What Is The Green New Deal?

Maral Askari, Scarlet Staff Member

As a set of proposed economic stimulus programs aiming to address climate change and economic inequality, The Green New Deal (GND) has taken over the news recently. The movement began to gain momentum again after the November 2018 elections, introduced by the freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, to address new concerns about climate change.

Since president Trump publicly announced that U.S will no longer abide by the Paris Agreement, climate activists and politicians alike have been devising alternate plans to tackle the issue.

GND aims to reduce greenhouse emissions to prevent the worst predicted outcomes of the climate change and urges the U.S government to cut down on fossil fuels and demands a stop to social inequality and racial discrimination.

By bringing the discussion to the spotlight, GND also discusses that as long as a large number of communities still rely on jobs in fossil fuel industries, a resolution cannot be fully achieved. That is why, GND reminds the government of its duty to provide high paying jobs, economic development, and new transportations systems such as electric vehicles and speed-rails for all members of the society.

Clean air, clean water, and healthy food are basic human rights and the architects of the GND claim that only by ending all forms of social injustice and creating equal opportunities for all can we step closer towards higher living standards that will slow down and stop the climate change activities of our society. Supporters of the GND believe that such changes cannot be just a “technological feat” and “must also tackle poverty, income inequality, and racial discrimination” (NYT, Feb 2019).

The movement immediately received criticism from the opposing conservative and republican parties, who labeled it as an expensive socialist plot and an attack on the livestock industry. The GND resolution, however, does not endorse nor reject the use of specific technologies, sources of energy, or agricultural ingredients. Rather, it calls on the federal government to invest in new policies and projects that will lead towards changes in the way we live in order to prevent and stop climate change.

One of such changes, for example, will have to be in the livestock industry, where cows and other livestock emit a large amount of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the environment every year. As such, while the GND does not aim to outlaw cows (as claimed in a publicity stunt by Rep. Rob Bishop, to attack the GND), it does propose to work collaboratively with the farmers and ranchers in the country to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as is technologically feasible.

While implementing the changes proposed by the plan, such as modernizing the electrical grid across the country, is in fact a costly endeavor, supporters of the GND and Rep.Ocasio-Cortez believe that the new jobs created in the clean energy sectors and the resulting economic growth will compensate for all such costs.

Although the resolution is nonbinding and will not become a set of laws to be enforced, the republicans have continued to object to it and refuse to address the climate change as a topic of utmost importance. Moreover, no opposing party has offered any alternatives so far to match the scale of GND.

At the same time, as long as the debate on climate change continues to be in two extremes attacking each other, unable to meet in the middle, it will be, much like many other issues in our current political atmosphere, a futile effort for progressive change. While GND has brought up an important conversation about climate change, the Congress will still have to decide its fate and the Republicans have already made it clear that their vote would be against it.

However, even if the GND fails to gain support in the Congress, many democratic candidates running for the 2020 presidential race (such as Se. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Amy Klobuchar) have made it clear in their campaigns that they will continue to address climate change as a serious conversation needing imminent action.