The US Needs a Green New Deal!

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Charles Edward Miller from Chicago, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

April 2020 saw the highest levels of unemployment in the US since before WWII. Millions of Americans were jobless, and many, unable to pay rent, were evicted. For a large number of Americans, the pandemic has been just one of many catastrophes this year, with a record-breaking number of hurricanes and fires sweeping the US. These natural disasters disproportionately affect already underprivileged people, widening the wealth gap. This gap will only grow in the coming years as climate change worsens. The only way to halt this progress is by directly combating climate change. The EU has done exactly that. On Dec. 11, 2019 the European Commission passed the European Green Deal, and has since implemented several plans to bolster it. Through the European Green Deal, Europe will become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The US must follow suit.
Many in the US deeply oppose the American version of this plan, the Green New Deal Resolution, named after Franklin Roosevelt’s expansive policies to combat the Great Depression. The resolution, introduced on Feb. 7, 2019 by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Dem, NY) and Sen. Edward Markey (Dem, MA), has seen great pushback from Republicans, who claim the cost would be too great, despite predictions that the return on investment from these strategies would greatly outstrip the costs in just a few years. Senate Republicans were unable to see past these initial investments, and led by Sen. Mitch McConnell, the resolution was defeated in the Senate on March 25, 2019.
The resolution addresses the findings of the October 2018 International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and November 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment. These reports found that human-caused climate change will cause rising temperatures and sea levels, increasing wildfires, severe storms, droughts, and other extreme weather events. Just a 2°C increase from pre-industrialized levels is estimated to cause a mass migration away from highly affected areas, a loss of annual economic output greater than $500,000,000,000, deaths of millions of Americans, and over $1 trillion of damage to public property.

Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz, Courtesy of The Nation

To avoid the most severe aspects of climate change, global temperatures must be kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrialized levels. The IPCC report found that this would only be possible through a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2010 levels by 60 percent by 2030 and net-zero global emissions by 2050. The burden of this must fall disproportionately on the United States, primarily because the United States emits a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gasses.
Many people, including President Trump, oppose the Green New Deal Resolution, saying that while addressing climate change, it will lower quality of life and lead to an economic recession. This is false. While combating climate change, included in the resolution are plans to combat unemployment, socioeconomic immobility, income inequality, and lack of access to adequate health care, housing, transportation, and education. Climate change has exacerbated these systemic injustices. The resolution addresses the responsibility of the Federal Government to combat these issues along with climate change.
In a 10-year mobilization period, the resolution suggests that the US invest in strategies to combat natural disasters, repair infrastructure, convert entirely to renewable energy sources and upgrade power grids, upgrade all existing buildings, restore and protect natural resources, and remove emissions from the transportation, manufacturing and agricultural sectors. All of these initiatives will create countless jobs and revitalize the US economy.
While the Green New Deal Resolution is not a perfect solution to climate change nor any other issue, it will greatly help start the arduous processes of combating climate change and systemic inequality. The opponents of the resolution claim that the costs outweigh the benefits. Yet when the benefit is the ability for the children of today’s America to die from something other than climate change, any cost is worth it. And an environmental and economic revitalization plan like that proposed in the 2019 Green New Deal Resolution would ultimately save money and bolster the economy. While the initial investment is steep, it is necessary, and it will pay itself off. The world and the US are facing a crisis unlike anything in modern history. To combat it, the US must pass laws to the effect of the resolution introduced by Ocasio-Cortez and Markey. Individual efforts can only do so much and national reform is necessary to preserve the future.