Imagine this. A small group of aliens descends from their UFO. The aliens tell the world that in eleven years, the rest of their colony will arrive and destroy the earth.
Would you want the world governments to build up their defense systems, work on rooting out this alien colony to destroy it before it destroys us, and join together as one world to fight against our impending destruction? Yes, you would, wouldn't you?
Why is the threat of climate change any different? Is it because we are having trouble comprehending that we did this to ourselves? Is it because an external threat feels much more real than an internal one? Whatever the reason may be, we need to act.
Yes, the Green New Deal (GND) is ambitious. Yes, it is demanding. Yes, it is almost scary. But, we only have eleven years to reverse the extensive damage we have done to our planet. When faced with the end of the world, it is unfathomable and that anyone is worried about money. Personally, I am willing, and I am sure that most people are willing, to give up the luxuries of our everyday lives to secure a home for our future children. If we don't stop climate change, the children that are being born today might not make it to adulthood. This isn't a problem for the future, as we've been regarding it for so long, this is a problem for now. This is a problem for every young person today. Forget alien invasions, this is, quite literally, the end of the world.
Yes, the world as a whole needs to step up, but the United States is the second largest carbon emitting country, coming in behind China. In fact, the USA emits about 3.3 times metric tons of carbon more per capita than the world average. Each America emits approximately 16.5 metric tons, while the average world citizen emits about 5 metric tons. Being one of the main culprits of climate change, and one of the most financially capable countries on earth, we have a responsibility to undertake.
The Green New Deal is going to be expensive, no one is denying that. It is expected to cost trillions. But with the stakes as high as they are, we should be focused on the outcome, not the price-tag. As a country, we have the collective resources and wealth to pay for the changes needed to secure a healthy environment. It's about redistributing and redirecting the capital we have.
First, not paying for this means that we pay for other, more expensive things in the future. It is expected that, as climate change reaches its peak, America as a whole will be paying tens of billions of dollars annually to ward off the effects. Infrastructure, agriculture, and other industries will crumble. That will have a far more devastating economic effect than paying up front to stop those problems. Yes, our economy might need to take a slight ding now (nothing extreme), but it's either that or see our country's high economic standing dissolve almost completely as the climate threat (literally) heats up.
There are essentially two ways for the government to find this money for the Green New Deal. Either raise the revenue or redirect the current budget to favor the GND. For revenue, we can implement a carbon tax. This would be a two-fold decision; raise money and decrease carbon emissions. Taxing about $20 per metric ton of carbon would raise around $96 billion annually. By 2030 we would reduce carbon emissions by over 11 billion metric tons. Additionally, we can raise the tax slightly each year until we reach the needed revenue.
This slow progression would allow companies time to adjust to the tax and cut emissions before the taxes hit them too hard. Secondly, for redirection, coal costs the United States approximately $330-500 billion each year. If we aim those dollars towards green energy instead, we help the environment and reduce the cost of the GND. Let me relieve you, we will not lose jobs. Instead of working in coal, people will simply transfer to working in green energy sectors. There is no absence of jobs, simply a transformation of them.
Next on the agenda?
A wealth tax.
Don't worry, just take a breath and hear me out. I know it's a big change. But it's not only worth it, but it also will help create a more ethical and equitable society. You can't argue with that.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, the champion of the Green New Deal, has outlined a 70% marginal tax rate on incomes over $10 million. I know what you're thinking; 70% seems like A LOT. Truthfully, it is. But Americans are missing one hugely important detail in this debate. A marginal tax rate simply means that rate will only tax the amount which is above $10 million, not the entire $10 million (or more). Still confused? Let me break it down.
Let's suppose that John Doe makes $10 million a year. With this rate, he won't qualify for this tax. However, if he makes $10,000,001 he will be. But only that final $1 will be taxed at a 70% rate because it is the only part of his income that is over the $10 million thresholds. So he won't be losing $7,000,000.70, he will be paying only $0.70. That's it. Now, of course, higher-rank millionaires and billionaires will be taxed a greater amount (not a greater percentage).
Some worry that we are "taking money" from people through these higher tax rates, but realistically, most people who are that wealthy cannot reasonably spend the money that they have in a lifetime. Why? There is a limit to what you can buy of regular goods. There are things that are not reasonable, or possible, to buy in excess because we can't use it fast enough. Sure, rich people might continuously get rid of clothing and other luxury items and buy more of them, but there is a physical and realistic (not necessarily financial, for these folks) limit to how many utilitarian objects can be consumed. There is a limit to how much food can be bought and consumed, how many toothbrushes you use per year, how many cell phones (people don't generally use more than one cell phone at once, it's impractical) you need. So, in reality, a lot of the wealthy's money is solidified, collecting interest, or hidden deep away in company shares. They are calling upon their money to make more money, even though they continue to bring in an income well above the amount they can actually use (even considering their exorbitant lifestyles). So, most of the money they bring in isn't actually used. It's put away. Their children might use it, sure, but at this point in our climate change situation, their children might not even be alive to use it.
Here's what we need to understand, taxing the wealthy won't make anyone lose their lifestyle by any drastic measure. Sure, maybe the wealthy won't be able to buy that third yacht, but c'mon, we all know that our futures are exceedingly more important than that. Even after this 70% marginal tax rate, the rich will still be rich. Their kids will still have a hefty inheritance, they will still live lavish lives, we'll just also be able to save the world in the process. Using the tax rate described above, in ten years we would create $720 billion of revenue for the Green New Deal.
The Green New Deal is estimated to cost between $51 trillion and $93 trillion within about 10 years. Averaged out, that is about $7.1 trillion needed per year. However, the cost of the GND is relatively up for debate and some expect it to be much lower. The commonly heard $93 trillion price tag is touted largely by members of the GOP as a scare tactic. The number itself was estimated by the American Action Forum, a sister organization of the conservative American Action Network, that funds Conservative political campaigns.
Several economists have claimed that the $93 trillion price tag isn't completely accurate. First, since the GND has thus far consisted of ideas and not clear policies, it is nearly impossible to tell exactly how much it would cost, and the estimated $93 trillion is nothing more than speculation of possible policy choices. One economist, Robert Pollin, has estimated that if we put the time stamp a bit further away, such as 2050, we could get to net-zero emissions by spending only $18 trillion in total.
We only need to reduce our emissions by about 45% by 2030 to avoid irreversible damage, and this plan would almost reach that goal. It would be about 2-3 years short at this spending pace, actually taking about 13-14 years to reduce emissions by 45%. So if we adjust and hike the price up to $20, or even $25 trillion over 30 years, we still have a relatively manageable annual cost of $830 billion.
There are ways to direct our finances to acquire some of the necessary funding. The fact of that matter is that we are going to have run a deficit. But, we will also run a deficit if we have to cover the cost of Climate Change in the future. Deficit spending is a necessary evil, and our country has used it several times in the past. Know that we can afford the Green New Deal. We just have to want to afford it.