SALT LAKE CITY — The Green New Deal was making headlines even before it was introduced as a resolution in the House and Senate earlier this month by sponsors Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass.
The resolution's ambitious goals to eliminate all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and launch progressive policies such as Medicare for all, free higher education, and a federal jobs guarantee have sparked excitement and concern on both sides of the political aisle. Recent polls indicate that a majority of prospective 2020 voters approve of most of the Green New Deal's ideas, and young people are especially galvanized by the resolution's dual commitment to environmental and social justice.
As a result, many leading Democratic presidential candidates have also expressed their support for their resolution, including Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar — some of whom had already vocalized support for ideas central to the Green New Deal.
At the same time, the resolution has received considerable pushback from the right. Several powerful conservatives, including President Donald Trump, have opined that it would put an end to cows, airplanes and cars, although there is no language in the official resolution to support this.
Let's take a look at what the Green New Deal calls for and the likelihood it will be implemented.
Why is the Green New Deal being introduced now?
The Green New Deal is a response to an October 2018 report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which found that in order to avoid catastrophic consequences worldwide, the global temperature must be prevented from increasing by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over the next 12 years. To reach this goal, global greenhouse gas emissions need to be 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and be net zero by 2050, Vox reported.
This will require, in a very limited timeframe, "extraordinary transitions in transportation; in energy, land, and building infrastructure; and in industrial systems," Vox reported.
What is the Green New Deal?
The Green New Deal resolution is a 10-year blueprint for creating a more environmentally and socially just society, according to Vox's David Roberts. Its name is an homage to former President Franklin Roosevelt's progressive New Deal.
In regard to the environment, the resolution focuses on several key areas: Expanding and upgrading renewable power sources and "smart" power grids; updating building infrastructure; growing clean and renewable energy manufacturing; and overhauling the agricultural and transportation industries to minimize pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
In order for our society to transition from a fossil-fuel-dependent economy to one centered on clean energy, the resolution argues, every worker needs to be able to participate in and contribute to the transition. The Green New Deal thus calls for free higher education; a federal jobs guarantee; universal affordable housing; the right of all workers to unionize; and Medicare for all. It also contains an anti-monopoly clause so that "every businessperson" can compete in the marketplace.
How much would the Green New Deal cost?
It's unclear. The resolution doesn’t clarify the mechanisms by which its programs will be funded or how much they will cost. However, Bloomberg’s Noah Smith estimated it would cost about $6.6 trillion per year to fund most of the promises in the Green New Deal, which is about three times more than the federal government collects annually in tax revenue. Most of the deal would be funded by deficit spending, Smith wrote. This has sparked disdain from conservatives, who point to the fact the U.S. already has a national debt of over $22 trillion.
However, Scott Lehigh argued in the Boston Globe, the cost of ignoring climate change may well prove more expensive over time than implementing the Green New Deal. Lehigh quoted Markey, who said the costs of storms, fires, droughts, destruction and displacement due to climate change “will have an infinity sign next to them.”
Who supports the Green New Deal?
Other powerful Democrats haven't been as supportive. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told Politico the Green New Deal “will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive. The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?” She hasn't endorsed the resolution or expressed an intention to bring it to the House floor for a vote, despite pressure from House Republicans to do so, Bloomberg reported.
In a recent poll from think tank Data for Progress shared with HuffPost, a majority of 3,496 people likely to vote in the 2020 election supported Green New Deal policies such as "improving drinking water infrastructure, reforesting land, providing job training and insurance to displaced workers and guaranteeing clean-energy jobs," although that support varied based on projected costs. However, a majority of voters disapproved of time-restrictive policies, such as requiring all cars to be electric by 2030 or eliminating all fossil fuel plants by 2035.
What’s the likelihood the Green New Deal will become law?
In order for the Green New Deal to become a law, it will need to pass the House and Senate and be signed by the president.
Because of the controversial nature of many of the resolution’s progressive promises, such as Medicare for all and a federal jobs guarantee, it’s highly unlikely that the Green New Deal will pass the House, Ella Nilsen wrote in Vox. House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone told Nilsen the plan was “too ambitious and unlikely to generate consensus among moderate Democrats in the House, never mind the Senate.”
Jeff Stein and David Weigel opined in The Washington Post, "The proposal could not pass the current Congress, where Republicans control the Senate, and would be vetoed by President Trump, but it’s an effort to galvanize the left and move the Democratic Party toward a commitment to stronger, broader and more direct action to address climate change."68 comments on this story
On Feb. 12, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced he wants to bring the Green New Deal to the Senate floor for a vote, NPR reported. This would force Democrats to pick a side on the controversial resolution — with the idea that it would die on the Senate floor.
In response, Markey’s office released a statement arguing it was unfair to call for a vote “without committee hearings, expert testimony, or a true national debate,” NPR reported.
The proposed Senate vote has not yet been scheduled.