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What Is The Green New Deal?
The Green New Deal is a call for a massive mobilization of our government, our communities and our people on a scale equivalent to the post World War II Marshall Plan – to transition our energy economy to one that is 100% clean and renewable by 2030, including a complete phase out of extracted fossil fuels; petroleum, conventional and fracked natural gas, coal and nuclear power.
It proposes an ambitious yet secure economic and environmental program that will engage and challenge our existing economy, re-purposing it, so that the product of its enterprise not only supports the transformation of the current energy infrastructure, but also sustains all of our people with the resources necessary for a healthy, purposeful and dignified life.
This is not an ideological pursuit, nor is it a political gambit. It is a necessary restructuring of our present economy and its ultimate goals. We must re-evaluate the path we are currently on, compelled by an economy powered by extracted, carbon-based fuels to enrich the few at the expense of the many – and as we now recognize – imperiling the ability of our planet to maintain its climatic equilibrium, threatening countless species of plants, animals and perhaps signaling the beginning of the end of civilization around the globe.
The Green New Deal is designed to create a just transition, prioritizing the necessary resources and assistance to support communities populated by workers dependent on the fossil fuel and nuclear industries – workers who will become displaced by the waning extracted fuel industry. This transition to 100% clean energy will, by its nature, foster local, democratic control of our energy resources, rather than continuing the centralized systems now in place, that maximize profits for energy corporations, banks and other financial institutions, while keeping energy itself, at a premium.
How Will The Green New Deal Work?
The Green New Deal will provide the means to slow down and ultimately halt the continued output of greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. Its sweeping programs will tackle this enormous task head on, re-affirming America’s leading role in the world, demonstrating our will to build a just, sustainable, and healthy planet for everyone alive today as well as for future generations.
Currently, our federal subsidy programs benefit large agribusiness corporations as well as the oil, gas, coal, mining, nuclear and timber giants at the expense of small farmers, small businesses, and our environment. We pour hundreds of billions of dollars every year into our economy, moving it in the wrong direction as more and more extracted fuels are consumed to produce more and more consumable goods in the name of economic progress. In turn, the consumption of those fuels produces greenhouse gases that are now creating an imbalance in our planet’s climatic systems, threatening to render our world uninhabitable.
The Green New Deal will:
- Redirect money away from the government subsidies and tax benefits that have been supporting our extracted energy economy, to a new order of job creators who will be entrusted to make our communities more healthy, sustainable and energy secure at the same time.
- Move to 100% clean energy by 2030 by providing financial incentives to invest in clean energy technologies that are proven and available now, and redirecting research funds from fossil fuels and other waning industries toward research in wind, solar, tidal, and geothermal energy. The program will invest research dollars in sustainable, nontoxic materials and closed-loop cycles that eliminate waste and pollution, as well as organic agriculture, permaculture, and sustainable forestry. The author of a series of studies on how to transition to 100% clean energy, Professor Mark Jacobson, has demonstrated that it is technologically feasible to achieve such a transition by 2030.
The Jacobson plan, which is currently the most detailed and well-known energy economy transition plan, would be accomplished by developing:
30.9% onshore wind
19.1% offshore wind1
30.7% large-scale photovoltaics (PV)
7.2% local (rooftop) PV
7.3% concentrated solar power (CSP) with storage
1.25% geothermal power
.37% wave power
0.14% tidal power
3.04% hydroelectric power
- Support sustainable energy businesses including cooperatives and non-profits by providing grants and loans with an emphasis on small, locally-based companies that keep the wealth, created by local labor, circulating within the community rather than being drained off to enrich absentee investors.
- Create a Commission for Economic Democracy to provide training, education, and direct financing for cooperative development programs to create avenues for democratic reforms, engaging government agencies, private associations, and business enterprises in the energy economy transformation process. These programs will be designed to strengthen democracy via participatory budgeting and institutions that encourage local initiative and democratic decision-making.
- Establish a Renewable Energy Administration on the scale of FDR’s hugely successful Rural Electrification Administration, launched in 1935 to bring electric power to rural America, 95 per cent of which had no power. This initiative provided technical support, financing, and coordination to more than 900 municipal cooperatives, many of which still exist. The Green New Deal would update this model with a variety of ecologically friendly, state of the art solar and renewable energy sources focusing on making these technologies available not just in cities, but outside of urban areas, where access might otherwise be difficult to manage.
- Institute a Full Employment Program to create millions of jobs, both directly and indirectly, by implementing a nationally-funded, locally-controlled, direct employment initiative supplementing unemployment offices with local employment offices. These organizations will provide jobs, meeting community-identified needs in the public and non-profit sectors to take up any slack in private, for-profit sector employment. These will include jobs in sustainable energy and energy efficiency retrofitting, mass transit and local transportation systems that promote safe bike and pedestrian traffic, regional food systems based on sustainable organic agriculture, clean manufacturing, infrastructure, and public services (education, youth programs, child care, senior care). Communities will use a process of broad stakeholder input and democratic decision making to fairly design and implement these programs.
Addressing the Climate Crisis; Transitioning to 100% Clean Energy by 2030
The centerpiece of the Green New Deal is a commitment to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030. This transition represents a visionary plan, one that is absolutely necessary to begin the process of re-balancing the world’s climatic systems, re-establishing its ability to sustain human civilization along with the multiplicity of life forms that depend upon it.2
Already tens of millions of people have been turned into climate refugees, and hundreds of thousands die annually from air pollution, heat waves, drought-based food shortages, floods, rising seas, epidemics, storms and other lethal impacts of the changing climate brought on by our increasing use of extracted, carbon-based fuels.
Scientists measuring sea levels report that the oceans are rising much faster than predicted, and are already overwhelming coastal areas with more powerful “100 Year Storms” now occurring every decade or so. New York, Baltimore, Miami, Los Angeles, New Orleans and many more cities are at risk, and many more will be added to the list as the oceans continue to increase in volume due to absorbing more heat and as the land-bound ice sheets over Greenland and Antarctica continue melting into the sea.
Facts Regarding Climate Change:3
Atmospheric temperature rise: If we combine weather records from many locations around the world, we get an estimate of global temperature change. And the warming pattern is clear. Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) around the world since 1880, much of this in recent decades, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The rate of warming is increasing. The 20th century’s last two decades were the hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia, according to a number of climate studies.
Ocean temperature rise: more than 90% of the extra heat trapped by the Earth goes into warming the oceans. Coral reefs, which are highly sensitive to small changes in water temperature, suffered the worst bleaching (die-off in response to stress) ever recorded, in 1998, with some areas seeing bleach rates of 70 percent.
Sea level rise: One reason the sea level is rising is the thermal expansion of seawater as the oceans warm. When water gets warmer, it expands. Another reason sea levels are rising is the melting of ice that sits on land, such as glaciers, and the two ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica. The rate of melt of glaciers and ice sheets is complex and change is happening quite quickly.
The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects a conservative rise of about a half a meter, or one and a half feet, by the end of the century. Other studies predict sea level rise to range from twice that amount to nine meters! The answer will depend on how much ice melt takes place across the ice sheets.
Ocean acidification: As humans have added carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, an increasing amount has been absorbed by the upper layers of the ocean, which has caused an effect called ocean acidification. Even small changes in ocean acidity, can have large impacts on the ocean ecosystems that ultimately affect millions of people. So far, around 30% of the carbon dioxide generated by human activities has been absorbed by the ocean.
There is overwhelming evidence that the current rate of change in ocean pH is faster than at any other time in the past 65 million years. Given the well-known sensitivity of marine life to pH and the formation of carbonate, this represents a serious challenge to the biology of life in the ocean.
Another important aspect of ocean acidification is that it takes tens of thousands of years to reverse, as base materials are gradually washed into the ocean from rocks on land. It is sobering to consider that our behavior today will have consequences for at least the next 300 generations of humans.
Carbon Dioxide rise: Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, at the beginning of the 18th Century, the amount of carbon dioxide, or CO2, in the atmosphere has risen by approximately 40%, about half of that, since 1950. To explain this, we need to understand how the carbon cycle operates. The carbon cycle describes the flows of carbon between the atmosphere, the oceans and the biosphere. Carbon sources release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon sinks absorb carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Some of these flows are the result of natural processes. For example, when plants grow, they absorb CO2. Human activities also play a part, in particular when we release CO2 into the atmosphere as we burn fossil fuels. Land use change, such as deforestation, also releases CO2.
Ice cores provide invaluable information on how atmospheric CO2 has changed over time. As the Antarctic ice sheet formed, it trapped small bubbles of air, which remained trapped for thousands of years. Cores drilled deep into the ice show us that prior to the industrial revolution, atmospheric CO2 had been fairly stable for several thousand years. The carbon cycle was in a state of natural balance. Carbon sources were roughly matched by carbon sinks.
The release of CO2 into the atmosphere by human activity since the advent of the industrial revolution, has unbalanced this system, resulting in source levels of CO2 too great to be captured by natural CO2 sinks.
Scientists have been measuring CO2 levels in the atmosphere directly for many decades and have also studied levels going back many hundreds of thousands of years. In the 1990’s Climate Scientists determined that given the greenhouse gas properties of CO2 it would be critical to keep its concentration in the atmosphere below 350 parts per million (PPM). Today it has already exceeded 400 PPM.
Cryosphere melting: Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing, and the region may have its first completely ice-free summer by 2040 or earlier. Glaciers and mountain snows are rapidly melting – for example, Montana’s Glacier National Park now has only 27 glaciers, versus 150 in 1910. In Greenland from 2002 until now, there was a mass loss of ice of about 270 gigatons per year. The permafrost is thawing at an alarming rate, releasing tons of methane, another greenhouse gas, in the process.
Species loss: There have been five events over the past 450 million years during which more than three-quarters of the species on Earth went extinct. Generally, species are good at adapting to changes in their surroundings, but there’s a limit to how fast they can evolve. Humans are changing the Earth’s climate so fast that species are already struggling to keep up. If we continue on our current path of warming the planet by burning fossil fuels, scientists anticipate that more than 40% of species could be at risk of extinction by the end of this century. And if we continue with business as usual, relying on fossil fuels, we might very well be headed towards the Earth’s sixth mass extinction.
Extreme weather: Since heat is a type of energy, the simplest way to think about global warming is to say that we are adding energy to our climate system. This creates a warmer, moister atmosphere. All weather will be affected in some way by the new, more energetic climate that we are creating. Some of those changes have been, and will continue to be extreme.
Global warming amplifies the risk of extreme weather in several ways; it is causing warmer ocean temperatures, which can feed heat and moisture into storms, or change where they develop; a warmer atmosphere can also hold more moisture. This means rain and snow are likely to fall more heavily. Moisture is also the key to some extreme precipitation events, such as flash flooding from heavy rain storms.
Drought: So far, the Earth’s average surface temperature has warmed almost 1°C since the industrial revolution. Some significant adverse impacts are expected by the time surface warming exceeds 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures. Hundreds of millions of people will be at risk of increased water stress, and more damage from droughts and heat waves. Once we surpass 2°C, those impacts will become even worse, with some new impacts being triggered. Global food crop production will decline, with the possibility of major famines.
Heat waves: Europe, Asia, and Australia are already seeing more frequent heat waves. Heat waves can cause droughts, which can lead to wildfires and crop failures, and they can be extremely deadly. The heat wave in Europe in 2003 killed more than 50,000 people! One study found that human-induced greenhouse gas emissions made it approximately four times more likely that a summer like the one Europe experienced in 2003 would occur.
It’s also very likely that heat waves will occur more often and last longer in the future. Another contributing factor is that we have also observed that nights are warming faster than days.
The Economics Of The Green New Deal
Economists predict that Americans can build a 100% renewable energy infrastructure at costs comparable to, or less than what we would otherwise spend to continue our reliance on extracted, carbon-based energy. The International Energy Agency estimates that limiting warming to 2°C would require an additional investment of about 1 percent of global GDP per year, which would equal $170 billion a year for the US4. The former chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made similar estimates.
Jacobson estimates that the total capital cost to achieve 100% renewable energy in the US would be $13.4 trillion5. Much of those capital costs would be covered by diverting existing investments in nonrenewable energy. America’s coal and nuclear power stations are aging and many are already dilapidated. It is time to re-evaluate our commitment to these electric generation plants, consuming carbon-based or nuclear fuels, each with its environmentally negative impacts.
Prices for renewable energy have been falling very fast in recent years. The Jacobson report shows that between 2009 and 2014, the cost of solar electricity in the United States fell by 78 percent and the cost of wind energy fell by 58 percent. In many parts of the United States, wind is now the cheapest source of electricity, and solar power is on track to be the cheapest source of power in many parts of the world in the near future. Renewable energy technologies are also continually improving in performance.
Studies have shown that there are no technological or logistical barriers to a clean-energy transition by 2030.6 A British think tank recently put out a study saying that all fossil fuels could be eliminated in 10 years.7
According to the Congressional Budget Office, a carbon tax8 of $20 per ton would raise $120 billion a year.9 The Green New Deal would support a carbon tax of at least $60 per ton to generate $360 billion per year, raising the amount by $15 to $20 per ton annually. Some of the carbon tax revenues would be rebated in various forms to low and middle income households to offset the regressive nature of any consumption or sales tax.
The program also advocates establishing an Oil Legacy Fund, paid for by a tax on the assets of the extracted fuels corporations. The funds raised would help deal with the effects of climate change and smooth the transition to a zero-carbon economy.
Overall, 50 states converting to a clean energy economy would provide 3.9 million, 40-year construction jobs and 2.0 million, 40-year operation jobs for the energy facilities alone, the sum of which would outweigh the 3.9 million jobs displaced in the conventional energy sector.
Jacobson’s jobs estimates are for electric power production only. They do not include jobs from the two most potent job creators in an energy transition: mass transit/freight rail and retrofitting buildings to conform to state of the art home performance standards. It is estimated that every dollar spent on investments in renewable energy creates 3 times as many jobs as investments in nuclear power or fossil fuels10. Also omitted in the Jacobson study are manufacturing jobs for clean energy generation equipment and jobs for retrofitting the grid into a smart grid.
The Center for American Progress estimates that $100 billion in green economic investment will translate into two million new jobs in two years.11 And a 2008 report by the Center on Wisconsin Strategies suggests that roughly 8,000 -11,000 jobs can be created for every $1 million invested in building energy efficiency retrofitting.12 The American Solar Energy Society has estimated that jobs in energy efficiency industries will more than quadruple between 2007 and 2030, from 3.75 million to 16.7 million.13 (see also Scaling Up Building Energy Retrofitting in
There is less data about how many jobs would be created by transitioning to a comprehensive national mass transit program. However, an analysis in 2011 by Smart Growth America, the Center for Neighborhood Technology and U.S. PIRG, found that every billion dollars spent on public transportation produced 16,419 job-months, while the same amount spent on highway infrastructure projects produced 8,781 job-months; meaning that investment in public transit creates almost twice as many jobs as investing in highways.15 (See also a study by the Transportation Equity Network.16) 17
Additional Benefits of The Green New Deal
In making the investment to clean up our emissions and waste, the Green New Deal will be reinventing our energy economy, creating a sustainable, clean source for our productivity engine. Our national security will no longer be vulnerable to disruption of extracted fuel supplies which will render wars of aggression, aimed at acquiring and protecting those resources, obsolete.
Using renewable energy instead of extracted carbon-based fuels will also mean health care costs will go down because the foundations of a green economy; clean energy, healthy food, pollution prevention, and active transportation, are also the foundations of positive human health. The Green New Deal could pay dividends through the prevention of chronic disease, which consumes a staggering 75% of the $3 trillion in annual health care costs. All in all, this is an investment in our future that will pay off enormously as we build healthy, just, sustainable communities around the transition to a renewable and clean energy economy.
According to Jacobson et al, converting to 100% clean energy would also eliminate approximately 62,000 (19,000–115,000) U.S. air pollution premature mortalities per year, avoiding $600 ($85–$2400) billion per year (2013 dollars) in healthcare costs by 2050.
Converting to clean energy would further eliminate $3.3 (1.9–7.1) trillion per year in 2050 global warming costs to the world due to U.S. emissions. These plans will result in each person in the U.S. in 2050 saving $260 (190–320) per year in energy costs (2013 dollars), U.S. health costs per person decreasing by $1500 (210–6000) per year, and global climate costs per person (including costs incurred by extreme weather events, sea level rise, adverse effects on water and agriculture, etc.) decreasing by $8300 (4700–17600) per year.
Perhaps most importantly, the Green New Deal will open up a new opportunity for hope, where individuals, communities, regions, states and our nation can share in its vision of clean, sustainable energy, enabled by a repurposed 21st century economy, designed to support the full range of activities required for healthy, productive, peaceful and purposeful lives, for all our people.
1 A major missing ingredient in moving to 100% renewable energy system in the US is the lack of offshore wind power generation. The first small offshore wind (OSW) farm will be operating shortly off of Block Island in Rhode Island.
The University of Delaware recently said that the United States has moved backwards in the last decade with respect to wind power due to overreliance on market forces. There needs to be increased federal and state financial support to develop offshore wind.18
A report by the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority, written by the University of Delaware, found that the best way to lower costs for offshore wind was to commit to OSW development at scale, rather than on a project by project basis. It concluded that costs could be lowered as much as 30%. Taking advantage of wind turbine innovations and other technology and industry advances could lower costs by roughly an additional 20 percent. The NYSERDA report’s author added “well-designed policies and actions taken by New York, as well as by other states, can play an essential role in helping New York City and other U.S. East Coast population centers benefit from gigawatts of clean energy that could be generated by deploying wind turbines off the Atlantic coast.” 19
- Historically, talks aimed at stopping global warming have centered on the goal of staying below a 2°C rise in average global temperature. The major “victory” in COP 21 in Paris was that the industrial polluting nations such as the US agreed with the rest of the world that the existing global warming cap target of 2 degrees Celsius would lead to catastrophic change. They agreed to set a lower target of “well below 2 degrees Celsius” and preferably, 1.5 degrees Celsius. Scientific studies show this means reducing greenhouse gases twice as fast (7 to 9% annually) compared to the old goal of “80 by 50”. The Green New Deal’s plan to transition to 100% clean energy by 2030 is the only program that even attempts to meet the scientific goal agreed to in Paris.
- excerpts taken from the University Of Queensland presentation: UQx: Denial101x Making Sense of Climate Science Denial.
- A carbon tax is an “upstream” tax on the carbon content of fossil fuels -coal, oil, natural gas and biofuels. A carbon tax is the most efficient means to instill crucial price signals to spur carbon-reducing investment. A carbon tax can also be used to recapture some of the costs pushed onto consumers. Unlike cap-and-trade, carbon taxes don’t create complex and easily-gamed “carbon markets” with allowances, trading and offsets. Also, because carbon taxes are predictable, unlike volatile cap-and-trade markets, it is easier to plan clean energy investments to avoid carbon taxes.
A carbon tax will ensure more realistic fossil fuel prices that include the cost to the environment, and are high enough to promote climate change dramatically, by creating the economic incentive to drive efficiency and bring alternative fuels to market. The revenues will provide funding for programs under The Green New Deal as well as offer safety nets for low-income households vulnerable to higher prices due to carbon taxes.
- Robert Pollin, Heidi Garrett-Peltier, James Heintz, and Helen Scharber, Green Recovery: A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start
Building a Low-Carbon Economy http://www.peri.umass.edu/green_recovery/
- Jason Walsh and Sarah White, Greener Pathways: Jobs and Workforce Development in the Clean Energy Economy (Madison, WI:
Center on Wisconsin Strategy, 2008), http://www.cows.org/pdf/rp-greenerpathways.pdf
- Jennifer Cleary and Allison Kopicki, Preparing the Workforce for a “Green Jobs” Economy, (Rutgers, New Jersey: John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, February 2009), http://www.heldrich.rutgers.edu/uploadedFiles/Publications/Heldrich%20Center_Green%20Jobs%20Brief.pdf
- Economist Philip Harvey estimated the net federal cost for 1 million living-wage public jobs in 2011 at $28.6 billion. The economic multiplier of this fiscal stimulus would generate another 414,000 jobs in Harvey’s analysis. In an analysis of the July 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the National Jobs for All Coalition identified a need for 19.6 million jobs to achieve full employment. Dividing 19.6 million needed jobs by 1.4 million created jobs equals 14, which multiplied by $28.6 billion equals $400.4 billion for a 19.6 million jobs program.20
Other economists also estimate the cost of a program for the federal government as employer of last resort (ELR) would be relatively small, around 1-2% of GDP, because it corresponds with huge savings in unemployment insurance in a way that pays people to work rather than paying them to not work. A federally funded ELR program will also help the budgets of every state as incomes from employment add to the tax revenue of states and local governments.21
Bernie Sanders’ recent presidential campaign called for the creation of 13 million living-wage jobs, primarily through $200 billion a year in investments in infrastructure: water system, transportation, seaports, electric grid, dams and broadband.22 As outlined above, The Green New Deal would invest in infrastructure that reduces the carbon footprint (e.g., energy retrofits, renewable energy), as well as education, child and adult care, home health services and other essential human services.
A job guarantee would also be good for the private sector, as it guarantees that domestic demand never collapses as much as it does under current conditions with chronically low wages and structural unemployment and underemployment. It would also lift incomes for the most vulnerable households, helping to significantly reduce income inequality.
- Harvey’s budget on the cost of creating 1 million public jobs is in Table 3 http://www.demos.org/publication/back-work-public-jobs-proposaleconomic-recovery