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The Counter OPINION: The Green New Deal

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The Counter is a weekly column featuring multiple writers who are presented with a set of questions to respond with their personal opinion. All writers are Ohio University students whose views do not necessarily reflect those of The New Political.

This week, theopinion team is looking at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal to combat climate change, dubbed the “Green New Deal.”

Contributing are OU students Charlotte Caldwell, a freshman journalism major, Maddie Kramer, a sophomore political science major, Azavieria Payne, a freshman political science major, and junior Tim Zelina, a journalism major.

 

1. Do you believe the Green New Deal is the right solution to combating climate change?

 

Charlotte: The Green New Deal may be a stepping stone to a larger solution in the U.S., but currently the House resolution is too broad and doesn’t solely focus on the task at hand. For example, the resolution also addresses topics dealing with oppressed populations, education, and labor unions, each of which, I believe, is not directly related to combating climate change.

This resolution also describes how the U.S. could change its policies on emissions to prevent climate change, but doesn’t address the fate of countries like China, who produces more pollution than the U.S. When comparing the emittance of carbon dioxide around the world, China comes in first with 1.037 billion metric tons per year. The U.S. is almost half that with 5.41 billion. Combating climate change in the U.S. is only half the battle; to get China to comply with these policies, the U.S. would have to act as the world police, which may not have a positive outcome for either country.

Maddie: The Green New Deal is a good first step in combating climate change in the U.S. This is an important resolution because it makes the conversation surrounding climate change relevant again after President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord in 2017. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and many House Democrats supporting this resolution show the American public that the government still cares about solving climate change and still wants to have a discussion regarding that issue.

While House Resolution 109 is a good start for introducing legislation regarding climate change, this particular resolution is complicated and also includes issues such as social services, education, and marginalized people. While these issues are important, it takes the focus away from resolving climate change issues, and makes it easier for critics to vote it down.

Azavieria: The Green New Deal could be a feasible solution to issues concerning climate change if the policy could mitigate its broadness. Certain aspects of the intended legislation have no direct impact on the issue of climate change. For example, the added components of higher quality education, healthcare, affordable housing are beneficial for our society, but these added benefits should not be pushed in a policy intended to reduce carbon emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy.

Social welfare policies and issues related to climate change are two sides of a different coin and should not be mixed. Due to this, the intended purpose of wanting to reduce climate change will, unfortunately, be overshadowed with ideas that some may find “socialist.” But, it could be possible that these programs were included to hide behind the goal of reducing climate change as well.

If bills like this are passed, then it is imperative that these policies extend farther than America. This bill can be a stepping stone to create negotiations with other countries who produce more carbon emissions at a greater rate than America or just as much as Americans.

Tim: The Green New Deal is more a call to action than a feasible proposal. It has many lofty goals, but not very many tangible policy proposals to achieve those goals.

Though it may not be full-fleshed out plan, it has great value in injecting life into the conversation around climate change. Climate change is, without a doubt, the most important issue of our generation. It is a crisis that threatens our food supply, our homes, our economic potential, even our social stability. It needs real and massive action, or our quality of life will be severely reduced.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has, just by introducing this resolution, reminded the country at large of the importance of combating climate change. It needs a lot of hard work to become a politically viable proposal, but voters gave the Democrats a majority for a reason. If they don’t use it to take decisive action on climate change, they can expect to lose voters like me at the polls.

2. What aspects, if any, of the Green New Deal do you agree with?

 

Charlotte: The Green New Deal’s policy on modernizing infrastructure would be helpful; this is a task that could be more easily accomplished, with less push back than policies like getting rid of as many pollution-causing emissions as possible. If the U.S. could find a way to modernize buildings in a cost-effective manner to achieve maximum efficiency, then maybe other countries would follow suit.

Devoting more scientific research to the development of new clean and renewable energy could be crucial to help find a way to effectively combat climate change and save the planet from further damage. If the research became widely known, maybe fewer people would believe that climate change is a myth.

Maddie: The approach Ocasio-Cortez takes in the resolution focusing on job creation is really important. Switching to solar and wind energy would energize a budding industry, bringing with it millions of jobs for those who are unemployed and new opportunities for those working in natural gas. Solutions to unemployment and job creation are big issues to the American public, and the Green New Deal offers a plausible answer to this.

An important aspect of the Green New Deal is the focus on agriculture. Documentaries such as “Cowspiracy” focus on eating animal products and the effect it has on climate change. When many people see agriculture incorporated in the text regarding climate change, they associate it with the vegan movement and anticipate being told it is encouraged to eat fewer animal products. This is not true for the Green New Deal.

This legislation does not name any specific agricultural industries by name, instead advocating for “sustainable farming” that “ensures access to healthy foods.” This is important to note, as the Green New Deal is not calling out animal agriculture, but the whole agricultural industry. This distinction shows that there is room to grow and change in the entire industry regarding pollution and greenhouse gases.

Azavieria: I agree with the step that is being taken to create a sustainable life for the present, but more importantly, the future. The idea that there is legislation pushing toward the use of renewable energy while simultaneously providing jobs in this new field brings comfort to me, and hopefully also to those who work in an industry like coal mining and will be able to train and learn new ways of producing energy.

Tim: The Green New Deal is more important as a symbolic measure, a manifesto of the Justice Democrats, than anything else. Certainly, some of the measures may be irrelevant fluff, like the health care or jobs guarantee plan, but the crux of the deal, reducing emissions to net zero, is absolutely essential.

A lot of criticism is levied at the plan, saying it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, and politically unviable. These criticisms have legitimacy, but they miss the point; climate change is not a crisis that demands a politically convenient action, it is one that can only be solved by radically restructuring our economy.

What Democrats like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi should be worrying is not whether the proposal polls well at the moment. Pelosi and her allies should be working on how to sell this proposal to the American people. Democrats have a backward idea, where they come up with policy based on what the polls say. Instead, Democrats should work to convince the voters of the necessity of measures like this. We do not need slow, methodical, careful action on climate change — we need something real and tangible.

 

3. What aspects, if any, of the Green New Deal do you disagree with?

 

Charlotte: This resolution is very broad in scope and doesn’t narrow the topic down to the overall goal of reversing climate change. Currently, the resolution only has a little more than 60 supporters in the House, way less than a majority. Many of the Democratic presidential candidates support the idea of a Green New Deal, but it is unclear whether they will support all of its provisions. Resolutions like these should tackle one big issue at a time, not all of them at once.

A major issue with this resolution is that it doesn’t lay out any way to pay for these changes, other than that they will pay for themselves. Part of the proposition hints at the possibility of higher education for all, suggesting free college education. Without a plan like an increase in taxes or revenue streams to support colleges financially, this proposition would never work.

Maddie: The current resolution has a ridiculous amount of suggestions and information. All these propositions are valid ideas, however, including such a diverse amount of proposals in one resolution makes it easy for critics to attack the resolution. Because of how diverse this “New Deal” is, it has drawn many critics, such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

It is important not to drown out the message about climate change under added suggestions about education. America may be facing a variety of issues at this moment, but not all need to be fixed in one piece of legislation.

Azavieria: The main issue I have with the Green New Deal is the idea that diversity is so championed in today’s society that we have to conflate social welfare with climate change. While legislators may feel that these two ideas go hand in hand, they do not. A bill combining action on climate change and something like healthcare, or assurance to those who won’t work or cannot work, is dangerous and can cause for the bill as a whole to be shut down. The issue of social welfare for Americans and climate change are problems that should be addressed separately.

Tim: The arguments against the social welfare sections of the bill are valid. However, there’s another elephant in the room unaddressed by the Green New Deal: the meat industry. Our society’s obsession with meat is slowly but surely killing us. The production of livestock intended for slaughter is one of the most obscenely wasteful food products available. Vast quantities of farmland are devoted to raising feed for cattle, and the waste product of these animals is a major contributor to global greenhouse gasses.

So many people love meat; burgers are one of my favorite foods. But if we’re serious about combating climate change, we need to take radical measures to cut down on the sale and consumption of meat. That’s not just safer farming practices; it may require something as radical as a restriction on how much meat we should be allowed to sell or buy.

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