Do not let the current state of carbon emissions fool you. Due to worldwide limited use of fossil fuels, airplanes, and ships because of the global shutdowns caused by the coronavirus epidemic, carbon dioxide emissions have plummeted in the past few months. In some cities, smog drifted away from the atmosphere, making it appear as if the current climate crisis was improving and that there is not much work that we have to do. However, this is very far from the truth: carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are the highest that they’ve been in recorded history, continuing the upward trend that scientists have noted in the 21st century. With the current pandemic, much of the world’s focus has shifted toward attempting to alleviate the worst effects of the illness; in the meantime, the climate catastrophe is not going anywhere and is continuing to worsen. As a species, we are running out of time to cut our emissions and reform our entire society before it is too late. Drastic measures must be taken, and a solution must be found that is consistent with the level of the crisis that it is trying to solve. In other words, we need a severe revamping of our entire society in order to reach this goal, and we need all the help that we can get from communities across the globe. One such idea is to implement the concept of a Green New Deal, which is an attempt to revitalize the economy and livelihoods of individuals across the country, as well as attack the climate crisis with a forceful effort. Even though opponents have stated its detractions and that its expenses would ruin the economy, the Green New Deal, an economic, social, and political upheaval of society, is necessary to avert the most dramatic effects of anthropogenic climate change.
RECENT CLIMATE-RELATED EVENTS
In the midst of the pandemic, several climate-related events have occurred that are concerning to scientists. The Saharan dust cloud and the locust swarms in the Middle East and Asia are the worst that they have been in recent times.
The Saharan dust cloud hit North America after traveling nearly 5000 miles over the Atlantic Ocean from the Saharan Desert. This dust cloud was the most extreme it has been in 25 years: the atmospheric concentration of dust particles broke records. This high concentration of dust particles has the potential to create very unhealthy air quality, which can put a definite strain on those that are recovering from the coronavirus, as well as those that are impacted by respiratory illnesses or heart ailments on a daily basis. The reason for this increasing severity in the dust cloud potentially has climate-related causes, as shown in a study by JGR Atmospheres: “periods of drought in North Africa, especially in the Sahel region south of the Sahara, are linked to stronger dust events.” One of the most obvious symptoms of climate change is that droughts will become more dangerous as global temperatures rise, showing that an increase in the global temperature due to fossil fuel emissions can lead to worsening air quality from events like the dust cloud.
In addition to the hardships that the COVID-19 crisis has brought to India, the country is facing another issue: swarming locusts. India is being forced to deal with the largest locust swarm in almost three decades, causing farmers to worry about the state of their summer crops. The severity of locust swarms is directly linked to the weather patterns of the Indian Ocean. Due to warming ocean temperatures, warm air that is full of moisture is rising more and forming more clouds. These clouds lead to torrential downpours and monsoons that travel to the arid regions of Northern Africa, where dormant desert locusts are located. Providing these dormant locusts with areas of moisture allows them to awaken from their dormant state and cause mayhem across Africa and into eastern and southern Asia. This severely impacts the livelihoods of so many African, Middle Eastern, and Indian farmers, as locust swarms have the ability to eat enough food to feed 35,000 people in one day.
THE GREEN NEW DEAL
Complex and dramatic issues require solutions at the same scale. Early last year, several people in Congress co-sponsored a resolution called the Green New Deal.
The Green New Deal is a congressional resolution that outlines a plan to combat the crisis of climate change at the same scale as the issue itself. It was first proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward J. Markey. The plan calls for a 10-year mobilization effort from the United States in an attempt to abate the most devastating and harmful effects of climate change and its related disasters. In addition to this, however, the plan also states that there are several other related crises occurring at the same time; among these are inadequate healthcare, housing, and education that have become commonplace in our society.
The plan calls for new and sustainable infrastructure to be built in order to severely reduce the amount of emissions that our current buildings are emitting; new power and electrical grids to be built, opening up the avenue for good, high-paying jobs; ensuring a just and fair transition for those working in the fossil fuel industry by providing them with job training and compensation; and investing in sustainable farming practices in a way that guarantees universal access to quality food.
The plan makes it clear that this effort would be in collaboration with underprivileged communities that are disproportionately more affected by climate-related issues. The authors also state that the government would work closely with indigenous communities to make sure that they are not overstepping their boundaries and have their permission before pushing to use up more of their land. This is in contrast to past developments like the Keystone Pipeline that encroaches on Native lands and has the potential to severely damage the environment and the lands inhabited by indigenous groups.
This plan is extremely inclusive and mentions every sort of community imaginable. In the original resolution, the proposed plan even mentioned that the original New Deal did not even consider including the communities that they have; this demonstrates that the co-sponsors believe that this sort of issue is an all-or-nothing deal that requires “all hands on deck.” It is everyone’s responsibility to solve it. It is also made clear in the original resolution that America has to take the reins on the climate issue because we have a massive global influence and have emitted a good portion of the greenhouse gases that are currently in the atmosphere. Great global power comes with extremely important consequences, and it is our job as a nation to lead the way for other developed countries attempting to battle this existential threat.
WOULDN’T THE GND COST TOO MUCH?
While the Green New Deal appears to be practical and would definitely improve the state of the United States, it is important to realize that the programs that are written about in the resolution have a hefty price tag. Doug Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, conducted research on the potential expenses of the Green New Deal. In an interview with the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit think tank, he stated that the Green New Deal could cost anywhere from $52 trillion to $93 trillion over a 10-year period, which is the length that the writers of the Green New Deal would like to have in order to initiate the economic mobilization. In their study, the researchers also found that the Green New Deal would cost an average of $600,000 per household, which would largely come from increased taxation. It appears that the average American would never agree to implementing this resolution because of the unrealistic economic burden and the toll that it would take on people’s incomes.
In order to convince individuals why the GND is essential, however, the potential cost of the repairs that we would have to make for climate change-induced societal disasters must be considered. An April 2019 report in the journal Nature Climate Change wrote about two different scenarios regarding climate change in the future: The planet could warm anywhere from 5 degrees to 8 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. If the planet warmed 8 more degrees, this scenario would cost the United States around $224 billion more dollars per year than if the planet only warmed 5 degrees, caused by an increase in damage to infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and railroads. This demonstrates that climate change will have a significant and detrimental impact on the United States’ economy; the amount of money would likely keep increasing as time went on, too. This is exactly why the GND is necessary today: it is time that we make the investment in our future and spend the money saving our planet now instead of losing tremendous amounts of money in the future. Lawmakers must realize what is best for the future of this country than worrying about what their economic situation looks like in the present. This is where we must define our core values as a nation: do we value our lives, our wellbeing, and saving the planet, or do we value bowing down to the fossil fuel industry and accruing more money at the expense of the planet’s health?
It can be difficult for young people to feel like they can make a difference with this issue because it is ultimately up to the lawmakers in Washington. However, making your stand in the House chamber is certainly not the only place where change can occur. If you’re old enough, do research on the candidates on the ballot in your state. Vote for and support those candidates who support the GND and are aggressively advocating for the fight against climate change. Make this issue a core issue for yourself and others. Directly supporting the political process electorally is not the only way to be politically active; there are many local climate lobbies and activist groups that hold monthly meetings and are always looking for new members and volunteers to spread the word. (One popular option is the Citizens’ Climate Lobby; they have multiple chapters all across the country and are excited to work with members of their communities!) The more people in our communities that get involved and are aware of the climate crisis, the more likely it is that broader change will occur.
It is important to realize that everyone’s voice matters in this fight. It cannot be won by just one political party or one politician; it requires collective action and abandonment of greed to see the bigger picture. We have the ability to effect massive amounts of change, but everyone must be involved to save our planet.