The Green New Deal

David Appell on the Green New deal:

I wish it was only about carbon without the social welfare proposals, such as

(G) ensuring that the Green New Deal mobilization creates high-quality union jobs that pay prevailing wages….

(H) guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States;….

(I) strengthening and protecting the right of all workers to organize, unionize, and collectively bargain free of coercion, intimidation, and harassment;….

(O) providing all people of the United States with
(i) high-quality health care;
(ii) affordable, safe, and adequate housing;
(iii) economic security; and access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.

You may or may not think these are worthy aspirations, but such social engineering proposals are exactly what turns off some of the (rational) opponents of action on climate change. And I can’t say I blame them. If Republicans came forth with comprehensive climate/energy legislation that also included banning abortions, ensuring nationwide right-to-work laws, and (still more) tax breaks for the wealthy, I’d oppose it no matter what the climate section proposed. I don’t understand why AOC and the 37 other sponsoring Democratic representatives don’t see that.

I agree, though I might still tentatively support this hypothetical Republican plan to mitigate climate change.

The general idea that climate change legislation should only tackle climate change is something I support completely. In order to build a big tent of support for tackling climate change, we need to limit the areas of potential disagreement. Talking about union jobs or taxes for the rich might be important but it isn’t going to reduce emissions and will only drive people away from the climate tent.

3 thoughts on “The Green New Deal

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  1. Dan, climate change action is inherently bound up in equity. It is a global threat. Those who would parse it into a local or national issue are the same people who usually get into finger-pointing. This is especially true of the major emitters where we see the high per capita emitters (the US, Canada, Australia, etc.) heaping blame at the high overall emitters, China and India in particular. Both have plausible arguments that each uses to deflect attention and consequence. If only for the sake of breaking this carefully constructed log jam, both should be lumped together, each in its own way a major threat to the future of the planet.

    I don’t see the simultaneous pursuit of social justice, a progressive agenda, as something unhelpful. We know that climate change impacts are not uniformly felt. We know that the low income earning sectors are and will remain the hardest hit. What more justification is needed to promote ways of mitigating their vulnerability by reviving the means that once gave the west and, particularly, North America the broadest, most robust middle class in history. And, yes, that means promoting organized labour, thwarting already dangerous levels of inequality and such.

    If there’s one thing that societies will need to cope with the future it’s social cohesion. That’s where you find collective strength and purpose. Look how divided our societies are becoming especially in countries that have already succumbed to right wing populism. Inequality is a terminal disease for society. If you haven’t read it, get a copy of “The Spirit Level” by two British epidemiologists, Wilkinson and Picket. They applied the principles of epidemiology to evaluate and contrast social outcomes across the OECD and the various American states according to their levels of inequality.

    1. I don’t agree.

      Climate change is an unusually well defined problem (increasing GHG concentrations in the atmosphere). Mitigation policy needs only deal with this well defined issue to be effective (putting aside geo-engineering).

      This is all that is needed to mitigate climate change, but just climate change; there are hundreds of other issues that demand our attention.

      Climate change is a difficult enough problem to solve (we have early done anything to mitigate it in the past 3 decades since the scientific consensus formed), by limiting the focus of climate change mitigation policy we limit the areas of disagreement. If you start tying things like wealth inequality to climate change legislation you just make and already difficult problem more difficult to solve.

      I am not disagreeing with you regarding these other issues. They are important and we do need to find solutions to them, but solutions to these issues isn’t a requirement to solve the well defined problem of climate change.

      I would like to see a laser focus on climate change mitigation, and separate legislation to tackle other very important issues.

  2. After leaving my earlier comment I came across this from law professor and environmental activist Gus Spelth:

    “I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

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