Stop Wasting Time on the Green New Deal

Updated on February 5, 2019

Climate change is real. It's a threat that cannot, by any reasonable person, be ignored. Carbon, released by fossil fuel consumption, is trapped within Earth's atmosphere, absorbing heat that's far beyond the planet's capacity to remove it. This will, without question, cause unimaginable disruptions to organized society if we as a species fail to mitigate it.

Within the Democratic party, there's a growing movement for a "green new deal:" A massive overhaul of regulations and spending designed for the simple purpose of preparing the United States for the long term effects of climate change.
But the green new deal is a gleaming example of the pie-in-the-sky, take-no-prisoners mentality that seems to have seeped into the both parties (see: $25 billion border wall). Medicare for all, comprehensive immigration reform, firearm legislation. They're all noble endeavors that their proponents genuinely believe will better the nation. And they may very well be right. The US faces tremendous challenges in these area's.

Unfortunately, it's not a question of nobility or even of efficacy. It's a question of pragmatism. What can be achieved today with the resources in front of us. The green new deal, while exciting, is soon to run into the insurmountable hurdle that is political reality.

The progressive proposal's chief spokesperson, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has laid out an ambitious 2030 target to completely decarbonize the US economy. A Democrat from the Bronx, Ocasio-Cortez recently told a NowThis townhall panel "It's not just possible that we will create jobs and economic activity by transitioning to renewable energy, it's inevitable." Her most current legislation, which she's drafted alongside Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), calls for 100% renewable energy generation, the overhauling of the national electric grid, federal funding for building efficiency improvements, and net-zero emissions from transportation, food, and manufacturing industries.

Again, these goals in and of themselves are extraordinary, and something we should've been striving for long ago. But even if we ignore the technical barriers, like where to allocate funds, or how big of a role will private utilities play in the transition, it's impossible to over look what's involved in just getting the bill passed, led alone implemented.

First, there's that pesky congress, which remains dangerously gridlocked; now to the point where 800,000 employees can go unpaid for weeks. With the senate firmly in Mitch McConnell's hands, and Republicans playing a zero sum game, a green new deal would be dead on arrival there.

But if they could someone form a coalition, it would then land in the oval office. Sadly, the office is currently occupied by a individual who's grasp on environmental science is matched only by his ability to articulate. It's unlikely the man who just last week was begging for "global waming" would embrace an attempt to stop climate change.

The biggest threat by far however is the lack of embrace Democratic leaders have shown towards the bold proposal. Recently empowered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tuned out the freshman congresswoman from New York, despite insisting climate change is one her top priorities for the new House.

 Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-D) 
 Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-D) 

So, given the current situation, the Democrats face few options. They could wait it out and see if Trump is toppled in 2020, although that alone may not be enough. They could attempt to maintain public pressure on the issue, but this tactic has had little effect on the GOP thus far (see: mass shootings).

Instead of pushing forward a bill that will never see the light of day, Democrats have to get creative. That means finding an opening to exploit within the GOP's goals. The most logical place? Infrastructure. With over $2 trillion needed, rebuilding roads, bridges, and airports remains a rare opportunity for bipartisanship.

 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), with AOC
 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), with AOC

However the first attempt by the Trump administration fell well short of expectations. Delegated mostly to congress, Trump's plan detailed only $20 billion in federal investment, something Democrats have called a non-starter. If the president remains serious about his pledge to rebuild the nations aging infrastructure, he's running out of time. If he falls short of at least seriously attempting to pass a comprehensive bill, it would surely give 2020 Democratic candidates a point of attack.

Investment funding gap by infrastructure category. 
Investment funding gap by infrastructure category. 

To bridge the gap between Democrats desires and Republicans demands, Trump has no choice but play center stage. He must put into action the incredible negotiating abilities he's bragged about for so long, and find a compromise that will satisfy all. Is that a long shot? Possibly. But it's a far more realistic route than expecting those on the right to suddenly warm up to a green new deal.

Meanwhile, Pelosi's coalition must get to work on crafting a holistic yet down to earth proposal for consideration by both parties. Funding, which has always been a major sticking point to Mitch McConnell, should be provided via a carbon tax on the firms that have the resources to switch to renewables, but simply haven't. The biggest culprits being energy producers and large agriculture firms. Specific's on jobs, state and municipal funding, and oversight should be hashed out ahead of time as show the earnestness of the proposal.

Of course, realists be damned. At this moment, suggestions like this one seem far fetched. Democrats seem content to put in just enough effort to garner press, putting forth a plan no one really believes has a chance. But on the campaign trail plans like a green new deal, regardless of their authenticity, provide candidates a great source of talking points.

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      • John Welford profile image

        John Welford 

        6 months ago from Barlestone, Leicestershire

        When all is said and done, action to combat global warming MUST be taken. There is certainly a problem when the proposals seem too far-fetched - they are likely to be laughed out of court. The solution must be to take small steps that actually are achievable. A succession of small victories is what is needed.

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