The Green New Deal (GND), a resolution sponsored by House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey, proposes a sweeping reform of the nation’s environmental and social policies. Its bold proposals, while popular among voters, have already soured the faces of congressional leaders. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has dismissed the proposed deal as “a dream, or whatever they call it,” while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to hold a vote on the GND to portray Democrats who support it as naïve and radical. Something these leaders have in common? At roughly 80 years of age, they will never live to see the worst effects of climate change devastate communities across the globe.
In the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) landmark report last year, the panel noted that failing to keep the world from warming 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, as opposed to a more ambitious target of 1.5 degrees, will impose devastating consequences. The extra 0.5 degrees of warming could expose 10 million more people to risks associated with sea level rise, increase the number of people living under water stress by 50 percent, and put several hundred million more people at the simultaneous risk of poverty and climate change-related harm. Right now, the Climate Action Tracker projects that the world is nowhere close to preventing these devastating effects and is in fact on track to warm a catastrophic 3 degrees Celsius.
At the same time, the United States is grappling with economic inequality and widespread social injustice. It is no secret that wages for everyday Americans are stagnating, while the top 1 percent of earners continue to capture most of the nation’s wealth. No less troubling, racial and gender pay gaps show few signs of budging.
In the face of this troubling evidence that environmental, economic, and social well-being are on a rapid decline, the Green New Deal is a welcome call to action. By addressing both the climate and socio-economic crises in one plan, the resolution encourages us to consider the possibility of complete transformation rather than piecemeal reform. Leaders are reasonable to call its feasibility into question, but dismissing it out of hand is equally short-sighted.