The Green New Deal: Technological Innovations And Political Roadblocks
This article briefly looks into the highly reported resolution of the United States Congress, the Green New Deal. While it has started the much needed conversation about the adverse effects of climate change, it has also been politically divisive for the most part. The politics of climate activism has altered significantly over the past year and with the election in less then a week, it stands at a decisive point in policy history. The following piece is a look at the major provisions of the resolution, it’s plausibility as well as it’s urgent need. It also seeks to explore the political rhetoric that surrounds the resolution and which side is to benefit from its implementation.
Climate change is arguably the current greatest threat to humankind, pandemic notwithstanding. At a time when time itself is not in our favour we must ensure that necessary steps are taken to preserve the planet for generations to come. This seems to be the vision behind the 2018 resolution adopted by the US Congress, the Green New Deal, proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Sen. Edward J. Markey (D- Massachusetts). The resolution is a non- binding document adopted by the Congress as a road map towards a zero emission America within the next decade. It also states that technological changes are insufficient and that social inequalities of income and race also need urgent attention as rapid climate change affects the less fortunate first.
It’s most prominent aim is actively promoting and working towards controlling climate change and boosting energy efficiency. This implies that conventional, renewable sources of energy must be phased out gradually to make USA a net zero emission nation. For this, natural sources- solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, wind, biomass- need to be expanded and natural gas and coal energy must take a backseat. The US spends billions of dollars on containing the effects of climate change and is expected to spend even more if the percentage of natural energy does not drastically increase from its current 31%. Moreover, the haphazard electrical system of the country needs to be upgraded to the smart power grid specified in the 2009 Energy Stimulus to increase efficiency of electrical supply. Another proposition that has been continuously misunderstood and misreported by many is the stance on the emissions from the agricultural industry, which aims at ‘working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible’. This means that the greenhouse gas emissions from the beef industry and such others will be reduced with new technological advancements and be brought down from its current 41%. However, this has been wrongly reduced to a rhetoric on ‘cow farts’ by the President and sections of the media.
The lesser technologically dependent solutions include increasing soil carbon storage through afforestation and preservation, reducing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and restoring and protecting natural ecosystems. These are all proven techniques that are already in practice in several parts of the country, but they need a major boost accompanied by sufficient awareness and education about the procedure and its urgent need.
The resolution also targets a reduction in pollution by dealing with the emissions of transportation by promoting clean and easily accessible public transport, zero emission vehicles and the infrastructure needed to make and use them and a high speed rail to reduce dependence on flying due to its high use of fossil fuels. Under the current administration this has become rather difficult considering their disregard for standard emission rates, non-renewal of tax incentives on electric vehicles and low prices of gas.
The non- environmental provisions make the issue of the resolution much more politically divisive. It asks for a minimum family sustaining wage, family leave, retirement benefits and such other perks which will add to the costs bourn by the government. It also asks for the strengthening of labour laws and policies for unionisation to provide security and prevention of discrimination in all jon sectors and industries. It also asks for free, quality higher education for all citizens, especially ‘frontline and vulnerable communities’ to ensure an equitable growth in society and the economy. This is primarily done to prevent fossil fuel industrialist from taking over control of the natural energy resource industries and to provide more secure and dignified jobs for people than what they have currently.
On paper the Green New Deal is the ideal way forward as seen by climate activists, scientists and political progressives in the United States, but how economically plausible is it? This is a question asked by both parties and it is partly justified when one looks at the trillions of dollars that need to be spent. While some conservative Republicans have entirely disregarded any legitimate means of financing the provisions of the resolution, others are apprehensive about what economic changes will have to be made to accommodate the Green New Deal. The financing requires a major shift in the taxation policy to reduce means of tax evasions by the creamy layer capitalists and to charge them higher rates in taxes to reduce the burden of funding from the already struggling middle and lower classes. A taxation rate such as that in the pre Ronald Reagan era must be implemented to collect sufficient federal funds to finance an ambitious project such as this. Such a drastic policy measure is bound to take time and will only come to fruition if the Democrats have all three elected bodies under their wing. Simply having a majority in the House of Representatives has given them leverage over several policy decisions over the past two years. What must also be considered in the political spectrum is the impact of the pandemic and its mismanagement by the Trump administration that has negatively impacted the economy, public healthcare, public housing and small businesses. The wildfires of California in July were a harrowing reminder of just how damaged the environment is and how little we hsve been doing to prevent it from destruction. There has been a change in the perception of the Green New Deal between early 2019 and a week before the elections in 2020. From a marginal support from within the Democratic party to becoming a major point of debate in the presidential elections, the resolution has gained political leverage and with one of its signatories Sen. Kamala Harris in the race to become the next Vice President, the odds of working towards laying a foundation for the Green New Deal’s provisions seems more likely. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden seems more open to making the preliminary $3 trillion investment to lay the groundwork for technological development to move towards a cleaner environment. While these investment might seem like a huge sum but the general consensus has been that spending trillions of dollars on preventing the climate catastrophe predicted by the UN report on climate change in 2019 is better than spending much more on damage control after things have gone out of hand. However, what must also be kept in mind is that such sweeping changes will need a major revamp of the economy which is already under great strain due to the pandemic. This leaves the country in a cautiously hopeful place from an economic and political standpoint.
What is not confusing, however, is the technological standpoint. Experts across the country believe that while the timeline of rhe resolution (10 years) is a bit outlandish, the technology needed to shift to a zero-carbon economy can be created and put into use within the next two to three decades. Policy experts and environmental engineers have been working on several plausible plans to out the climate plans into action in accordance with the resolution. If implemented correctly and diligently, the country can be made a 100% carbon free by 2050.
The Green New Deal has gained a great deal of voter support during the election campaign. A poll in the third week of October 2020 showed that around 64% voters were in favour of the implementation of the provisions. A huge chunk of younger voters have been especially supportive of the resolution, running awareness campaigns and spreading credible information explaining why it is so necessary. Its most vocal advocate in politics has been Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who said that it is ‘…one of the only plans that is actually in line with scientific consensus and the UN’s IPCC report’ and that it ‘…creates the maximum amount of prosperity for working people and marginalised communities…’. Thus, what must be understood is that climate change cannot be considered a partisan, divisive issue. It needs to be dealt with without the considerations of the campaign fundings that politicians receive from the fossil fuel industry or their own benefits from ignoring the effects of climate change. The Green New Deal is an attempt to curb climate change and global warming while also ensuring that the disproportionate effects of these two phenomena are also reined in significantly to prevent major health hazards for frontline communities. It is a unique proposition that, if followed seriously, could pave the way for a safer, healthier, cleaner planet for generations to come.
- https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/21/climate/green-new-deal-questions-answers.html February 21, 2019
- https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/21/us/politics/green-new-deal.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article February 21, 2019
- https://edition.cnn.com/2019/02/14/politics/green-new-deal-proposal-breakdown/index.html March 2, 2020
- https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/523075-democrats-see-green-new-deal-yielding-gains-despite-gop-attacks October 28, 2020
- https://youtu.be/3qu6aC2PkAk June 24, 2020
- https://youtu.be/dUmIdCClbTE July 29, 201