By the time you read this blog post, it’s sure to be out of date. It seems that every time I search on Amazon there’s a new book on the Green New Deal. Just check out this partial list from today of those that have the term in their title (please note, if you buy a book from one of the links below, I earn an affiliate commission from Amazon):
- The Green New Deal: Why We Need It And Can’t Live Without It – And No, It’s Not Socialism! by Larry Jordan, published May 12, 2019
- The Green New Deal: Why the Fossil Fuel Civilization Will Collapse by 2028, and the Bold Economic Plan to Save Life on Earth by Jeremy Rifkin, published September 10, 2019
- On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal by Naomi Klein, published September 17, 2019
- The Case for the Green New Deal by Ann Pettifor, published Nov 5, 2019
- A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal by Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, et al., published Nov 12, 2019
It’s great that so many books have come out so quickly to support the idea that the United States should take serious action against climate change, a push led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and supported by Bernie Sanders and other Democratic contenders for the White House.
But an outbreak of GND books is also dangerous. Because the GND will only come to be if Democrats can take power and then ram it through past certain opposition from Republicans. Otherwise, the GND will turn out to be just another failed plan to fight climate change.
Big Support from the Left
All these new books represent a vote of confidence by the publishing industry in the idea that Americans are now finally ready to talk about serious action on climate. Let’s hope these books become best sellers.
But such a rapid outpouring of support for the most left-partisan approach to climate solutions now, that only an FDR-style public works program sponsored by the US federal government and funded by tax dollars can save the world from climate chaos, also suggests a big risk.
The risk is that the climate movement will put all its eggs into the basket of the Green New Deal. That’s a gamble.
The GND will work if Democrats can gain control in Washington and keep it long enough to matter. But the GND will never get through in the first place or, if passed, it won’t long stay in force if Republicans can help it.
Republicans: Maybe Climate Solutions but Never GND
“[The GND is] self-inflicted economic ruin that would take a sledgehammer to America’s middle class,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) before he forced a symbolic Senate vote on the GND in March of 2019. The measure failed 0-57, with most Democrats voting “present” but four Democratic caucus members joining the GOP in voting no.
“It might sound like a neat idea in places like San Francisco or New York, the places that the Democratic Party seems totally focused on these days, but the communities practically everywhere else would be absolutely crushed by this,” the Kentucky Republican said ahead of the vote.
Even Republicans who claim that they’re serious about climate solutions say that they’ll have to oppose the GND. As Vice News put it, “Republicans Want a Climate Bill — But Please Don’t Call It the Green New Deal.”
For example, Republican Rep. John Katco of New York thinks that climate change is a real threat and that America needs more clean energy. But for him, the GND is dead in the water:
The Green New Deal is so far off the grid of what’s achievable that it’s a nonstarter. Instead of trying to do those far-left messaging things, how about sitting down and doing the dirty work of working together to do something that’s acceptable?
Can’t Democrats Just Shove the GND through?
If a Democrat beats Trump in the fall of 2020 and if Democrats take over both houses of Congress with a big enough majority to ram through legislation over the objections of Republicans, then a Green New Deal could pass. And if Democrats stay in power long enough both in the White House and in Congress, say for the eight years of a new two-term president, then they might have a chance to enact enough GND reforms to make them stick.
Long enough, that is, before the GOP can come along and start repealing, reversing and reducing the GND to political rubble, just as it did with previous Democratic shove-throughs like Obamacare or Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
Otherwise, the Green New Deal will go down in history as just another failed plan to connect climate solutions to progressive social priorities, setting climate solutions back for years and wasting precious time to cut climate pollution that we just don’t have right now.
Of course, there’s momentum behind the GND on the left. So, the climate movement should tap into the enthusiasm that the GND has generated, especially among young people like those in the Sunrise Movement.
But people who want serious action on climate in time for it to make a difference can’t afford to be naive about politics. It would be a mistake to count the Republicans out.
So, we should put only some eggs into the basket of the GND. But we should save some eggs too for climate solutions that have at least a hairsbreadth chance of appealing to some Republicans in Congress someday and a pretty good chance of appealing to Republican voters today.
Bipartisan-friendly climate solutions include a carbon tax or carbon dividend along with other measures to level the playing field so that private industry can take the lead on clean energy and conservation that don’t sound to voters in the center and on the right like Big Government Socialism.
And who knows, those center and right voters might have a point. Maybe market-based solutions will work better to cut climate pollution most quickly and at the lowest cost? That’s what many experts have said about a carbon tax that’s revenue neutral, for example.
— Erik Curren, author of The Solar Patriot