Of all of the contentious political issues facing our nation today, I believe none are more dire than the threat posed by climate change. It’s hard not to fall into pessimistic despair when confronted with the sheer scope of the environmental havoc we wreak upon the earth each day.
With our planet being slowly decimated with each passing year, issues like tax reform and gun control seem downright banal by comparison. Climate policy, for me, ought to take primacy in politics. When I heard about the so-called Green New Deal, with its bold promises of eliminating U.S. carbon emissions while also creating new jobs and infrastructure, I was intrigued.
This New Deal, spearheaded by maverick political upstart Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey, is perhaps the single most ambitious political proposal since the original New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It seeks to radically change American society, aiming for zero net carbon emissions and a complete shift away from fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
While this alone borders on the impossible, the plan calls for some other lofty progressive goals: upgrading all existing buildings in the U.S. for energy efficiency, guaranteed jobs for every American, single-payer healthcare and a complete overhaul of transportation. Loftier still, the plan calls for this radical transformation of U.S. into a zero-emissions country by 2030. In other words, the U.S. has just over a decade to completely transform its entire economy.
The Green New Deal is emblematic for the new crop of progressive politicians that have emerged in the Trump era. It is unflinchingly radical and shows the commitment of people like Ocasio-Cortez to fundamentally reworking American society, rather than making a few minor adjustments at the margins. It will likely become a litmus test for Democrats, who will have to either embrace the party’s bold new progressive direction or step aside. It is also hopelessly unrealistic.
There’s no way the U.S. achieves zero net emissions in 10 years. The existence of the GOP, still very much the party of climate science denial, all but ensures that this dream won’t come to fruition. Even leaving aside concerns about its astronomical costs, the plan is too ambitious to be implemented in the current U.S.
While I doubt most of the plan's goals will become a reality anytime soon, I still support its principles. In order to face the existential challenges posed by climate change, we need radical and immediate action. A carbon tax or the implementation of a cap-and-trade system won’t be enough to address the environmental crisis humanity faces. For all of its faults, the Green New Deal at the very least takes climate change seriously in a way that is desperately needed.
A recent report from the U.N. broke the harrowing news that we are rapidly running out of time.
Climate change is not some abstract problem we can comfortably leave to future generations. The fallout from environmental destruction is likely coming within our lifetime if we don’t act now. At this moment, we need leaders who take this threat seriously and are willing to propose bold solutions.
Maybe the Green New Deal will never become a complete reality, but it at least can help to draw attention toward the scope and urgency of our climate crisis.