Don’t let the ‘Green New Deal’ hijack the climate’s future – Henry Jacoby, Gary Yohe, Richard Richels

MIT Sloan Professor Emeritus, Henry D. Jacoby

From Hartford Courant

The Green New Deal calls for the country to meet a number of ambitious environmental targets while solving a host of other ills facing our country. Its near-term environmental goals, authored primarily by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., include “meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable and zero-emissions energy sources,” “building or upgrading energy-efficient, distributed and ‘smart’ power grids.” “working to ensure affordable access to electricity” and “overhauling transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions … as much as technologically feasible.”

These goals are aspirational, but they are all issues that are worthy of serious and urgent consideration.

It is likely that the authors of the resolution and its co-sponsors thought that yoking climate change to their larger agenda would start conversations. But this version of the Green New Deal will impede continued progress on the climate front for years to come.

Does one have to support and defend all of the goals of the Green New Deal to push forward on climate change? If the answer is yes, then past experience teaches that political manipulation will doom climate change to artificial partisan firefights for years to come.

Around the turn of 2019, climate change had become a rising star in the national political galaxy. The connection of recent catastrophic wildfires to increased temperatures had become clearer. So had the link between warming temperatures and changing atmospheric currents to more severe hurricanes. The link to sea level rise had been solidified. Assessments released late last year brought attention to climate risks in 2030 — not 2100. Candidates for Congress had run on platforms that highlighted climate change as an existential issue — and won. Media coverage had begun to report that climate change would likely to play a significant role in the 2020 presidential campaign.

But now, we see calls for climate policy lumped together with calls for universal education, universal high-quality health care, guaranteed affordable and adequate housing, economic security and access to healthy and affordable food. Opponents can now label the entire collection of worthy social objectives as modern “socialism.”

As a result, we see honest climate concerns fading from the national conversation. Instead, the “ice cream” concerns of Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and the president’s fear of losing “airplane rights” are the talking points. The Republicans’ objective here is to create hyperbole images of how the Green New Deal would radically change the United States.

A more responsible and focused approach would have involved posing questions like: What will the climate and climate politics look like in 2030? What additional damage will have been attributed to anthropogenic sources? Will the United States have been dormant, or will we have re-engaged in responding effectively to climate’s immediate and existential threat?

We think that a dormancy future of no action could be more likely. We now envision a much heavier lift in achieving climate action at the federal level over the next decade.

A more optimistic view of 2030 would not rely on revolutionary change in the United States or around the world. The beginning of a revolutionary transition in energy supply and use and in land management techniques would, however, be essential; and that will require federal support.

Read the full post at Hartford Courant. 

Henry D. Jacoby is the William F. Pounds Professor of Management, Emeritus in the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management and former Co-Director of the M.I.T. Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, which is focused on the integration of the natural and social sciences and policy analysis in application to the threat of global climate change.

Gary W. Yohe is the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies at Wesleyan University

Dr. Richard G. (Rich) Richels directs global climate change research at the Electric Power Research Institute.

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