Last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced resolutions on a Green New Deal [H.Res.109/S.Res.59]. It outlines in broad strokes how the U.S. government should work toward the plan—a bold and potentially visionary set of policies to create a rapid drawdown of greenhouse gas emissions, provide for millions of well-paying jobs, advance equity and justice for communities on the frontline of climate change, and more.
While unanswered questions abound (including whether the proposed resolution will truly bring us the transformative changes we need), one question that opponents of the plan are quick to raise—and which must be addressed—is how do we pay for it? And while many supporters of the Green New Deal have brought forward a variety of possibilities, from public financing, to simply printing more money (aka the New Monetary Theory), to raising taxes on the wealthiest of Americans, there’s a practical and profoundly fair answer that almost no one has brought forward: Make the fossil fuel industry pay.
To be sure, the question of funding has been raised by those who are invested in the status quo—particularly those who stand to gain the most from our current fossil fuel economy, including the Koch brothers, other billionaire CEOs, and the politicians in their corner. The question is often designed to raise the dreaded specter of taxes as a poison pill for action. So for those interested in advancing transformative solutions, it can be tempting to avoid this discussion of funding altogether. But avoidance won’t make the question go away. The drastic changes in our energy sources, infrastructure, and more on the scale that the Green New Deal calls for will require significant funding. We must address how to pay for it—and we must pursue the most profoundly just option. The entities that have knowingly brought us this planetary disaster (and profited greatly from it) should foot the bill for reversing course.
Since the 1950s, major fossil fuel corporations were on notice that their operations and products posed significant risks to the climate. These warnings continued throughout the 1960s and onward, but rather than reduce those risks, these corporations worked in collusion to subvert climate science, interfere with policy, and ultimately undermine the need for urgent action at a global scale. By taking this path, the fossil fuel industry knowingly contributed to climate change and its devastating impacts.
Today, there is a growing movement to hold these corporations accountable for their actions. MORE
Across the country today, children left their classes to protest against climate change. This is my message to them
‘You have issued a challenge to which we must rise, and we will stand in solidarity with you. Though we are old and you are young, we will be led by you.’ Students take part in the climate change strike in London. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA
The Youth Strike 4 Climate gives me more hope than I have felt in 30 years of campaigning. Before this week, I believed it was all over. I thought, given the indifference and hostility of those who govern us, and the passivity of most of my generation, that climate breakdown and ecological collapse were inevitable. Now, for the first time in years, I think we can turn them around.
My generation and the generations that went before have failed you. We failed to grasp the basic premise of intergenerational justice: that you cannot apply discount rates to human life. In other words, the life of someone who has not been born will be of no less value than the life of someone who already exists. We have lived as if your lives had no importance, as if any resource we encountered was ours and ours alone to use as we wished, regardless of the impact on future generations. In doing so, we created a cannibal economy: we ate your future to satisfy our greed.
Ours is a society of altruists governed by psychopaths
It is true that the people of my generation are not equally to blame. Broadly speaking, ours is a society of altruists governed by psychopaths. We have allowed a tiny number of phenomenally rich people, and the destructive politicians they fund, to trash our life-support systems. While some carry more blame than others, our failure to challenge the oligarchs who are sacking the Earth and to overthrow their illegitimate power, is a collective failure. Together, we have bequeathed you a world that – without drastic and decisive action – may soon become uninhabitable.
They denied all this because accepting it meant questioning everything they believed to be good. If the science was right, their car could not be right. If the science was right, their foreign holiday could not be right. Economic growth, rising consumption, the entire system they had been brought up to believe was right, had to be wrong. It was easier to pretend that the science was wrong and their lives were right than to accept that the science was right and their lives were wrong. MORE
As the scandal involving the Prime Minister’s Office and former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould continues to grow by the day, everything that led up to it erupting last week is now getting a closer look.
That includes Wilson-Raybould’s involvement in the failed Indigenous rights framework that fell apart late last year.
Or more so, her apparent lack of involvement in what was supposed to be a game-changer for First Nations and the dismantling of the Indian Act.
“I feel the Prime Minister’s Office held (Wilson-Raybould) back on this work,” said Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Indian Band in British Columbia. “We were dealing mostly with Minister (Carolyn) Bennett who, as you know, rolled it out very terribly.” MORE
This story was originally published by The Guardian and appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, along with dozens of co-sponsors, have introduced a vision for the Green New Deal. One Republican called it a “socialist manifesto”. Many environmental advocacy groups have hailed it, but some say it doesn’t go far enough. Others warn that its broad scope and the long list of progressive social programs it endorses could hinder its climate efforts.
So what is the Green New Deal?
The proposal outlines the broad principles of a plan simultaneously to fight inequity and tackle climate change. It does not contain policy details or advocate for specific ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But with a broad brush it aims to make the US carbon-neutral – net zero carbon emissions – in 10 years.
The Green New Deal recognizes that transition would require massive change. It endorses ways of ensuring that vulnerable populations – including the poor, people of color, indigenous populations and communities already facing environmental degradation – take part in the planning process and benefit from the green economy.
Would it end the use of coal, oil and natural gas?
No. But it would aim to offset any remaining greenhouse gas pollution with forests that absorb carbon dioxide, for example. It does not specifically address what role nuclear power or fossil fuels with carbon capture technologies would play. Nuclear power represents half of the carbon-free energy in the US, but it runs on mined uranium. Fossil fuels with carbon capture would still require drilling and cause pollution.
How ambitious is the Green New Deal?
Incredibly ambitious, both on climate change and with its reimagining of society.
Fossil fuels are deeply embedded in the US economy. Of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the US in 2016, 28% were from electricity, 28% were from transportation, 22% were from industry, 11% were commercial and residential and 9% were from agriculture. MORE
Former UN climate chief says it is time to ‘heed voice of youth’ as thousands join protest
Thousands of schoolchildren and young people in the UK have taken part in climate strikes with the support of a former UN climate chief, who said it was “time to heed the deeply moving voice of youth”.
Christiana Figueres, who led the historic 2015 Paris agreement, said the fact that children were so worried about their future they were prepared to strike should make adults take urgent action.
“It is a sign that we are failing in our responsibility to protect them from the worsening impacts of climate change,” she said.
Initial reports suggested several thousand children walked out of lessons on Friday in protest at the mounting ecological crisis. Organisers said 3,000 had gathered in London, 2,000 in Oxford, 1,000 in Leeds and Exeter and 600 in Brighton.
Students from Graveney School in Tooting, south London, join the protest in Westminster. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA
Students in the UK are calling on the government to declare a climate emergency, communicate the severity of the ecological crisis and change the curriculum to make the state of the environment an educational priority. They also want recognition that since young people have the biggest stake in the future they should be involved in policymaking, and are demanding that the voting age be lowered to 16. MORE
Algal Blooms Continue to Threaten Lake Erie Ecosystem
In two weeks the citizens of Toledo, Ohio, will go to the polls and decide whether to pass a legally dubious “Lake Erie Bill of Rights” to give residents the ability to sue farmers on behalf of algal-bloom-threatened Lake Erie.
Environmentalists say the novel city charter amendment will give citizens the power to do what Ohio politicians are afraid to do: take polluters to court and fight back against algal blooms that poisoned Toledo drinking water in 2013 and 2014.
The Feb. 26 vote from America’s industrial center, which largely went for President Donald Trump (R) in 2016, comes at a time when Democrat coalitions are coalescing around a Green New Deal in Congress.
But the move to endow natural resources with special “community rights” to sue has sunk everywhere else such laws were passed in the United States, and the activists behind Toledo’s move know they have precarious legal footing. MORE
he 2019 polar vortex has passed, leaving behind many harrowing stories in its wake. The new Cold Climates Addendum of Rocky Mountain Institute’s Economics of Zero Energy Homes report illuminates how our homes can be better prepared for weather extremes cost-effectively, even in some of the coldest climates in the United States.
The average US home leaks so much cold air that at roughly 20 mile-per-hour winds, all of the air inside a home will be replaced every 6 to 10 minutes. This can lead to dangerous indoor conditions when outside air is coming in at -20 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Some cities still utilize older energy codes that don’t require significantly better performance (or have no energy codes at all), meaning that many homes built today will continue to be challenged by extreme weather events like the polar vortex over their lifetime.
The good news is that our recent research shows that highly efficient homes capable of surviving extreme weather conditions can be built cost-effectively for only a small amount more than standard construction, even in cold climates.
The first step in having a home that can deal with extreme temperature is to eliminate drafts and improve insulation. These measures are especially cost-effective for new homes. Lloyd Alter’s article “Lessons from the Polar Vortex” provides some examples of the benefits just from an improved envelope to provide extreme weather resilience.
Homes can be made even more resilient with a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, which, with the right equipment, can provide enough power to meet emergency electrical needs through extreme weather events even when electric grid power is temporarily lost. The more energy efficient the home is, the smaller the PV system required to keep it operating. Finally, for a truly resilient home, battery systems can be used to store solar power and keep those systems working even when the sun stops shining. MORE
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, speaks as Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, right, listens during a news conference announcing Green New Deal legislation in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. A sweeping package of climate-change measures unveiled Thursday by Ocasio-Cortez drew a tepid response from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who didn’t explicitly throw her support behind the measure. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg© 2019 BLOOMBERG FINANCE LP
The rollout of the Green New Deal will hit some roadblocks. But its overarching theme is that the nation should go totally green by 2030 to avert the irreversible effects of climate change. It’s the latest volley in the war of energy ideas — one that must ultimately address jobs, the economy and cost.
The Green New Deal is not an “abstract” idea. Globally economies are trending toward cleaner energies — efforts initiated by public demands, improved technologies and forward-thinking policies: The sponsors are compelled to accelerate the pace — to not just help impoverished communities but to also prevent environmental catastrophe.
Think this wild-eyed? Think again. Wind costs have fallen by 67% since 2009 while utility-scale solar has dropped by 86% since that time, according to the financial adviser, Lazard. Prudence has been a virtue. But what green energy skeptics have learned is that the public incentives and the overall economics are adding up — progress that will only go forward, given that prices continue to fall while the quality continues to improve.
Getting to 100% renewable energy levels is a hard task under the best of circumstances. Step one, though, is to bring down the cost of energy storage. Once advanced batteries can be produced in sufficient quantities, the cost of manufacturing them will fall. Prices, in fact, are dropping because companies like Tesla Inc. have been investing billions into production facilities.
“Zero waste” has become a buzz phrase for the environmentally minded, but even those who are on board with the concept have trouble putting it into practice at home.
The easiest way to start is to become “more aware of the waste that you generate,” said Barb Hetherington, a board member at Zero Waste Canada, a non-profit consultancy.
“We’re used to living with bounty,” Hetherington said. “We tend to overshop, and then we dispose of everything.” But she contends that “a lot of it is avoidable.”
A fair bit has been written on the problem of food waste, but Hetherington said the single biggest source of waste in the household, by volume, is packaging. A lot of food packaging is not only excessive but also not recyclable — take black plastic, for example. Discarded clothing and electronic waste are two other categories of junk that pile up in many households.
The Way to Zero Waste