“We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN,” reads an October headline in The Guardian.
The article goes on to detail top climate scientists’ predictions that only 12 years remain for humanity to be able to keep global temperature rises to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Temperature rises beyond that would drastically worsen extreme weather conditions, unbearably hot weather and global poverty for millions of people.
The scientists of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said drastic, unprecedented changes would need to be made to avert this climate disaster, and that they would need to be done soon.
Too soon, it would seem to many.
Knowing how slow and inept the governments of the top carbon polluting countries have been at implementing changes that would help slow climate change, it’s hard to believe we can possibly make this deadline.
Some climate scientists even argue that the much-celebrated Paris climate agreement to keep temperature rises between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius didn’t go nearly far enough.
Republicans obviously don’t care that we have just over a decade to save ourselves
from future misery and more deaths from extreme weather, but what’s really surprising is that Democrats don’t have a plan either.
Lip service, sure, but no articulated plan. Possibly due to all those fossil fuel company donations to so many of their campaigns.
Democrats generally support efforts that would ameliorate climate change, like fuel economy standards and carbon taxes, but these don’t add up to a comprehensive plan to halt temperature rises that would make parts of the planet uninhabitable, either due to extreme heat or sea level rises.
However, late last year, younger democratic, progressive and leftist activists saw some traction on an ambitious, systemic plan to tackle climate change: the Green New Deal.
What exactly makes up the Green New Deal depends on who you ask, but the general idea is of massively investing in green jobs, technologies and infrastructure. If realized, it would transform our economy and energy sector in a way that could meet that 12-year deadline. Hypothetically, at least.
The politics of a Green New Deal are challenging, as activists must not only overcome climate denialists, but also the more economically conservative members of the Democratic caucus in Congress.
The resistance exhibited by high-level members of Congress like Nancy Pelosi
is somewhat predictable, considering the ambition and scope of a Green New Deal. To many outside of the progressive left, its demands seem unrealistic, if not total non- starters.
Newly inaugurated member of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez released a document detailing her vision of a Green New Deal.
It includes a demand that no one who accepts fossil fuel money can sit on the proposed Select Committee on Energy Independence (a point Pelosi bizarrely suggested was a violation of the First Amendment) along with requirements that the committee plans out a decarbonized economy, invests trillions of dollars into green initiatives and institutes a federal jobs guarantee, among others.
The objections from Democratic leadership, who are largely shutting out these activists, arise mostly from a lack of imagination and will to oppose the fossil
fuel industry, as well as a commitment to bipartisanship, even when the other party’s views on climate change are akin to believing the sun spins around the earth.
They fail to recognize that it’s not really an option. Humanity must abandon the instruments of its own demise. We’re addicted to fossil fuels and soon to overdose.
Millions of climate deaths and complications from masses of climate refugees are already baked into our future no matter what we do, but millions of other lives can be saved through immediate, drastic, systemic action that must, at some point, be taken up by the U.S., the world’s greatest polluter.
I get it, many of us are scared. We like our big dumb cars and the other daily conveniences of which carbon pollution is a byproduct.
We’re afraid of government intrusion into an economy that is literally strangling the life out of the planet. Many of us are, somehow, still skeptical of climate scientists and their warnings.
These aren’t real arguments, though. They’re selfish excuses for an unsustainable lifestyle promoted by the wealthy and powerful.
Drastic action is the least that we can– must – do to survive in the long term. Ruining the planet might seem fine for older generations of conservatives and millionaires, but odds are that anyone reading this column will live long enough to see the worst of climate change begin to affect the world. And not just abroad, on our own shores and borders.
Think the immigration situation is bad now? Multiply it many times over when Central and South American economies collapse. Think the weather can be a pain today? If we wait, it will substantially worsen, and cities across both coasts will be permanently flooded. Indeed, swaths of entire states will be.
A Green New Deal is a way to revitalize our economy, not for profit, but for good. For the planet, for our country, for ourselves. Thinking outside the box doesn’t even begin to describe where our heads should be on this.
Reporting from Brian Fox, Vanguard Columnist