Opinion » Rhetoric & Reason

Take the deal



Immediately before and after the Feb. 7 introduction of the Green New Deal resolution by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), let the record show that the opinion pages of The Tribune and New Times— with the exception of my previous column here and The Shredder's call to "Make America Less Embarrassing Again!" (Feb. 28)—have been an unrelieved series of attacks on the resolution and the reasons for it.

The Trib dutifully reprinted a column from the National Review by noted serious person George Will trashing the Green New Deal. Will has previously touted the prime climate denier myth that the world has not warmed since 1998 and dismissed the news that sea levels are rising as an absurd notion. Conservative pundit Jay Ambrose was given space in which to downplay and dismiss last October's report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that we have a 12-year deadline to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

In these pages, local opponents have seized the occasion to unload on renewable energy and the idea that there is a scientific consensus that human activity is driving climate change ("Green unicorns," Feb. 14, and "Green dreamin'," Feb. 21).

For readers who would assume from the opinions on view in our local media that articulate advocates capable of making the case for a Green New Deal simply can't be found, let me recommend David Roberts at Vox ("Green New Deal critics are missing the bigger picture"), Adam Rogers at Wired ("The Green New Deal shows how grand climate politics can be"), Bill McKibben in The New Yorker ("Dianne Feinstein says no to the Green New Deal"), and Justin Talbot Zorn, Ben Beachy, and Rhiana Gunn-Wright in The Guardian ("A Green New Deal is fiscally responsible").

Meanwhile, here are some corrections to recent assertions made in this space by local commentators. In Germany, the percentage of clean energy generated surpassed coal power last year, and the country is on track to shut down all 84 of its coal-fired power plants. If that's not impressive enough, check out the most recent figures on clean energy generation as a percentage of total energy consumed by Denmark (53.7 percent), Portugal (54.1 percent), Sweden (64.9 percent), Iceland (95.3 percent), and Norway (104.7 percent). Those who continue to argue that we can't do it over here because "it's not working over there" are making an argument that, increasingly, isn't working.

Those still claiming that there is no scientific consensus on human activity as the primary cause of climate change should scan the list of nearly 200 scientific organizations worldwide that have concluded that climate change has been caused by humans; the latest study from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; and this conclusion from the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC, the work of hundreds of scientists assessing thousands of scientific papers: "Human influence on the climate system is clear" (Al Fonzi's inevitable opinion to the contrary notwithstanding).

That's why the Green New Deal does not need defending, just context.

Here's the context: This is an emergency. It has become an emergency because, for the last 30 years, those with a psychological need to deny it or a vested interest in pretending it wasn't happening—or that it was happening but it was no big deal, and/or it's the result of causes that have nothing to do with anything we do—have blunted and forestalled the kind of actions that could have been taken incrementally over decades to gradually pull us back from the brink. Now, incrementalism won't work anymore.

Nobody gets to wave a dismissive hand or clutch their pearls and profess shock at a proposal that matches the scale of the problem now facing us. The Green New Deal is not about dreams and unicorns; it's a rope ladder dropped into a deepening pit. Those disputing the depth of the pit or suggesting we chip out handholds in the wall with a penknife instead have one thing in common: They don't have a better idea.

And the folks who just passed a tax cut for billionaires that will add nearly $2 trillion to the national debt don't get to squawk about cost. That proud achievement, as Zorn, Beachy and Gunn-Wright observe, "did little more than enrich stateless mega-corporations and the wealthiest investors," whereas a Green New Deal "would create millions of jobs with family-sustaining wages for workers whose inflation-adjusted pay hasn't budged since the 1970s ... laying the groundwork for a more vibrant and equitable economy that sustains the communities and physical resources on which our society is built."

And therein lies the genius of the Green New Deal. Beltway pundits, home-grown reactionaries, fossil fuel CEOs, and too-cautious politicos don't like it. Its natural constituency is workers, communities, and people under 30 who can see what's coming and are able to weigh "how can we afford to?" against "how can we afford not to?" and make the obvious choice.

Seldom has history erected a billboard so high and wide with a large blinking arrow labeled "the right side." Being on that side would be a good idea. #GreenNewDeal. Δ

Andrew Christie is the director of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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