Green New Deal: Making Climate Policy Inspiring

December 6, 2018

Sorry wonks – we still need you – but we need a good story, a good inspiration, a great vision, even more.

Rob Meyer in Atlantic:

On Monday, speaking at a town hall led by Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez framed her chosen climate policy—the Green New Deal—through the lens of gallant American exceptionalism. “This is going to be the New Deal, the Great Society, the moon shot, the civil-rights movement of our generation,” she said.

The Green New Deal aspires to cut U.S. carbon emissions fast enough to reach the Paris Agreement’s most ambitious climate goal: preventing the world from warming no more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. In a blockbuster reportreleased in October, an international group of scientists said that meeting this goal could skirt the worst climate effects, such as massive floods, expansive droughts, and irreversible sea-level rise.

To actually make the target, though, the world must start reducing its carbon pollution immediately, and cut it in half by 2030. And we’re nowhere close. Global emissions levels just hit a record high, and even the Barack Obama administration’s most breakneck climate policy did not put the United States close to making its part of the goal.

The Green New Deal aims to get us there—and remake the country in the process. It promises to give every American a job in that new economy: installing solar panels, retrofitting coastal  infrastructure, manufacturing electric vehicles. In the 1960s, the U.S. pointed the full power of its military-technological industry at going to the moon. Ocasio-Cortez wants to do the same thing, except to save the planet.

I have no idea whether the Green New Deal will result in a federal climate law two or five or 10 years from now. The proposal clearly has momentum on the left. Since early November, I’ve seen the Green New Deal talked about as a story of Democrats in disarray, or as another example of the party’s turn toward socialism. Both analyses miss the mark. The Green New Deal is one of the most interesting—and strategic—left-wing policy interventions from the Democratic Party in years.

As I wrote last year, the Democrats have a problem: They are the only major political party that cares about climate change, but they don’t have a national strategy to address it. Party elites know that they want to fight climate change, of course, but after that the specifics get hazy, and almost no one agrees on what new laws should get passed.

For the past two years, this lack of agenda hasn’t really hampered them, because they could unite around blocking Donald Trump’s deregulation extravaganza. But as Democrats consider the possibility of controlling Congress and the White House in 2020, they will feel more pressure to zero in on a strategy.

For the first time in more than a decade, Democrats can approach climate policy with a sense of imagination. They can also approach it with a sense of humility, because their last two strategies didn’t work particularly well. When the party last controlled Congress, in 2009, Democrats tried to pass a national cap-and-trade bill, a type of policy that allows polluters to bid on the right to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It failed to pass in the Senate. Starting in 2011, President Obama tried to use the EPA’s powers under the Clean Air Act to fight carbon-dioxide emissions. After President Trump was elected, he terminated that effort by executive order.

Since then, Democrats in Congress have proposed no shortage of climate bills. A few of them even picked up Republican support. Some blue states have also tried to pass climate policy of their own, though the most ambitious of those efforts have failed. And as I wrote last year, the party has encountered new problems in its coalition. Some environmental groups have focused on closing coal plants and blocking pipeline projects, frustrating the labor movement, which appreciates the jobs that those projects bring.

From the successes, a pattern has emerged. Economists tend to prefer policies that work across the entire economy at once by integrating the costs of climate change into the price of gas, food, and other consumer goods. But voters—who have more quotidian concerns than optimally elegant economic policy—don’t always feel the same way. They don’t want gas prices to go up. And that means they support policies that remake one sector of the economy at a time, usually by mandating the use of technology. Economists like to disparage these policies as “kludges” or “command and control.” But Americans like them.

These are enormous demands that would require either many small pieces of technical legislation or a new executive climate-change agency. Yet they do not alone make the Green New Deal. The single most crucial aspect of the Green New Deal is its proposed job guarantee, a controversial policy that says that every American can have a job with the government if they want one. Data for Progress, a leftist advocacy group, claims that the Green New Deal could generate 10 million new jobs across the country over 10 years.

This policy—a job for every American who wants one—reflects what the party learned from fighting Obamacare’s repeal. Obamacare provides a revealing view into how economists think about policy versus how people experience it. That is, as far as policy makers are concerned, Obamacare comprises a set of clever tweaks and rules meant to change how insurance markets work and lower the cost of health care. Before the law passed, Democratic lawmakers cared deeply about getting those tweaks right.

Yet Obamacare didn’t survive because those new rules worked. They did work, but, in fact, voters hate them. Instead, Obamacare survived because it gave two new superpowers to voters. The first was the power never to be denied health insurance for preexisting conditions, and the second was free or cheap health insurance through Medicaid. The reason Americans jammed the Capitol Hill switchboards last year to protest the repeal—and pulled the lever for Democrats in November—wasn’t that they valued Obamacare’s elegant cost-control mechanism. They wanted to keep their superpowers.

“People who are receiving benefits, they’re going to react pretty strongly to that being taken away from them,” said the political scientist and UC Berkeley professor Paul Pierson in a conversation with Vox last year. “A taxpayer is paying for a lot of stuff and cares a little bit about each thing, but the person who’s receiving the benefits is going to care enormously about that.”

Fixing climate change will include lots of technocratic tweaks, lots of bills about dirt. They will be hard to defend against later repeal. So it would be nice if lawmakers could wed them to a new benefit, a superpower that people will fight for years after passage. Hence the job guarantee—a universal promise of employment meant to win over Americans in general and create more union jobs in particular.

28 Responses to “Green New Deal: Making Climate Policy Inspiring”

  1. Robert Nagle Says:

    I saw the town hall meeting yesterday. Interesting, educational and not just a political rally.

    As someone from Texas, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about a Republican mayor of a small town from Georgetown who has brought his town to 100% renewables. He talks for about 10 minutes starting out at 1:08:09, and I think the McKibben, Sanders and Van Jones listens to him in dumb amazement at what he has accomplished.

    Peter, you should consider making a separate clip of his question and answer. He is a very persuasive (and entertaining) man to people in Texas.

  2. Robert Nagle Says:

    Sorry, I didn’t realize the video link was only for an excerpt. Here is the link to Mayor Dale Ross.

  3. Sir Charles Says:

    Calling the Green New Deal left-“wing” shows clearly how far right the society has become. Further on, “the Democrats have a problem: They are the only major political party that cares about climate change”. There are only two major political parties in the US. And I think this is the core problem in the US.

    • Sir Charles Says:

      (Source: Wikipedia)

      • dumboldguy Says:

        JFC, Chucky! Your need for attention is getting so bad, it’s downright scary. It’s one thing to have to delete the things you post from other sites that most Crockers subscribe to, but having to look at things all Americans learned in the 5th. grade is a bit much. Go run around in the streets naked om Ireland if you want to be “seen”, but please give us a break on Crock.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          om = in

          Wear this when you go for your naked run so they’ll now who you are:

        • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

          Do something about your OCD on Sir Charles.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            We first need to do something about your ignorance of psychology. If you knew what you were talking about rather than throwing out your usual one-liner of self-imagined humor or wisdom, you would be accusing me not of OCD but of just plain “obsessiveness”.

            Actually, obsessive is what Chucky is the poster boy for, and I do not understand why you defend him as he virtually takes over Climate Denial Crock with his incessant and OBSESSIVE posting.

            This is not the first time I have tallied up Chucky’s posts. Over a span of perhaps a week or so in March 2018, I also tallied comments on 15 Crock posts.
            That tally showed a total of 103 comments, 46 of them made by Chucky and 57 from all other posters combined. That’s 44.7%—-approaching almost ONE-HALF of ALL comments made—-again more than his share by any measure, and WAY beyond in terms of quality.

    • MorinMoss Says:

      “Calling the Green New Deal left-“wing” shows clearly how far right the society has become”

      As I’ve done before, I’ll quote Bill Maher again:
      “Over the last 30 odd years, Democrats have moved to the right and the right has moved into a mental hospital.
      So what we have is one perfectly good party for hedge fund managers, credit card companies, banks, defense contractors, big agriculture and the pharmaceutical lobby… That’s the Democrats.
      And they sit across the aisle from a small group of religious lunatics, flat-earthers and civil war re-enactors who mostly communicate by AM radio and call themselves the Republicans and who actually worry that Obama is a socialist.
      Socialist? He’s not even a liberal”

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Well said—-you DO get it!—-as does Maher. The book by Chris Hedges—The Death of the Liberal Class” is perhaps the best explanation of how the Democrats have become the “perfectly good party for hedge fund managers, credit card companies, banks, defense contractors, big agriculture and the pharmaceutical lobby” ROTFLMAO! (Winner Take All Politics by Hacker and Piers is another one).

        (PS Don’t waste your time trying to educate Chucky on American politics, though—-go out in your yard and tell it all to a rock or a fence post—they will likely understand it better than Chucky ever will).

  4. John Says:

    Reblogged this on jpratt27 and commented:
    At last some real political leadership, we need a global Green New Deal urgently.

  5. Sir Charles Says:

    Is it the reality what hurts you so much, grumpy? 🙄

    • Sir Charles Says:

      Meant to be a reply to that grumpyoldguy.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      The day we rely on Chucky to define reality for us is the day we should find a high cliff to leap off.

      As far as “hurt” goes, Chucky is not educated or intelligent enough to inflict any “hurt” on me or the vast majority of Crockers. For me, it’s more annoyance and exasperation at the way he clogs this blog with his attention seeking and redundancies.

      A quick tally of the 15 “recent posts” on Crock over about a 10-day span shows a total of 133 comments, 43 of them made by Chucky. That’s 32.3%—-almost ONE-THIRD of ALL comments made—-more than his share by any measure, and WAY beyond in terms of quality.

      (And be glad that an ocean separates us, Chucky—-you would not want to experience my “grumpiness” up close)

      • Sir Charles Says:

        All I read from you is a lot of projection, grumpo. Stick it in your butt.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Proving my point about the lack of quality in his comments, Chucky attempts to counter me by ignoring what I say and instead talking about projection. Anyone whose schooling in psychology goes beyond occasionally googling Wiki knows that’s not the argument to make here—-Chucky obviously has a “reading” problem if that’s all he gets from my comments. And it’s laughable that the only word of 3 syllables in his comment is “projection” and the only one with two is “grumpo”. Otherwise, it’s “Ugh, me Chuck—me mad at DOG—DOG make me look dumb”.

          The question remains—will Chucky ever do enough self-examination to understand his motivation for being such an attention-seeker? Will he ever try to understand that posting links to things that most of us have already seen is a waste of our time? Will he ever understand that comments like his at 2:30 on December 6th at least show some thought and are preferable? (even though he may have plagiarized it). Let’s go, Chucky!—-think about it and tell us why nearly 1/3 of the comments on Crock MUST come from you.

          PS “Stick it in your butt” is a rather juvenile way for Chucky to show his frustration and anger at himself for being such an incoherent whiner, but it does ask for a more elegant usage. I would say to Chucky “Stick it in YOUR butt, except that your butt is too crowded—-your head is so far up it that you have to open your mouth to to read the newspaper”.

          • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

            Do you always have to whine whenever SC posts, even if he posts something relevant to the discussion? Your cranky responses don’t even attempt to address the content.

          • Sir Charles Says:

            Projection seems to be a nationwide disease, rhymeswithgoalie.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            WHAT? A nonsensical comment about “projection” that is worthy of Omnologos.

            The posting of the graph has gotten my crap detectors vibrating, though. This is the second time we have seen this graph of defense spending posted by Chucky. The first time it appeared (a few weeks back), it came with another quite anti-American link that suggested the U.S. needed to unilaterally disarm.

            I said to myself “Hmmmm—-is Chucky slipping back into Russian Troll mode?” I was also wondering where he disappeared to for a week or more right after the midterms. Were all Russian Trolls recalled for some training on how they would proceed towards 2020? Did the mid-terms require a “reboot”? And, based pon his recent comments, Is Rhymeswithghoulie going to be part of a RT tag team with Chucky on Crock for the next two years?

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Whine? If anyone is whining here, it’s YOU, RWG, and you and Chucky seldom address any “content” (which is far more evident in my posts than yours). Cranky? Nothing “cranky” at all—-any perceived “crankiness” is actually a positive reaction to the s**t that is clogging YOUR perceptual screens and Chucky’s rather confused brain/personality/ego/psyche.

            I’ll try again—-simply posting a link to something climate related does not constitute “content”, and when it’s a link to something that most of us have already seen on one of the climate blogs/web sites we subscribe to, it becomes rather annoying. I sit and read a post on Inside Climate, Shale Gas Ireland (now defunct), Climate Progress, Carbon Brief Daily, Desmog UK, UCS, NRDC, EDF, Sierra Club. and/or in many other places, and two hours later there’s a link from Chucky on Crocks—-and almost always with no comment or content attached. It’s about as annoying as having a cat or dog that constantly brings home bodies of various critters and leaves them on the doorstep expecting your approval.

            So, there AGAIN is the “content” that YOU don’t seem to understand or are unwilling to address. Simply answer these questions:

            1) Why does Chucky obsessively post links to things we already know about?
            2) Why does he seldom demonstrate any real knowledge of their “content”?
            3) Why do YOU so mindlessly support his foolishness?
            4) Aren’t you also located outside the USA?
            5) The last two again raise the specter of Russian Trolls, but that’s a topic for another comment—-have things to do this AM.

  6. Sir Charles Says:

    Updates from
    Today’s Climate

    One Big Reason Midwest States Should Love Clean Energy: Rural Jobs

    From wind power maintenance to energy efficiency upgrades, clean energy job opportunities outnumber fossil fuel work in much of the rural Midwest, a new report shows. The numbers reflect the importance of clean energy to rural employment and underscore the need for government policies that are supportive of clean energy, the authors say.

    (InsideClimate News)

    Cincinnati Becomes 100th U.S. City to Commit to 100% Clean Energy

    A plan approved by the Cincinnati City Council this week makes it the 100th city in the U.S. to commit to getting all of its electricity from renewable sources, PV Magazine reports. The city of approximately 300,000 will aim to be completely transitioned by 2035. Read more from ICN about a similar move this year by Cleveland.

    (PV Magazine)

    Trump Fuel Economy Rollback Based on Misleading and Shoddy Calculations, Study Finds

    A group of leading economists and engineers write in the journal Science that the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back fuel economy standards relies on an error-ridden and misleading analysis that overestimates the costs and understates the benefits of tighter regulations.

    (Los Angeles Times)

    Trump Plans Major Rollback of Sage Grouse Protections to Spur Oil Exploration

    The Trump administration announced plans to strip protections for the sage grouse in a move to open 9 million acres to drilling and mining. Oil companies have fought protections for the imperiled ground-nesting bird, which they saw as an obstacle to exploiting rich resources in the West.

    (The New York Times)

    Sen. Schumer: No Deal on Infrastructure Without Addressing Climate Change

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer writes in an op-ed in the Washington Post that any infrastructure bill will have to address climate change. The list he’s sending to the president includes investments in renewable energy infrastructure and ensuring new electric grid, water and wastewater infrastructure investments are climate-resilient.

    (The Washington Post)

    Splits Deepen as UN Climate Talks Near Crunch Time

    As climate talks proceed in Poland, some areas of negotiation have been more difficult than others. Among the points of contention: how much flexibility developing countries will have when it comes to reporting their emissions and how much aid rich countries will provide to them.

    (The Associated Press)

    U.S.-China Friction Threatens to Undercut the Fight Against Climate Change

    Taken together, the emissions produced by the United States and China account for more than 40 percent of the global total. But tension between the two countries threatens to slow global action on climate change at a time when the risks are accelerating, The New York Times writes.

    (The New York Times)

    Senate Confirms Bernard McNamee to FERC as Coal Recusal Calls Mount

    The Senate voted 50-49 to confirm Bernard McNamee to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Democrats say he should recuse himself from coal and nuclear matters because of his work on a bailout proposal for both while working in Trump’s Department of Energy.

    (Utility Dive)

    Joe Manchin Faces Liberal Opposition in Bid to Be Energy Panel’s Top Democrat

    Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is a leading contender to be the top Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, which is deeply involved in climate-related policy. While Manchin doesn’t deny that climate science is happening, his pro-coal positions and campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry are raising concerns among Democrats.

    (The New York Times)

    Brazil Future Unclear Amid Opposing Ideologies of Ministers

    During his presidential campaign, Jair Bolsonaro pledged to open more of the Amazon to mining and agriculture, alarming environmentalists. But as he assembles his cabinet, competing philosophies of key appointees make the incoming administration’s actions on climate and other policy areas harder to predict.

    (The Associated Press)

  7. Sir Charles Says:

    Help send 50,000 petitons telling Representatives to fight for a Green New Deal!

    => Take action now: Tell your Representative to fight for a Green New Deal!

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