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Green New Deal? ONE, PLEASE!
But what if we create jobs and save the environment for nothing?
In honor of Infrastructure Week, or maybe just Saving Our Own Large Mammal Selves Week, US Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez officially launched their fight for a Green New Deal today, invoking FDR and the original New Deal, and JFK's 1961 call to send humans to the Moon within a decade. Stopping climate change isn't something that can be achieved incrementally, they said, noting last fall's UN report warning that humanity has a dozen years, tops, to change its energy consumption and prevent the very worst effects of global warming. (Yes, Senator Inhofe, they announced it in winter, now go away.)
In remarks on the steps of the Capitol, Markey said "Climate change defines our existence," because it does, and insisted that the environment and the economy are definitely not two separate things. OK, maybe some of the parallels were more rhetorical than anything, like "the erosion of our coastlines [and] the erosion of the earning power of workers" don't precisely follow each other, but the point was there: An economy that rewards greedheads above all others is not good for children or other living things. Markey noted that this isn't only about greenhouse gases, it's also about justice, since poor and minority communities "have borne the worst burdens of our fossil fuel economy." And frankly, we really liked "Our energy future will not be found in the dark of a mine, but in the light of the sun." Good line!
Ocasio-Cortez and Democrats discuss 'Green New Deal' youtu.be
So what IS this thing? As we've noted before, the Green New Deal is a resolution, not a bill. Like the moon shot, it starts with a set of goals that need to be met, and presents a framework to develop legislation that will meet them. As David Roberts points out at Vox , it's a very ambitious "high wire act":
It has to offer enough specifics to give it real shape and ambition, without overprescribing solutions or prejudging differences over secondary questions. It has to please a diverse range of interest groups, from environmental justice to labor to climate, without alienating any of them. It has to stand up to intense scrutiny (much of it sure to be bad faith), with lots of people gunning for it from both the right and center.
Given all those demands, the resolution does a remarkably good job of threading the needle. It is bold and unmistakably progressive, matched to the problem as defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, while avoiding a few needless fights and leaving room for plenty of debate over priorities and policy tools.
The really remarkable thing about the proposal is that, in addition to the sciencey goals of what needs to happen (we need to get off fossil fuels, as fast and as completely as possible, and move massively to non-carbon-y forms of energy), the goals are about justice, especially for people whom that change is likely to hit hardest. No, that's NOT owners of giant diesel pickup trucks, it's the communities that depend now on oil and coal jobs, and those affected by the downstream costs of dependence on fossil fuels. The fucking executives will be fine, but the Green New Deal is about those who can't simply be written off as collateral damage.
The resolution makes clear that justice is a top progressive priority. It is fashionable for centrists and some climate wonks to dismiss things like wage standards as tertiary, a way of piggybacking liberal goals onto the climate fight. But progressives don't see it that way. In a period of massive, rapid disruption, the welfare of the people involved is not tertiary.
Hell, it's as much a political as it is an environmental or economic strategy: Make clear that working-class communities will be the biggest beneficiaries of a shift to clean energy, and people will have good old economic self-interest to motivate them to support going green.
And like the original New Deal, the goal here is public investment for public good: Put government resources into massive growth of clean energy, and the communities where those projects are located will have jobs and, hey, this is nice, cleaner air and better healthcare -- if it's done right. Here, have some whereases and some resolving:
Seems modest enough! And sure, as long as Donald Trump is in the White House and Republicans hold the Senate, this won't be going any further than the House. That's not a reason to be discouraged; it's a reason to spend the next two years planning and refining and debating how we can get to a more complete plan, then making the Green New Deal as much a campaign issue for 2020 as healthcare will be.
The House is already well on the way: This week, it held hearings on climate change, the first time the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change has actually held any hearings in six years on the subject. (Of course, under the Rs, "and Climate Change" was simply removed from the committee name , because why would they even pretend?) In Wednesday's hearing, much of the expert testimony got right at the economic costs of climate change. Brenda Ekwurzel of the Union of Concerned Scientists testified that we're already seeing economic costs from extreme weather events related to climate. She also noted the recent "Polar Vortex" was like a "weak seal on a freezer door," and a result of disruption caused by warming in the Arctic, so fuck you very much Donald Trump (that's a very loose summary).
Ekwurzel noted that, because extreme temperatures take a toll on workers, climate change could cost people $155 billion in lost wages every year. "Under a low emissions scenario, we could take a bite out of nearly half of those damages."
Hell, even the witnesses invited by Republicans mostly emphasized what businesses are trying to do to fight climate change, although nobody should be fooled that the invisible hand of the free market will fix the mess created by two centuries of letting industry run wild. And in what might be a first for House testimony on climate, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) asked the witnesses, "Do you all agree that climate change is real and human activity contributes?" -- and they all said yes. Yes, even the guy from the US Energy Association, although he insisted that oil -- maybe with carbon-capture technology that doesn't yet exist? -- simply has to remain part of the mix; he wouldn't commit to any date when the US could ever go without oil.
That's fine. The US can certainly commit to green energy without getting permission from Big Petroleum.
And on that cheerful fuck-you to the MAN, this is your OPEN THREAD.
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