On Feb. 7th, House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey announced a 14-page resolution for the Green New Deal, a series of proposed plans and programs to combat global climate change and eliminate the United States’ carbon footprint by the year 2030. While the plan does not detail the exact methods the government will take to achieve its objectives, it discusses a rapid change in energy sources from fossil fuels to more sustainable options such as wind and solar. It also calls for “a fair and just transition for all communities and workers.”
The Green New Deal has succeeded in rallying lobbyists across the nation, particularly young adults, in order to fight for more legislative action to combat climate change. The Sunrise Movement, a group that is planning three weeks of activism to lobby members of Congress to sign onto the Green New Deal, held a web meeting on Feb. 5th with supporters of the movement, involving citizens around the country in politics and the battle to save our planet. While this activism is a powerful, positive force that should be encouraged in order to motivate other young adults into participating in political and environmental issues, the document itself is highly unpolished and riddled with holes that, if unaddressed, will render it ineffective.
Due to the coalition-building efforts of some progressive activists, the resolution includes many policies that do not relate to the environment at all. For example, while the proposal calls for switching to 100 percent sustainable fuel, improving the United States’ electrical system, modifying buildings to allow for maximum energy efficiency and eliminating greenhouse gases from the transportation and agricultural industries as much as possible, it also addresses issues such as free higher education, guaranteed jobs, survivable family and medical leave, better healthcare and retirement security. While eliminating the country’s carbon footprint in the span of a decade is already a seemingly infeasible task, attaching highly liberal agendas to the resolution will further alienate potential supporters and increase the likelihood that no change occurs. Overall, the Democrats in the House are much more moderate than the propositions in the Green New Deal, which appears to have bitten off more than it can chew as far as turning visions and ideals into reality.
Non-environmental policy initiatives aside, the ideas set forth to combat climate change are vague, overly ambitious and ultimately not grounded in the research that has already been done to fight this crisis. While renovating all U.S. buildings to maximize energy efficiency may sound promising in concept, this is an inordinate task to execute and would require a daunting amount of funds. In addition, the plan to replace current cars with electric cars and charging stations would be a gigantic effort and would require more time than just a decade. According to Amy Myers Jaffe, director of the program on energy security and climate change at the Council on Foreign Relations, there are “350 million liquid fuel cars on the road today in the United States, and most Americans don’t buy a new car except every decade.” Eliminating greenhouse gasses from the agricultural industry would also be a nearly impossible task to accomplish quickly, considering that beef is responsible for 41 percent of livestock greenhouse gas emissions and that the USDA estimates that each person in the U.S. will consume an average of 53.4 pounds of beef in 2019. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to earn the support (or even tolerance) of large corporations that make billions of dollars off of these products and would quickly lose much money if the Green New Deal were to succeed. Considering the vast enormity of the task the initiative is undertaking, one would think the Green New Deal would expand upon (or even mention) previous strategies such as a carbon tax or cap-and-trade program, but the proposal more or less starts from scratch.
Overall, the Green New Deal cannot be trusted to be an effective document capable of change in its current state. However, it is important not to discourage the youth who are energized by such efforts, and to rather work with them so that the results of their efforts are maximized to fight this ever-growing threat to our planet. According to Jaffe, these activists “have an energy and will to innovation that is not only infectious, but inspiring.” Finding the perfect balance between idealism and realistic planning is vital to our future as a species, and the future of the species around us who are impacted by our actions and lack of action.
Kate Lee is a contributor to The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at Katherine.email@example.com.