Reports by the IPCC and climate scientists around the world paint a print stark picture of what the future will be like if we don’t act on climate change. In 2018, climate scientists warned that we have just 12 years to stop global temperatures rising above 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels and prevent a climate catastrophe. We’re already seeing the effects of climate change, yet so many of the most pollutant countries around the world seem to be doing nothing to tackle it.
In the UK, the Conservative Government seem to prefer the idea of fracking for oil reserves in some of the most beautiful parts of the country over renewable energy initiatives and are too busy dealing with the clusterfuck that is Brexit to make any significant steps to tackle climate change.
The USA under Trump hardly acknowledges that climate change is even an issue, let alone something to act upon. Democrats are well aware of the problem but haven’t had much of a plan to tackle it.
Despite the best efforts of South Australia, the rest of Australia is also a long way off meeting any targets they’ve set to avoid a climate catastrophe. And those targets don’t even go far enough.
It’s a pretty depressing outlook.
Reasons for Positivity
Whilst there appears to be little action being taken by governments around the world, there is still hope that important changes will be made by those who will be most affected by climate change.
Schoolchildren around the world are beginning to take their own action. Children are working out of the classroom to the streets to protest the lack of action being taken to tackle climate change. In the UK, rather than take note of what the kids were protesting, the Conservative leadership branded the protests as nothing more than a day off or the children playing truant for the day.
Following the theme of youth taking a leadership role in tackling climate change and putting pressure on the current Conservative establishment, the youngest congresswoman in US history has cosponsored the ‘Green New Deal’. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has reignited the debate in America on how the important changes that need to be made to tackle climate change and an unequal society should come about. The right wants to continue with the same form of Capitalism we see today. The left choose a form of social democracy seen in a number of countries in Europe.
What is the Green New Deal?
The Green New Deal is not a new concept. It was first put forward in 2007 and was arguably a basis for Obama’s stimulus bill signed by Obama during the early years of his presidency. The rise of Conservatism and climate denialism over the last 10 years has quashed much talk of it in politics. However, as the left begins to re-emerge and tackling climate change becomes increasingly important, the idea of a Green New Deal has been thrust back into the spotlight.
Taken from the 1930s ‘New Deal’ under the US President Franklin Roosevelt, the Green New Deal is a stimulus package of huge investments that will transform the entire US economy and society. The US economy would be entirely decarbonised with a focus on clean energy and clean energy jobs, moving away from fossil fuels that dominate American energy. Infrastructure all over the country will become more efficient and dramatically reduce the level of emissions currently produced in order to achieve zero net carbon emissions.
Socially, the Green New Deal would include a jobs guarantee program, aimed at ensuring that everyone who wanted a job would be able to get one with a living wage. It would also aim to mitigate deeply entrenched racial, regional and gender-based inequalities in income and wealth.
Now, as Fox News and other Conservative commentators are constantly pointing out, a package like this would come at a huge cost. Realistic estimates put the cost at around $2.5 trillion per year, or $25 trillion over 10 years.
A recent Conservative-led think tank group, American Action Network (AAN), have priced the Green New Deal at over $93 trillion over ten years – a figure that has been questioned and argued against by Democrats supporting the Deal. It would certainly be fair to assume that Republicans will consistently quote this figure when debating the Deal. However, given the number of billionaire Republicans that serve on the board of the AAN it’s worth being critical of the report…
Surely this good? Right?
Anything that sends Fox News into full meltdown the way that the Green New Deal has is likely to be good. With almost no context or explanation, much of what has been proposed has been labelled as ‘socialism‘ or ‘communism‘ (with links for the actual definition of both).
The Deal would set the USA well on its way to dramatically reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and with it ensure cleaner air, water and that it becomes a much more environmentally-friendly nation. It would lead to energy independence even Trump is after, but in a much cleaner way.
There are also huge potential benefits to American society. The USA is one of the few developed countries around the world that doesn’t have some version of a socialised healthcare system, leaving millions to pay out for treatments that they often cannot afford. Despite inflation and skyrocketing profits for many of the largest corporations in America, wages have remained stagnant for years as the level of poverty has risen. The lower classes are crying out for a change in society that is fairer for them, and the Green New Deal would give them that.
Would the Green New Deal Work Elsewhere?
Absolutely. Climate change is a global issue and countries all over the world must band together to tackle it. Other Western countries have also discussed the idea of implementing a version, including the UK.
The UK Government is already investing in the fossil fuel industry and encouraging fracking over renewable energy alternatives. They’ve invested billions into the High-Speed Rail 2 (HS2) project that could be a lot more efficient. The UK also already has socialised healthcare in the form of the NHS. We’re many steps ahead of the USA, reducing the cost of a similar Deal working in the UK. For the sake of climate change and ensuring the future generations are able to enjoy the same (or better) quality of life we do now, passing a UK-version of the Green New Deal should be made a priority of any future government.
Maybe once we work out what happens with Brexit…
Can we Expect it in the Future?
The implementation of any kind of Green New Deal hinges on a Democratic presidency in 2020. The Republicans aren’t at the stage of admitting there is a problem, let alone act on it. The financial aspect of it also needs some work. The Deal would be one of the most costly in history and, as Ocasio-Cortez has admitted, would increase American debt.
However, as costly as the Green New Deal would be, not acting on climate change may be even more costly for the USA and countries around the world. A recent article in Nature estimates that tackling climate change could save the USA $20 trillion by the end of the century. Does that make the Green New Deal an important investment for the future?
There are economic, environmental and social arguments for the Green New Deal. No matter what the cost, its implementation should be strongly considered given the urgency and importance of tackling climate change. Conservatives will continue to fight it on its economic uncertainty, which the Green New Deal as it currently is must provide further clarification, but the social and environmental benefits should be considered worth the potentially huge costs of not acting on climate change.