The Dying Elephant in the Room: The Need for a Green New Deal

Page two of House Resolution 109, a draft of the Green New Deal
Source: U.S. Congress

Failing to recognize the importance of addressing climate change means failing to recognize the importance of our futures, the beauty of the world around us and our privilege in ending this fight. The position of our school in the nation’s capital means we are not necessarily the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but we are in a unique situation where we can directly influence lawmakers to fight it.

Major corporations, like those in the fossil fuel and food production industries, continue to leak pollutants into the atmosphere, land and water with little to no regulations. There are small changes that everyday American citizens can make to aid the environment, but little will be achieved unless Americans take the fight against climate change to a more powerful force and do so quickly. That means the fight for a Green New Deal needs to be taken from hypotheticals to concrete policy, and it needs to be done in a way that will produce support across party lines and prevent major fossil fuel corporations from continuing to buy out politicians.  

Every year, fossil fuel-reliant energy corporations pay millions of dollars of contributions to politicians, mostly conservatives and Republicans. For example, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Koch Industries, an American chemical manufacturing company, contributed more than ten million dollars to Republicans and conservatives between 2017 and 2018. These contributions encourage politicians—the people who are supposed to be leading our nation towards greater good—to institute subsidies on nonrenewable energy, promote fewer regulations on polluting industries and deny climate change. In fact, in 2012, Donald Trump claimed in a tweet that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese.” Since then, he has changed his stance and accepted that climate change is not, in fact, a hoax, but he now claims that climate change requires no immediate action and will reverse itself on its own.

But climate change is not something that we can continue to disregard any longer.

The Green New Deal’s basic goal is to eliminate emissions, ideally in the next ten years, and replace these fuels with clean energy and economic opportunities. It is both an environmental plan and an economic one, mimicking Roosevelt’s New Deal rolled out in the wake of the Great Depression in order to transform the American economy.

However, unlike the original New Deal, the Green New Deal has been proposed in a time when the American economy appears to be booming, prompting stark opposition from many industries and conservatives. But there’s a reason the economy is booming; the United States is heavily relying on nonrenewable, dirty energy that allows the nation to fulfill American consumerist needs at a substantial cost that Americans can no longer afford to ignore. Although imperfect, the Green New Deal is the United States’ current, most thought-out chance to effectively fight climate change.

The global economy must be radically adjusted to prevent the world from its seemingly inevitable doom— a doom that many Americans are unwilling to accept the reality of, despite strong evidence that shows the terrifying reality of climate change. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report released in October, human activities have increased the Earth’s temperature by about 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial levels and will reach an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius between 2030 and 2052 if global warming continues at its current rate. This global warming contributes to the melting of ice caps, the rise of sea levels, a sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history, extreme weather, disease spread and reduced access to drinking water.

In order to work to combat global warming, the American Green New Deal should institute carbon pricing, through a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade program, to limit carbon emissions and, thus, reduce global warming. According to the New York Times, the United States has contributed more carbon dioxide to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations than any other country, which means the United States should feel an obligation to create tougher regulations on its industries.

In addition, through legislation in the Green New Deal, the American government must work to spread environmental action to developing nations and prevent other nations from attracting heavily-polluting American businesses to lightly regulated economies. Historically, the United States is a major contributor to climate change, having emitted 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions through 2014, but with American technology, the United States has the unique opportunity to set a precedent for other nations by passing a Green New Deal and working towards net-zero emissions.

The United States government should fund more climate research and actually act on this research. The National Climate Assessment released by the U.S. government in November and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report gave the world an ultimatum: we only have 12 years to stop the effects of climate change.

But little has been done to address these findings. Our unsustainable habits have put the world into a climate crisis that knows no borders and demands immediate action. Climate change has no easy solution, but the difficulty in finding a solution means Americans, along with citizens all over the world, need to work harder to solve it, not vice versa. That means that, yes, we need radical change.

We need a Green New Deal.

Abby Murphy ’20