By James Bouffard
Rising politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has made headlines again with her Green New Deal. This 14-page resolution expresses an aim to reduce net carbon emissions to zero through ecocentric, state-sponsored projects that economically invigorate the middle class and disenfranchised groups.
Some of the particulars include investing in renewable energy, maximizing energy efficiency across buildings and developing environmentally friendly forms of transportation, such as high-speed rails. Ocasio-Cortez also makes a special point of considering the rights of indigenous people throughout this project.
This resolution has been met with scorn, skepticism and mockery among the political class. Trump mocked it during a rally in El Paso, Texas, Mitch McConnell described it as a ‘socialist fantasy’ and Nancy Pelosi condescendingly dismissed it during a recent interview with Politico.
Climate change poses an existential threat to the human species and all life on Earth. A 2013 IPCC report found it is “extremely likely” that humans are responsible for over half of the increase in global temperature from 1951 to 2010.
The panel’s report from this year brings even more news. The average global temperature is projected to reach 1.5 C higher than pre-industrial levels between 2030 and 2052, and this number may increase to 2.0 C by the end of the century if net emissions are not reduced to zero as soon as possible.
This small difference carries grave consequences. It may more than double the percentage of the population exposed to deadly heat waves, increase those affected by water scarcity from 350 million to 411 million, negatively impact crop yields and exacerbate sea level rise.
Such calamities will disproportionately affect people in the developing world who have contributed very little to this problem. This half-degree difference will also determine the survival of coral reefs, a range of species and the severity of natural disasters, such as droughts and hurricanes.
Vastly reducing greenhouse gases becomes a moral imperative in this context. Reaching net 0 emissions in the time frame Ocasio-Cortez suggests may be unrealistic, but any mitigation should be welcome considering the humanitarian and ecological consequences of inaction.
Concerns over the national debt and budget deficit are myopic and trivial when compared to this civilizational problem. Valuing the personal freedom of oil barons and coal companies to
forcibly ruin the lives of millions throughout the world only serves to ensure the fortunes of the most privileged at the expense of everyone else.
Of course, such fiscally conservative objections do not consider the cost of rising sea levels and increasingly severe natural disasters. The short sightedness surrounding this tragic situation tinges it with absurdity and makes America’s inaction all the more disgraceful. The future of the planet will be gravely affected by this country’s actions over the forthcoming years.
All politicians must be pressured to support measures such as the Green New Deal. While it is unlikely that they will ever seriously attempt to eliminate emissions, such efforts will move society in a better direction and enable more radical change. Nothing more should be expected from the political class.