If you pay any attention to the news, you have probably heard something along the lines of a "Green New Deal" being mentioned often. You may even know it has sparked some controversy within Congress, but why? Why is it important? The Green New Deal (GND) is an ambitious non-binding, resolution to greatly reduce carbon emissions, create jobs in renewable energy, and generally fight climate change. The deal has already been met with much opposition, even within the Democratic party, due to being viewed as unrealistic or extremely expensive. On the other hand, supporters argue that if you want a massive change, you must take massive action.
This resolution has been produced to address the environmental concerns found by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which included the bold statement that we have just 12 years to keep the warming climate at 1.5C (Celsius). The acceptable degree of global warming used to be set at 2C, but after more extensive research 1.5C was found to yield much better environmental results. If the earth is warmed to over 1.5C, approximately 10 million people could become homeless due to rising sea levels, in addition to a great reduction of permafrost, water availability, and natural habitats. After working alongside the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and weighing these widespread consequences, Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, proposed the Green New Deal on February 7th. The deal outlined all the specific goals and requirements needed for keeping the U.S. below the 1.5C degree. This means replacing fossil fuels with forms of renewable energy in all possible aspects of energy use, updating all buildings to be energy-efficient, and even including social benefits. The GND not only addresses the environmental crisis but the economic crisis of wage stagnation and inequality.
One of the biggest questions from the left and the right is how this resolution will be funded. While it has been mentioned that "public money appropriated by Congress" will finance it, some Democrats also support more concrete methods of payment, such as PAYGO. PAYGO would require tax and spending changes in order to not increase the already present debt. Since Representative Ocasio-Cortez has already proposed a 70% tax on higher income, this could be one of the first tax changes to begin fueling the GND. The deal also addresses the need for keeping current nuclear energy sources in the mix, as it has been found that converting to 100% renewable energy is not realistic nor economical in a 10-year time frame. This is not a goal of the GND as Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey have agreed on keeping existing nuclear energy is much more economically sound, but also that the Green New Deal will not expand nuclear energy. Carbon pricing and supply-side policy are nonexistent within the resolution, which upset more hardcore environmentalists. With the Green New Deal being a resolution, it is an outlined suggestion for future legislation. That means difficult choices like carbon pricing and supply-side policy would be more relevant to take a stance on when an actual bill is drawn up in Congress.
It is difficult to know if the GND will be a hit or a flop because much of its success is contingent on concern for our planet. Many criticize the resolution as being too drastic or expensive, while many believe it is not drastic enough. It will be up to the lawmakers and our current and future leaders to prioritize environmental legislature within the next 12 years.