“Climate change is a global emergency. The Amazon rainforest is burning, Greenland’s ice shelf is melting, and the Arctic is on fire,” begins Senator Bernie Sanders’s Green New Deal to confront the increasingly imminent effects of climate change. Released on Thursday, this plan is both the most aggressive and most capital-intensive proposal to tackle climate change proposed by a 2020 Presidential Candidate to date. Bernie’s Green New Deal calls for $16.3 trillion in spending to accomplish three overarching goals.
All electricity from sustainable sources by 2030
The first objective of Mr. Sanders’s Green New Deal is to obtain all energy for electricity and transportation from renewable sources by the year 2030. An extension of this goal is to fully decarbonize the economy by 2050. This agrees with the recommended date suggested by the United Nations to reach net-zero carbon emissions.
Mr. Sanders also argues that he can create jobs and lower the unemployment rate during this transformation. Notable spending proposed under this goal include $1.52 trillion on renewable energy, $852 billion to increase energy storage capacity and $2.18 trillion to weatherize homes.
The plan also includes a condemnation of “false solutions like nuclear, geoengineering, carbon capture and sequestration, or trash incinerators.” Mr. Sanders instead endorses wind, solar, and geothermal energy, and efficient storage of energy obtained from these sources.
Standing up to fossil fuel corporations
Mr. Sanders, in his stance on climate change, places a lot of stress on the fossil fuel industries themselves. Simultaneously, he promises jobs in building more sustainable energy infrastructure to those currently employed by fossil fuel companies.
Included in this crackdown on fossil fuel corporations are stricter limits on where oil drilling, coal mining, and fracking are allowed, along with bans on imports and exports of fossil fuels. Mr. Sanders also mentions stricter enforcement of pollution penalties from the Clean Air Act.
Addressing unfairly disproportionate effects of climate change and pollution
In the last and most detailed portion of the Bernie Sander’s Green New Deal, the senator focuses on “laying down a social safety net to ensure that no one is left behind”, particularly in the first two years of action. This includes expanding programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, that ensure everyone has access to adequate food.
Major spending under this objective includes $1.3 trillion to “ensure a fair transition for energy workers.” An additional $488 billion would be put towards cleaning up pollution from fossil fuel, chemical, and mining industries, and $500 billion to ensure fair access to food in the face of possible rising energy costs. Finally, the Sanders plan includes a proposed $410 billion to make current farming practices more sustainable.
How will the Sanders administration fund this Green New Deal?
Sources of funding for the projects proposed are referenced in the plan. However, some criticize Mr. Sanders as being vague in this area. He states that he will raise taxes on fossil fuel companies, and income generated through investments in them. The Sanders administration would end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.
According to a New York Times article on the proposed plan, other sources mentioned by Bernie Sanders’s Green New Deal include 1.2 trillion from “scaling back military spending on the global oil supply,”. New jobs in the renewable energy industry beyond could generate another 2.3 trillion in income tax.
Beyond initial funding for the projects proposed, Mr. Sanders emphasizes that this plan would theoretically pay for itself over 15 years. He also juxtaposes the cost of his plan with an estimated economic loss of $34.5 trillion by the end of the century due to climate change without action against it. And the value of the huge amount of lives lost due to increasing pollution, natural disasters, and other crises would be incalculable.
How does Bernie’s Green New Deal compare to other proposals in the field?
Bernie Sanders’s Green New Deal plan is, thus far, the most expensive of proposed plans by any 2020 presidential candidate. It is also the most assertive plan that a candidate has released to confront and stop climate change.
Several Democratic Candidates have released plans with steps they would take if elected. Senator Elizabeth Warren has said that she would create a new Department of Economic Development. Additionally, her plan includes $2 trillion in spending to promote growth and job creation in “climate-friendly industries”, calling one of the themes of her campaign “economic patriotism.” A plan by former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr. also aims to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, using $1.7 trillion and new taxes on pollution for funding. Both of these plans would space out the spending over a decade.
Of the Republican Candidates, none have released plans of action to date. Current President Donald Trump actively denies the existence of climate change and has taken many steps in his presidency to dismantle existing policy acting on climate change.
Alaska Climate Emergency Worsens As Governor Dunleavy Takes No Action
The Alaska climate emergency may is arguably more critical than anywhere else on Earth. The state’s ice is melting, its forests are burning, and statewide ecosystems are dying. Naturally, Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy’s administration is somehow doing less than nothing as it disbands climate task forces and outright denies a climate emergency. The Dunleavy administration is actively moving in the wrong direction. Our nation’s northernmost state is barreling towards an environmental catastrophe, and the current administration seems entirely apathetic.
Climate Change’s Increased Arctic Effect
A common perception is that the Earth’s increased temperature spreads relatively evenly across the planet. Unfortunately, this is not the case; researchers consistently find the North Pole is warming at a much greater rate than average.
In its most recent Arctic Report Card, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a government agency under the Department of Commerce, stated: “surface air temperatures in the Arctic continued to warm at twice the rate relative to the rest of the globe”.
This is due to a phenomenon called Arctic amplification. Normally, white ice and snow reflect sunlight back into space, which keeps the Earth cool. Unfortunately, melting ice exposes the dark colors of the land and sea beneath which absorb more energy and exacerbates climate change.
Ice melts, exposing dark colors, and the resultant warming causes more ice to melt in a catastrophic cycle.
A fair amount of Alaska’s land lies within the Arctic Circle, and the North Pole’s climate change trends affect the entire state. In a separate report, NOAA indicated that statewide temperatures have increased drastically, the snow season has shortened, and a record number of daily highs outnumber the lows.
This hurts every Alaskan and American, but politicians don’t seem to care.
Administration Inaction Worsens Alaska Climate Situation And Hurts Its Citizens
Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy assumed office in December of 2018 and has wasted no time in promoting climate inaction. He started this February by disbanding the state’s climate response task force.
In a prepared statement administration spokesperson Matt Shuckerow argued “no governor should be tied to a previous administration’s work product or political agenda” because we live in a country where staving off environmental catastrophe is somehow indicative of a forced political agenda.
That depiction of the Alaska climate situation may sound alarmist, but the sentiment is echoed by top-ranking state officials.
Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Jason Brune was appointed by Governor Dunleavy, and he seems well aware of the drastic effects of climate change, as he explained in an interview with Alaska Public Media.
“We’re seeing increased fires, we’re seeing permafrost melting, glaciers are melting so, absolutely, we are having impacts from a changing climate in Alaska, more so probably than anywhere else on earth.” — Commissioner Jason Brune, Alaskan Department of Environmental Conservation
This is a powerful explanation of the widespread destruction of Alaskan landscapes. Unfortunately, it was only spoken as Commissioner Brune backpedaled from an equally momentous quote.
“I don’t think it is an emergency right now” — Brune
Brune Hopes To Sustain Non-Renewable Energy
Naturally, Brune failed to mention what exactly would substantiate an emergency. The state is taking measures to counteract current climate destruction, but it has chosen to ignore future projections and “big reports” as Brune put it.
The administration has made it clear that its foremost concern is sustaining non-renewable energy. Brune used to work for one of Alaska’s most controversial mines, and he is a staunch advocate for the oil industry.
It is understandable that Dunleavy and Brune want to protect Alaska’s economy, but this stance of inaction is exacerbating the Alaska climate crisis.
Protecting The Oil Industry Rather Than Citizens
Mining represents 24% of Alaska’s GDP, which is certainly a significant portion. It is the backbone of Alaskan trade and provides approximately one-third of all Alaskan jobs.
Regardless of ideology, it would be unreasonable to expect Alaska to forsake the industry, oil is simply too important to the state. That said, bending over backward to accommodate the industry has its own consequences, particularly on Alaska climate.
It is certainly true that excessive mining regulation would hurt the people of Alaska. It is also true that ice melting and rampant wildfires will also hurt Alaska’s people.
The answer is not to choose economic viability in favor of widespread environmental collapse. Some citizens are already facing the consequences of these misplaced priorities.
Alaska’s Oil Industry Seeing More Care Than Its Indigenous People
Approximately 15% of the state’s population is Alaskan Natives, an umbrella term for the various indigenous cultures who have lived off the land for thousands of years.
Many still rely on the environment to live, and several village’s subsistence economies have been wrecked by climate change.
Shouldn’t Alaska’s indigenous people be valued just as much as the oil industry?
Alaskan Federation of Natives Have Already Declared A Climate Emergency
The Alaskan Federation of Natives (AFN), has declared a climate emergency, unlike the state of Alaska. It was a divisive measure, as many Alaskan natives and tribes work within the oil industry themselves.
Still, it shows a level of cooperation and understanding that Alaska as a whole has not yet demonstrated. Alaska cannot feasibly abandon oil. But the current administration can certainly work to regulate mining within reason and take proactive action to stop climate change.
A policy of putting out fires as they occur will ultimately fail.
Even recreating its task force and acknowledging the climate emergency would be a step in the right direction.
Alaska Climate Situation Has Potential To Improve, But Government Must Act On Policy
According to US News, the state currently ranks 45th in terms of environmental policy, so there is obviously room for improvement.
The Dunleavy administration must take steps to protect Alaska’s environment as it does the oil industry. It is certainly a daunting prospect, but perhaps the state can follow the AFN’s example.
Final Note: If you are a policy-maker in Alaska, we would like to hear from you at email@example.com. We would be happy to work with you to get the word out about what you plan to do.
Australia Gets Flamed For Neglecting The Climate Emergency In The Pacific
Former Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga has re-opened the controversy over Australia’s high-handed approach at this year’s Pacific Islands Forum. Australia has been accused of trying to silence Pacific leaders, like Sopoaga, who are demanding it to do more to combat climate change.
Tuvalu hosted the Pacific Islands Forum in August.
At the forum, Australia pressured Sopoaga among other pro-climate action leaders from the Pacific, to accept a watered-down communique. Many leaders believe it would do little to combat the climate emergency in the Pacific.
Australia not tackling the Pacific’s unique climate challenges
Sopoaga told Australia’s SBS News he thought hosting the PIF forum in Tuvalu would highlight the challenges facing smaller Pacific nations. He said he sought to show countries like Australia the existential threat climate change poses to low-lying countries like Tuvalu.
However, he regretted that support was not forthcoming. Further, he didn’t like that Pacific leaders who spoke out on climate change had the chance to accept hush money.
“Putting this money on the table … and then expecting Pacific Island countries like Tuvalu to say ‘OK, we’ll stop talking about climate change’ … is completely irresponsible,” he added.
Sopoaga said action was needed at domestic level in countries such as Australia to have any effect.
“Any amount of money that is coming with the Step-Up [Pacific aid program] cannot be seen as an excuse for no action at a domestic level to cut down on greenhouse emissions.”
Climate change poses an existential threat to Tuvalu
Tuvalu, like a number of low-lying Pacific micro-nations, is under threat from climate change. The sea has almost claimed two of the nine islands. And with the highest point only 4.6 meters above sea level, locals fear they will one day be completely swamped.
Home to just 11,000 people and an average of just 6.6 feet above sea level, Tuvalu is in danger. In fact, its people are already making plans to evacuate should sea levels rise further.
Sopoaga has previously rejected offers to relocate the people, saying it won’t make a significant difference.
“Moving outside of Tuvalu will not solve any climate change issues,” Sopoaga says. He adds, “If you put these people in the middle of industrialized countries it will simply boost their consumptions and increase greenhouse gas emissions,” as he told The Guardian in May.
Sopoaga’s term as Tuvalu PM came to an end last month after losing a vote in the country’s parliament. The expectation is that his successor, Kausea Natano, will continue the call to action from the world on climate change.
Brexit Is Overshadowing Climate Activism
Due to the ongoing Brexit crisis in the United Kingdom, discussions regarding climate change legislation has been postponed. The European Union meets four times a year in Brussels, Belgium, and this past week the British Parliament asked for yet another extension on formulating a plan to decarbonize by 2050.
The 2050 Plan
In November 2018, the EU proposed to have its total carbon emissions reach a net-zero by 2050. This was a move unique to the EU, and it sought to motivate other countries such as the US and Brazil to follow its footsteps. Over half the members of the EU, including the UK, have signed onto this plan.
Critics have deemed this plan as ambitious and near impossible. Moreover, there is a lot of pressure on European governments from large industries. Still, there is hope for the EU to reach this goal as many of the members are adamant about decarbonizing all of Europe. The biggest obstacle to this plan, however, is the countries’ internal affairs. The prime example of this is the UK’s notorious Brexit plan.
Brexit’s Prolonged Existence
In June 2016, a referendum on whether to leave the European Union was held in the UK. Then, 51.6% of people voted to leave. Ever since, deals illustrating better ways for the UK to leave the EU have been proposed. Both the EU and the UK have shared and torn apart these deals. Today, the disagreements persist with a very obscure future.
It is partly because of this ongoing issue that the EU was unable to present a proper plan for decarbonization at the UN climate summit last month. The aforementioned meeting in Brussels also illustrated that the UK won’t adopt the decarbonization plan. Many EU officials have expressed annoyance towards the UK for this reason. Climate activist Greta Thunberg further argued that if politicians and governments were serious about tackling climate change, they would not spend their time “talking about taxes and Brexit.”
The adoption of the 2050 plan from the UK is being pushed to take place in 2020. The EU has little interest in refusing the UK of an extension, too. This is because a chaotic no-deal scenario would be initiated by the EU, which would be less than advantageous.
Internal issues such as Brexit have been an obstacle to the EU’s proposed climate action for years, now. It is essential for Great Britain to pull itself out of the ongoing issue to create a plan for the future.
Will The UK Set Aside Politics To Focus On Climate Change?
Many activists wish to see countries such as the UK set aside their politics to focus on more important issues like climate change. It is unclear how long it will take for the UK and the EU to finally reach an agreement about Brexit, but there is hope that this extension will be the last one.
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