Alternatives to the Green New Deal

I have been thinking about the proposed Green New Deal. It sounds extremely radical. It probably is extremely radical, but is it as crazy as conservatives have argued it is? I don’t know, but here is what I think I do know.

First of all, the ravages of climate change are the most serious problem the world has faced in a long time–perhaps ever. If we cannot grapple with this problem the losses will be staggering. As well, until now very little has been done about it at least in Canada and the U.S. Conservatives in both countries keep pointing out how difficult it is to tackle this problem and how much it will cost to fight. When I hear this I think of what Oscar Wilde said about cynics, “They know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.”

So, they keep neglecting to come up with alternatives. I am willing to look at alternatives, but they must be rational. Liberals in both countries have spoken about how they want to control or limit climate change but are vague on how to do it. That is also unsatisfactory.

What is the alternative? Business as usual is sure to lead to doomsday. Therefore, that is unsatisfactory. So we need lofty goals. That much seems clear to me. Why not the Green New Deal? What better plan does anyone have to offer?

In the US a rookie Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, together with others, has come up with a bold proposal, commonly called the Green New Deal. Republicans like Donald Trump have mocked that plan. They try to put fear into people who might be inclined to support the proposal by saying it will require people to give up eating beef, driving cars, and shut down all air flight. None of that is actually required by the plan, but it sounds scary or daffy or both together.

Dave White a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Community Resources and Development is a cooler head. Professor White was a co-author of the recent Fourth National Climate Assessment in the US, a comprehensive study published by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a research group that studies the global environment and climate change. He knows something about the subject, unlike the former American President.

Professor White knows that because climate change is happening so rapidly and because its effects will be so severe, “we must consider transformative changes.” Professor White added, “Climate change represents a significant risk and exacerbates other risks that are dangerous.” Unfortunately, in part due to the successful campaign launched years ago by the oil and gas sector, the public was for decades confused into thinking perhaps climate change was not a real problem. It was and is a serious problem that now requires much more serious changes than would have been enough 30 years ago.

As a result, even if I consider the approach of young and inexperienced politicians like Ocasio-Cortez radical, the do-nothing approach of conservatives seems to me to dangerously worse. As White said, “We need solutions that match the scale of the problem. People underestimate the action needed, not only to reverse, but just to stop the increasing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Until the conservatives in the US or Canada come up with proposals for the transformative changes we need, I will look instead at the Green New Deal. I am willing to look at it critically and will consider criticisms, but I won’t move towards inaction that conservatives seem to insist on. The new conservative leader in Canada Pierre Polievre is taking this exact  approach.

I think Professor White has the right approach.  He realizes the Green New Deal offers innovative ideas, but that does not necessarily mean we have to give up cars, air travel, or burgers. Instead, White says, “If we focus on outcome, which is reducing emissions, we need to implement innovative projects to reach those goals. Does that mean eliminating air travel? No, it means making air travel with less pollution. It also doesn’t mean getting rid of cars, but making cars with more green technology.” I would add that it also doesn’t mean we can’t have any more big Macs. It does mean we must have less. And I love Big Macs. And I’m not keen on cynicism.


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