Yes, it could save the country from experiencing the worst of climate change
Reminiscent of its 1930s counterpart, the Green New Deal (GND) is a list of aspirations under which future policies will be formed.
Some of those aspirations, which admittedly are no small feat include eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning entirely to renewable energy, guaranteeing livable wages and retirement to all Americans and providing all people with high-quality healthcare and affordable, energy-efficient housing.
Two major critiques have dominated the debate.
First, that the GND is too expensive, and second, the GND is merely a trojan horse for a socialist reinvention of America.
However, those social policies are there because climate change will inevitably impact America’s lower classes the most.
As we transition into green energies, thousands of jobs will become obsolete.
It’s important to provide those workers with a safety net (lest they vote for another populist candidate promising to “make coal clean again”).
It’s not just the Democratic party arguing for renewed social policies.
After the 2018 United Nations (UN) Climate Conference, the UN published a “Just Transition Declaration,” stating, “Public policies to reduce emissions will face social resistance and significant political risks for the governments implementing them if they are not accompanied by social security programmes for workers whose jobs will be lost or transformed.”
Yes, the GND is rigorous and drastic, but it’s exactly what’s needed when facing catastrophic consequences.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, we have ten years to reduce carbon emissions before catastrophic effects become unavoidable.
Still, many will argue it’s far too expensive. Many will patronizingly pat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other young activists on the heads and say, “That’s sweet, kids. But how will we pay for it?”
While it’s a fair question, it ignores several key facts: putting millions of people to work would bolster tax revenue and increase consumer spending within communities; that the U.S. already has no issue channeling billions of dollars towards the military and increased tax breaks for the wealthy; and most importantly, that the implications of climate change will be far costlier.
According to the National Climate Assessment, by 2100, rising sea-levels could cost the U.S. a hefty bill of $118 billion, heat-related deaths could cost $141 billion and damage to infrastructure could cost up to $32 billion.
Either we invest in green policies now, or we pay far more and suffer the consequences later on.
We are at the beginning of a long, complicated journey, and we have two choices: either we take our first step toward reshaping energy-use and the American economy, or we sit stubbornly at the status quo’s feet pretending the (scientifically proven) cataclysmic storm will never come.
Jessica Ruf is a senior English and journalism major from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
No, Democrats need to learn to work across the aisle
The ambitious Green New Deal (GND) introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts is motivated by good intentions, as it aims to help those worse off in our society and addresses a problem that could cause irreparable harm.
While it is well-intentioned, its means are not viable, as its supporters underestimate its political limitations.
For starters, Democrats are deeply divided on the resolution.
Though many 2020 hopefuls do not hesitate to back the GND, many House and Senate Democrats, especially those who represent contested districts, are wary.
The proposed resolution also splits Democrats between progressives and moderates.
Those Democrats who represent swing districts that might react against its more progressive policy proposals and the opponents who defeat those moderate Democrats may become even more inflexible on climate change policy.
Even if they did unanimously back the resolution, congressional Democrats simply lack the power necessary to enact such a progressive agenda.
The GND romantically references the mobilization during the New Deal Era and following World War II America as a model.
However, there is an extreme difference: Democrats controlled Congress and the presidency from 1933-1953, excluding 1947–1949 when it briefly lost the House and Senate.
Great Depression and post-war Democrats had the political power to enact progressive policies because the party did not have to worry about compromising.
In the era of divided politics, today’s Democratic Party is weak in comparison and it is highly unlikely that it will gain the sustainable political majority necessary for progressive politics.
For now, Democrats have to compromise with their Republican colleagues to address climate change, and the GND is far from a compromise.
While voters are electing more leaders who believe in climate science, as a 2019 NBC and Wall Street Journal poll found that 63 percent of adults felt that traditional Republican positions on climate change were outside the mainstream, conflating progressive economic proposals like universal healthcare and a guaranteed job with climate change policy, the GND automatically shuts out Republicans, like Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana and Rep. Francis Rooney of Florida who are concerned about climate change.
These Republicans fear that such policies will expand the powers of the federal government, and the government, with its new powers, may hinder the rights of Americans in the name of limiting the effects of climate change.
The numerous problems we face require political ingenuity that is extinct in today’s tribal politics, and future generations will pay the price.
We must change, but change requires either firm agreement or a strong majority—two things both parties lack.
Jacob Knutson is a senior journalism, English, and government major from Rapid City, South Dakota.