 Feb 2019, Vox)

Ocasio-Cortez and her allies have rallied around the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s landmark October report. The authors of the report asserted the planet has only 12 years to limit global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit before catastrophic consequences ensue. . . . “What else is there? If we don’t save the planet what else is there to worry about?” Corbin Trent, Ocasio-Cortez’s spokesman, told INSIDER recently. “We either believe that the scientists are right and we have 12 years to avoid cataclysmic failure of our climate system, or we don’t.”

—”Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveiled a Green New Deal that will force 2020 Democrats to take an aggressive stance on climate change” (Eliza Relman, 7 Feb 2019, Business Insider)

Ocasio-Cortez worked closely with the youth-led environmental organization Sunrise Movement to craft the Green New Deal deal and whip up interest in it. Through a series of sit-ins and other actions, the activist group chased down Democratic politicians to win support for the plan. The tactic seems to have worked: The Guardian reported that 60 House members and 9 senators are co-sponsoring the resolution. That includes presidential hopefuls Corey Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Elizabeth Warren.

—”The Green New Deal is here, and everyone has something to say about it” (Justine Calma, 7 Feb 2019, Grist)

We’re reaching a tipping point on climate action. Reaching net-zero carbon emissions as quickly as possible is vital and it will require a sustained effort over the next decade and beyond. We look forward to working alongside a diverse group of business, labor, environmental justice, science, agriculture, youth and broadly representative civil society groups and communities to turn this resolution into actionable, bipartisan legislation.

—”Green New Deal Resolution Pushes Congress to Act on Climate” (Statement by Ken Kimmell, President, Union of Concerned Scientists, 7 Feb 2019)

The bill lists some of these consequences [of inaction]: $500 billion in lost annual economic output for the US by 2100, mass migration, bigger and more ferocious wildfires, and risk of more than $1 trillion in damage to US infrastructure and coastal property.

—”Green New Deal bill aims to move US to 100% renewable energy, net-zero emissions” (Megan Geuss, 7 Feb 2019, Ars Technica)

Climate change and inequality are inextricably linked. We cannot tackle one without addressing the other. A Green New Deal would take on both.

—”What Is a Green New Deal?” Sierra Club [Undated – could have been written before the Resolution was released – Google Cache is from 10 Feb 2019]

Think this wild-eyed? Think again. Wind costs have fallen by 67% since 2009 while utility-scale solar has dropped by 86% since that time, according to the financial adviser, Lazard. Prudence has been a virtue. But what green energy skeptics have learned is that the public incentives and the overall economics are adding up — progress that will only go forward, given that prices continue to fall while the quality continues to improve.

—”The Green New Deal Just Speeds Up The Current Green Wave. Case In Point: Solar-Plus-Storage” (Ken Silverstein, 10 Feb 2019, Forbes)

And, just for laughs:

Nobody is arguing that landing a man on the moon would not be a stirring national achievement. But since when is inspiration a justification for national policy? Far more sensible would be to attempt to get a man a quarter of the way to the moon in 20 years, with a longer-term project to get a full three-quarters of the way there by the year 2000. In point of fact, the technology to get anyone to the moon and back simply does not exist, and there is no proof it will ever exist. Rocket science is incredibly complex, which is why everything else is now described as “it’s not rocket science.”

—”Here’s the case against the Green New Deal, by analogy” (Tom Toles, 8 Feb 2019, The Washington Post)