The Highway to Climate Hell vs the Green New Deal

by on December 7, 2018 · 0 comments

in Environment

By Doug Porter / San Diego Free Press

The path away from planetary hell got a little steeper with release of a trio of scientific papers produced by 76 scientists from 57 research institutions in 15 countries associated with the Global Carbon Project on the eve of the opening of the 24th annual U.N. climate conference in Poland.

Emissions are heading in the opposite direction from the deep cuts urgently needed, say scientists, to fight climate change. After a few years of hopeful plateauing,  CO2 emissions will rise by 2.7% in 2018.

Earlier this year, a different scientific panel said nations have barely a decade to take “unprecedented” actions and cut their emissions in half by 2030 to prevent the worst consequences of climate change.

The Trump administration’s 1,700-page report –released on the Friday after Thanksgiving– co-written by hundreds of scientists found climate change is already causing increasing damage to the United States.

From the Guardian:

The “dark news” of rising emissions is merging with two other alarming trends, according to Prof David Victor, at the University of California, San Diego, in an article with colleagues also published in Nature on Wednesday.

Falling air pollution is enabling more of the sun’s warmth to reach the Earth’s surface, as aerosol pollutants reflect sunlight, while a long-term natural climate cycle in the Pacific is entering a warm phase. Victor said: “Global warming is accelerating. [These] three trends will combine over the next 20 years to make climate change faster and more furious than anticipated.”

[FYI for climate change deniers— CO2 emissions and air pollution are not the same thing. Climate change and today’s weather report are not the same thing. And there are not two “sides’ to the consensus about climate change.]

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the top four hottest years have been among the last four, 2015-2018, driven by increased emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2)—which have also reached record levels, according to the (WMO).

Our planetary climate has been warmer than the 20th Century average over the last 406 consecutive months, meaning no one under the age of 32 has ever experienced a cooler-than-average month.

And here’s the chaser, hot off the presses from National Geographic:

An El Niño event is very likely under way, amping up extreme weather already made worse by climate change and increasing the odds that 2019 will be the hottest year in recorded human history, scientists warn.

There is an 80 percent chance a full-fledged El Niño has already begun and will last until at least the end of February 2019, according to the Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

None of this will be surprising to just about anybody who doesn’t own stock in a coal company or a red baseball hat fronted with with a revived 1920’s Klu Klux Klan aspiration.  

‘Everybody knows’ that something must be done and soon to at least keep the planet habitable for our species beyond the next century. The problem has been the lack of an agreement on a comprehensive course of actions bold enough to have an impact.

Cap and trade, carbon taxes, and increased government regulation are all (probably) well-intentioned piecemeal approaches. All of them together, assuming the political will to implement them could be found, still aren’t enough.

Many in the latest batch of Democrats elected to Congress, with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the forefront and Sen. Bernie Sanders bringing his gravitas, have united behind the activist-pushed concept of a “Green New Deal.”

“This is going to be the New Deal, the Great Society, the moon shot, the civil-rights movement of our generation,” said Ocasio-Cortez at a recent gathering.

The Sunrise Movement, the young activist leaders pushing this idea, were the people who organized last month’s sit in at the offices of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. Their demand that the expected House speaker take the threat of climate change as seriously as they do was heard.

The week after the sit- in, supporters of the Sunrise Movement visited 150 Congressional offices across the country.

Eighteen Democratic members of Congress are now backing a proposed House Select Committee on a Green New Deal. Organizations supporting a the initiative include, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth.

On December 10, the Sunrise Movement is returning to Congress 500-strong to tell make it clear to all Congressional Democrats:

“We need to see enthusiastic and explicit support for the Select Committee on a Green New Deal.”

There are #NoExcuses for anything less. Politicians who don’t have the spine to stand up to the fossil fuel billionaires that bankroll Congress don’t deserve to lead. The world is watching us.

Just to make sure their message is being heard, December 11 will see a similar protest in San Francisco at the offices of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.

From the Washington Post:

For the next two years, House Democrats will do what their GOP counterparts largely had refused to: debate legislation to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and adapt to warming temperatures, rising seas and their other effects.

But any bill or set of bills probably will wait until Democrats control enough levers in the federal government to actually enact legislation.

“We’re not trying to ramrod legislation through,” said Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the environmental group Sunrise Movement, which organized the protest. “We understand that obviously with Trump in the White House and Republicans controlling the Senate there’s no chance in hell” their wish list becomes law.

Like the broad advances the Congresswoman-elected mentioned, the Green New Deal is ultimately a package of smaller bits of legislation. Each one functions as a part of the whole in reducing the carbon footprint. And Democrats can use the next two years to get the pieces to work together.

Robinson Meyer at the Atlantic looks at what could be the lynchpin of such an endeavor:

The single most crucial aspect of the Green New Deal is its proposed job guarantee, a controversial policy that says that every American can have a job with the government if they want one. Data for Progress, a leftist advocacy group, claims that the Green New Deal could generate 10 million new jobs across the country over 10 years.

This policy—a job for every American who wants one—reflects what the party learned from fighting Obamacare’s repeal. Obamacare provides a revealing view into how economists think about policy versus how people experience it. That is, as far as policy makers are concerned, Obamacare comprises a set of clever tweaks and rules meant to change how insurance markets work and lower the cost of health care. Before the law passed, Democratic lawmakers cared deeply about getting those tweaks right.

Yet Obamacare didn’t survive because those new rules worked. They did work, but, in fact, voters hate them. Instead, Obamacare survived because it gave two new superpowers to voters. The first was the power never to be denied health insurance for preexisting conditions, and the second was free or cheap health insurance through Medicaid. The reason Americans jammed the Capitol Hill switchboards last year to protest the repeal—and pulled the lever for Democrats in November—wasn’t that they valued Obamacare’s elegant cost-control mechanism. They wanted to keep their superpowers.


For some of the specific proposals within the Green New Deal concept, I suggest visiting the Data for Progress site. For a broader view of how such a plan might look once implemented, read the Intercept article With A Green New Deal, Here’s What The World Could Look Like For The Next Generation.

Do I think it will all come together as planned? Hell, no. But we’ve got to start somewhere, and the Green New Deal is a winner because it looks at the problem holistically.


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