28 Harrison Christensen – The Green New Deal: How We Can Overcome Our Biggest Challenge

Harrison Christensen

29 April 2019

The Green New Deal: How We Can Overcome Our Biggest Challenge

A public debate on how climate change will affect us in the future is being discussed, but the facts are the impact of these changes are already being felt. Felipe Calderon, author of the article “Climate Action: An Opportunity the Global Economy Cannot Afford to Pass Up,” which was published in the Brown Journal of World Affairs, reports that “welfare losses (the value of lost life) due to pollution are estimated at $4.6 trillion per year—the equivalent of 6.2 percent of global economic output.”  These numbers are clearly staggering and detrimental to an economy. Recent new ideas on how to slow the effects of climate change are being addressed by the Green New Deal (GND) which was written by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey. The GND is a stimulus program that aims to address climate change. The new deal incorporates Franklin D. Roosevelt’s economic ideas from his New Deal following World War II, but with a more modern approach including renewable energy and resource efficiency. This is why the United States Government should strive to come to an agreement on a Green New Deal. A green new deal will allow the U.S. to be less dependent on foreign oil, reduce the severity of natural disasters, and help create more jobs than the number of  jobs that are lost. The long term benefits and money the Green New Deal would save are well worth the cost when compared to the amount of money spent on importing oil.  The Green New Deal will also help spur economic growth by taxing the ultra wealthy to finance training and jobs programs in the renewable energy industry.

This is not the first time a deal to help reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases(GHGs) has been introduced. Previously there has been the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and the Paris Agreement in 2015. The Kyoto Protocol was an international treaty signed to help reduce GHGs.  The Kyoto protocol did not put an emphasis on job creation or renewable energy like the GND but the Kyoto Protocol was successful in reducing GHGs. Jason Maderer, writer of the article “Does Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions Hurt Economic Growth?”, states that “The Protocol’s impacts on those more economically advanced nations may have caused their per capita gross domestic product growth to decline by an average of between 1 and 2 percentage points annually in the years following 2005.”  Maderer found that this was based on short term analysis. It is very  possible that the small economic dip would be only temporary while the climate benefits would be longer lasting. The United States did not sign this treaty when it was presented.  The U.S. did sign the Paris Agreement in 2015. This deal dealt with again the emissions of GHGs, adaptation, and finance. This deal was cut short for the U.S. when President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the agreement on June 1, 2017. The GND has some of the same goals as the other two deals above, but it also looks at the creation of more jobs, resource efficiency, and renewable energy.

The United States has been greatly dependent on foreign oil since the early 1970’s, this dependence on oil from another country dictates our foreign policy and our relationships with those countries, particularly those in the middle east. We are tied up with Middle Eastern Regimes based solely on the fact that they have oil. This is no cheap expense as Michael Lewis, writer of the article “How the U.S. Can Eliminate Dependence on Foreign Oil by 2020”, reports that “our cost for foreign oil, approximately $1 billion per day in January 2012, slows our economy and wreaks havoc with our balance of payments.” Lewis goes on later to provide some eye opening statistics on exactly how much oil the U.S. is using. It is estimated that 19.1 million barrels of oil are consumed daily while roughly 9.4 million barrels are imported everyday, a little over five and a half million from the Middle East.  Importing so much oil requires that the U.S. have a military force nearby in order to protect our interest in that oil. The most relevant example of this is the United States relationship with Saudi Arabia. This is a country that is a totalitarian absolute monarchy with Islamist lines, where the King is both the head of state and government.  Our relationship with Saudi is built on one simple condition, we provide them with weaponry in exchange for oil. In a recent article for Times Magazine writer W.J. Hennigan states that “The (Trump) Administration says that the Saudis are currently pursuing more than $114 billion in military hardware.” Members of Congress have called to stop future sales with Saudi following the death of  Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who lives in the United States. “Turkish officials say that Khashoggi was ambushed by Saudi agents, killed, and his body dismembered” (Hennigan). The United Nations estimates over 10,000 people have been killed over three years in the Saudi’s fight against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, more than half of the 10,000 people killed are civilians, and millions of others are at risk of famine from extreme food scarcity.  The United States has been providing the Saudi’s with firepower for a war that has taken a large amount of innocent lives all on the basis of getting oil.  The United States’ dependence on foreign oil forces us to do business with countries that do not share the same moral values as us and have terrible human rights abuse.

The severity as well as the number of natural disasters have been growing in recent years. The increased number of natural disasters has cost the United States billions of dollars. On June 1st, 2017, President Trump announced that the United States would withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. The Paris Climate Agreement was an agreement between The United Nations to ultimately begin to lower the emissions of greenhouse gases. Christina Nunez, writer of the article “Greenhouse gases, explained”, states that “atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are now higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years, primarily because humans have released them into the air by burning fossil fuels. The gases absorb solar energy and keep heat close to Earth’s surface, rather than letting it escape into space. That trapping of heat is known as the greenhouse effect.” It is the greenhouse effect that is causing glaciers to melt, sea levels to rise, and the global temperature to increase. These factors in turn lead to devastating weather. “Weather-related climate events across the globe in 2017 caused total losses of $320 billion, making this past year the costliest ever in terms of weather disasters” (Calderon). It is also estimated that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which hit the U.S. and the Caribbean, will cost in the range of $150-$200 billion dollars. These weather related events are crushing to economies and make it hard to move forward. The GND could serve as a step in the right direction for the U.S. when it comes to cutting back greenhouse gases.

The Green New Deal has put forth ideas that will have positive effects on our climate and will help create jobs. One goal is bringing down greenhouse gas emissions in the United States to net zero by 2030. This goal has many people worried because it will eliminate all fossil fuel related jobs. This is a perhaps the hardest task to tackle when it comes to the GND but it can nonetheless be achieved.  Jeremy Brecher author of “18 Strategies for a Green New Deal: How to Make the Climate Mobilization Work” states that nearly 20 million workers could be available to work jobs that help protect our environment. Brecher however emphasizes that “ways are required to match these workers to the employment sectors where they are needed. At the same time, the jobs have to be matched to the needs of the workers.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal following World War II faced a similar challenge in finding work for those who became unemployed. This job was taken care of by the War Labor Board, who would recruit workers to specific regions and jobs to work. The government took responsibility of educating the workers on the job as well as taking care of child care and housing. Senators Bernie Sanders, Ed Markey, and Jeff Merkley have presented the “Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act;” this bill lays out a pathway to help communities and workers transition from the GND. This bill offers unemployment insurance, health care, and pensions for up to 3 years. It also provides job training and living expenses for up to 4 years. The bill looks to target coal miners first before moving to other energy sectors. Communities and individuals who are affected by new climate protection laws will need to be targeted by programs such as the Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act who will help fund job education, health care, and living for those workers and their families.

Many of those who are opposed to a Green New Deal say that the costs will be far too much which they believe make the goals unattainable. If you take a closer look at the GND one can see that these costs can easily be offset. In John Barrasso’s Congressional Digest, Senator John Thune of South Dakota calls the GND a “wishlist” and said “it (GND) would devastate our economy and be paid for on the backs of working families in this country. The Green New Deal would be a very bad deal for the American people.” Senator Thune is not wrong that the cost will no doubt be large but he fails to realize that an economy free of any fossil fuels will be significantly cheaper than the current fossil fuel economy. Thune also does not take into consideration the amount of money that recent natural disasters have cost the U.S. Economy. It is estimated that hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which hit parts of the Caribbean and the U.S., cost between $150-$200 billion. Not only will the GND reduce the number of severe disasters in the future it also controls pollution. In the U.S. alone investment in pollution control has returned $200 billion every year since 1980 which adds up to $6 trillion total (Calderon). Thune also says that it will “be paid for on the backs of  working families.” Jeremy Brecher author of  18 Strategies for a Green New Deal: How to Make the Climate Mobilization Work” states that “The GND will use the financial benefits of fossil free energy, the ill-gotten gains of the wealthy, and the wealth of the fossil fuel industry itself to ensure that ordinary Americans are far better off as a result of the transition to climate safety.”

Others are also oppose to the Green New Deal because they do not want higher taxes to the wealthiest people. Taxing the wealthy will help pay for green projects and create better jobs for the working class, causing a redistribution of wealth. Jeffrey Dorfman, a professor of economics at the University of Georgia, writer of the article “Income Redistribution Does Not Boost Economic Growth”  believes that advocates for redistributing wealth fail to consider where the money will come from. Professor Dorfman claims that “the money was raised in taxes, the money was borrowed from an American, or the money was borrowed from abroad. The fact that the money came from someplace is the key because for the government to have money to hand out it must first take it from somebody.”  First, to answer the question of where the money comes from was answered by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in an interview with 60 minutes. When asked to give an exact proposal Ocasio-Cortez suggests “you know, let’s say, from zero to $75,000 may be 10 percent or 15 percent, et cetera, but once you get to, like, the tippy tops, on your 10 millionth dollar, sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent. That doesn’t mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate.” Ocasio-Cortez believes that those who are making the most money are the ones who should be contributing the most through taxes.  There is one flaw that professor Dorfman seems to fail to understand, and that is exactly how wealth redistribution works.  In the article written by Dorfman he says “for the government to have money to hand out it must first take it from somebody;”  this is misleading in the fact that government won’t be “handing out” money to those with less money. The higher taxes imposed on those with the most wealth will be used to help pay for many green projects that help create better jobs with higher pay for those in the working class. By taxing the wealthiest among us a redistribution of wealth will occur, benefitting the vast majority of citizens.

Climate change is arguably the biggest issue facing the world today. It is an issue that needs to be acted upon as soon as possible. Climate change not only destroys our economy but it destroys the place we call home, planet Earth. If no action is taken the lives of millions are at risk due to the increased severity of natural disasters. The United States Government should feel obligated to come to an agreement on a Green New Deal, because when it comes to saving our planet there is no price tag. This is not a matter of money but a matter of morality.


Works Cited

Barrasso, Honorable John. “And Cons Green New Deal: Should Congress Pass a Resolution Recognizing the Duty of the Federal Government to Create a Green New Deal?” Congressional Digest, vol. 98, no. 4, Apr. 2019, p. 15. EBSCOhost,  search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=135491231&site=ehost-live.

Brecher, Jeremy. “18 Strategies for a Green New Deal: How to Make the Climate Mobilization Work.” Labor Network for Sustainability, 2019, www.labor4sustainability.org/articles/18-strategies-for-a-green-new-deal-how-to-make-the-climate-mobilization-work/.

CALDERÓN, FELIPE. “Climate Action: An Opportunity the Global Economy Cannot Afford to Pass Up.” Brown Journal of World Affairs, vol. 24, no. 2, Spring/Summer 2018 2018, pp. 39–53. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.scottsdalecc.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=131613714&site=ehost-live.

DiChristopher, Tom. “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Floats 70% Tax on Wealthy to Pay for ‘Green New Deal’.” CNBC, 4 Jan. 2019, www.cnbc.com/2019/01/04/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-floats-wealth-tax-to-pay-for-green-new-deal.html.

Dorfman, Jeffrey. “Income Redistribution Does Not Boost Economic Growth.” Forbes, 8 May 2016, www.forbes.com/sites/jeffreydorfman/2016/05/08/income-redistribution-does-not-boost-economic-growth/#11e3341d7d21.

Hennigan, W.J. “U.S.-Saudi Relationship Built on Oil, Weapons, Lobbying.” Time, 18 Oct. 2018, time.com/5428669/saudi-arabia-military-relationship/.

Lewis, Michael. “How the U.S. Can Eliminate Dependence on Foreign Oil by 2020.” Money Crashers. 25 Jan. 2018. 08 Apr. 2019 <https://www.moneycrashers.com/us-dependence-foreign-oil/>.

Nunez, Christina. “Greenhouse Gases, Explained.” Greenhouse Gases-Facts and Information, National Geographic, 1 Mar. 2019, www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/greenhouse-gases/.

Maderer, Jason. “Does Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions Hurt Economic Growth?” Futurity, 12 Mar. 2018, www.futurity.org/emissions-economic-growth-kyoto-protocol-1700992/.


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