Green Deal or No Deal?

by Aneesa Wermers

Climate change—I hear these words uttered daily, followed by claims of irreversible damage. Discussions surrounding climate change and its potential consequences are frequently debated and can quickly get heated. For me, these battles occur during dinner with my father, when someone inevitably mentions the topic and sends us both on a quest to prove the other wrong. During these debates, my father will spew the words of Rush Limbaugh as gospel, and use statistics from the “fair and balanced” Fox News. Appalled by this, my mom and sisters will join the argument to prove that climate change exists using data from other sources they have read. By the end of this hour-long quarrel, the dinner is cold, and everyone but my father is horrified that some people do not see that the world is warming at alarming rates. The impending fear of climate change does more than put a damper on family meals. Most days, I cannot spend more than two minutes watching the news or the weather without hearing about the newest natural disaster that was worsened by climate change. There are constant reminders that action must be taken to stop climate change from worsening. It is safe to say that climate change is prevalent in the minds of millions. The big question is how to solve the problem before it is too late. 

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Senator Edward Markey have a solution in the form of the Green New Deal. The bill involves plans to try to reach “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers” (Ocasio-Cortez 5). Through this process, the Green New Deal hopes to increase investment in sustainable energy and create “millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States” (Ocasio-Cortez 5). The Deal hopes to “eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically possible” (Ocasio-Cortez 7). Some say it is not economically feasible; others believe the Green New Deal, while a step in the right direction, will not make it past voting in the House of Representatives due to its ambitious goals and the current partisanship that exists in the government. However, the Green New Deal, because of its intended positive steps towards renewable energy and economic benefits, should become a reality for the United States to approve and implement, and can act as a major step towards stopping the warming global climate. 

Climate change is a more prevalent problem than ever. In the Green New Deal, representatives assert that “the United States has historically been responsible for a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions, having entitled 20 percent global greenhouse gas emissions through 2014” (Ocasio-Cortez 2). As a primary contributor to the problem, the United States has a responsibility to intervene, and the Green New Deal offers pathways to fix the damage produced by the country. Carbon emissions globally have become exponentially more dangerous. Environmental activist Greta Thunberg spoke at the Climate Change Summit in September of 2019, saying that“the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on Jan. 1, 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons” (Thunberg). The sheer amount of carbon released into the atmosphere needs to be stemmed immediately. Along with the staggering reports about carbon dioxide emission, there have also been reports of increased natural disasters, rising sea levels, and higher ocean temperatures. Climate change has caused a global uproar, especially for coastal civilizations who notice the effects most acutely and fear for their futures (Plumer). The Green New Deal hopes to strike down on many of the problems associated with climate change through a shift towards renewable energy sources. If the United States were to pass the Green New Deal, it would greatly minimize carbon emissions. 

A key debate concerning the Green New Deal is whether the bill is economically feasible. Some economists, including Nicholas Loris, an environmental economist for The Heritage, say that it would take more than five trillion dollars to switch to solely green sources (Loris). However, the steep cost comes with benefits. Senator Ed Markey, one of the primary proponents of the Green New Deal, spoke about its opportunities surrounding employment. In an interview with WGBH, he said, “There are now 350,000 workers in the wind and solar industry, and 50,000 coal miners. No one had that on the scoreboard 10 years ago. […] It’s the single greatest blue-collar job-creation engine in two generations, the renewable-energy industry’” (Markey). The Green New Deal would provide work in the renewable-energy industry, boosting the economy because there would be a growing industry available. Furthermore, some economists have applied Keynesian economics to the deal. Robin Wilson argues that this economic policy should emphasize public investment on tools like renewable-energy to see the desired effect (Wilson 1). The implementation of this system would prioritize public works projects, investments, and specific products to help stimulate the economy. 

Keynesian economic models have been effectively utilized in some European countries. Workers are provided with “green collar” jobs and investment on renewable sources is emphasized. This is evident in Germany, where there are over 250,000 workers in the renewable energy industry (Wilson 2). Investing money into green infrastructure and providing jobs for thousands of people are deciding factors in making the Green New Deal a possibility in the United States. The relevance of federal spending towards greater causes has been echoed by economic journalist David Leonhardt. He explains that other moderate initiatives, such as carbon taxes, have not been effective methods to reduce emission, as seen through programs in California where there was a minimal impact (Leonhardt). Through the changes proposed by the Green New Deal, there would be fewer costs than other approaches, and the numerous potential benefits are obvious. Implementing a proposal like the Green New Deal in a country like the United States would benefit both the environment and economy through investments in green energy to promote jobs and products that ultimately help the planet. 

If the Green New Deal will help the environment and the economy, what is stopping the United States from approving it? The opposition from both Republicans and, to a lesser extent, Democrats in Congress have made it difficult to approve the deal in its current condition. When the bill was first introduced in December 2018, 64 percent of Republicans supported it. By April 2019, however, only 39 percent of Republicans supported the deal (Gustafson). Republicans who heard about the Green New Deal more than once a week through conservative channels, like Fox News, were more likely to be against the Green New Deal (Gustafson). Hearing about the bill from traditionally conservative news reports, further polarized the proposal and led to stronger opposition from the Republican Party. Another possible source of the lack of Republican support is due to strong funding ties between the Republican party and fossil fuel industries. “In the last election cycle, [the Republican party] accepted $837,480 from political action committees linked to the energy and natural resources industry, a fraction of the $4.3 million that same group has taken in from fossil fuel PACs over the course of its career” (Aronoff). Other moderate Democrats oppose the bill as well, including 2020 presidential candidate John Delaney. He explained that while he is in favor of environmental initiatives, he is against the Green New Deal because of all the tie-ins included with the proposal, which could stifle the progress on the environment (Leber). Political ties with the fossil fuel industry and discontent with the goals of the Green New Deal add barriers to the passage of the bill.

The executive branch of the government will likely prevent the Green New Deal from passing. Donald Trump decided to formally leave the Paris Agreements by the end of his elected term, making the United States the only country to withdraw from the environmental proposal by the United Nations (Chemnick). His main reason for leaving the pact was his fear of companies shutting down and hurting the economy. The proposals in the Green New Deal would produce more jobs. Additionally, according to scientific reporter Scott Waldman, Trump enforces deregulatory policies that go against the Green New Deal, including “rolling back the Clean Power Plan, approving the Keystone XL pipeline, loosening methane regulations, weakening vehicle emissions standards and undoing clean water protections” (Waldman). These various acts of the Trump administration highlight their opposition to various advancements to combat climate change. One potential remedy to these barriers is a majority Democrat Congress and a Democratic president after the 2020 presidential election. However, the decisions made by Congress need approval by the president, and some candidates in the 2020 elections who oppose the deal. The United States has also seen an increasingly divided government, with the various branches having different party majorities. This trend is likely to continue, leading to hindrances in legislative matters on a variety of issues, including the Green New Deal (Reynolds). Without the support of the executive branch, the deal cannot be put into place without involvement from the Supreme Court. This would likely not result in the deal passing, as the court has a conservative lean. The passage of the Green New Deal is unlikely in the face of opposition from the United States government. 

However, some argue that Congress may support the bill if edits made. Some Republicans have been in support of a carbon tax, which is seen as controversial for the political party (Aronoff). There has also been some bipartisan support for other environmental acts, including the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act throughout the 21t century thus far (Suh). These displays of support towards environmentally conscious initiatives show that some representatives may support the bill if given more unbiased information regarding the deal. When it comes to opposition to the Green New Deal, there are varying degrees of skepticism, and the bill should be made more agreeable to “bring more people into their camp” (Aronoff). By appealing to more moderate members of Congress, the bill would receive more support, making it more likely to be passed. Compromising with moderate initiatives, however, has a downside. Climate change is occurring rapidly, and a more moderate approach will slow down any potential progress. Even with carbon taxes and previous bills, the country is at a tipping point and immediate action needs to be taken. If these past bills were effective in reducing emissions, the United States would not still be one of the primary contributors to heightened carbon emissions. Because this issue continues to persist and worsen, a new approach needs to be attempted. 

The Green New Deal should be implemented by the United States to reduce the global issue of climate change. For it to pass in Congress, however, compromises will likely have to be made on the bill. Moderate measures have passed and been implemented before though, and climate change remains an ongoing issue. At this point, the planet requires an immediate change to the habits that have led to the current situation, and the key to change rests in the hands of leaders who are afraid of the risks. The United States must make the country more environmentally-friendly in every way possible. The Green New Deal is a risk, but the benefits to the whole planet outweigh the risk. In the case of climate change, action with potential risks is better than inaction with potential catastrophe. 

Works Cited

Aronoff, Kate. “WHO’S AFRAID OF THE GREEN NEW DEAL?” AMASS, January 1, 2019. https://link-galegroup-com.proxy.bc.edu/apps/doc/A579538780/AONE?sid=lms.

Bokat-Lindell, Spencer. “Opinion | Do We Need the Green New Deal? – The New York Times.” New York Times, September 3, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/03/opinion/climate-change-green-new-deal.html.

Chemnick, Jean. “Formal U.S. Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement Looms – Scientific American,” October 28, 2019. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/formal-u-s-withdrawal-from-paris-climate-agreement-looms/.

Gustafson, Abel, Seth Rosenthal, Parrish Berquist, Matthew Ballew, Matthew Goldberg, John Kotcher, and Edward Maibach Leiserowitz. “In Just Four Months, Public Support for the Green New Deal Shifted Dramatically.” Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (blog), May 8, 2019. https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/changes-in-awareness-of-and-support-for-the-green-new-deal-december-2018-to-april-2019/.

Inskeep, Steve. “Ocasio-Cortez To Unveil Ambitious Plan To Combat Climate Change.” NPR.org, February 7, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/02/07/692259103/ocasio-cortez-to-unveil-ambitious-plan-to-combat-climate-change.

Leber, Rebecca. 2019. “The Democrats Finally Debated the Green New Deal.” Mother Jones (blog). July 30, 2019. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/07/the-democrats-finally-debated-the-green-new-deal/.

Leichenko, Robin M., et al. “Climate Change and the Global Financial Crisis: A Case of Double Exposure.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 100, no. 4, 2010, pp. 963–972. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40863615.

LeMoult, Craig, Phillip Martin, Adam Reilly, and Isaiah Thompson. “Markey Defends Green New Deal, Warns Against Invading Venezuela In Wide-Ranging Interview.” News, February 21, 2019. https://www.wgbh.org/news/local-news/2019/02/21/markey-defends-green-new-deal-warned-against-invading-venezuela-in-wide-ranging-interview.

Leonhardt, David. “The Problem With Putting a Price on the End of the World.” The New York Times, April 9, 2019, sec. Magazine. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/09/magazine/climate-change-politics-economics.html.

Loris, Nicolas. 2019. “The Green New Deal Would Cost Trillions and Make Not a Dime’s Worth of Difference.” The Heritage Foundation. March 29, 2019. https://www.heritage.org/environment/commentary/the-green-new-deal-would-cost-trillions-and-make-not-dimes-worth-difference.

Plumer, Brad. “The World’s Oceans Are in Danger, Major Climate Change Report Warns.” The New York Times, September 25, 2019, sec. Climate. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/25/climate/climate-change-oceans-united-nations.html.

Reynolds, Molly E. 2019. “How Does a Divided Government Impact the Congressional Budget Process?” Brookings (blog). February 28, 2019. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2019/02/28/how-does-a-divided-government-impact-the-congressional-budget-process/.

Suh, Rhea. “Op-Ed: Three Earth Day Lessons for Green New Deal Activists.” Los Angeles Times, April 22, 2019. https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-suh-earth-day-lessons-for-climate-change-activism-20190422-story.html.

Thunberg, Greta. “Transcript: Greta Thunberg’s Speech At The U.N. Climate Action Summit.” NPR.org, September 23, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/09/23/763452863/transcript-greta-thunbergs-speech-at-the-u-n-climate-action-summit.

United States, Congress, House, Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create Green New Deal. Congress.gov, https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hres109/BILLS-116hres109ih.pdf, submitted February 7th, 2019

Waldman, Scott. “WHITE HOUSE: Trump Outlines Environment Plan: More Fracking.” Climatewire, October 24, 2019. https://www.eenews.net/stories/1061359091.

Wilson, Robin. “Green New Deal.” Fortnight, no. 464, 2009, pp. 7–8. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25704242.