Senator Bernie Sanders has released his Presidential version of the Green New Deal, the most ambitious and expensive climate action proposal yet among the field of Democratic primary candidates. The $16.3 trillion plan aims to wean America off fossil fuels by 2050, a goal that will take a World War II level of mobilization from both the government and the public; in other words, we’ll all have to pull together and make major shifts in our lives in the service of a shared, existential aim.
If elected as President, Sanders would immediately forgo Congressional approval and declare a national emergency using his executive powers from the White House, a move that would allow his administration to act quickly in implementing sweeping changes to our energy system. He contrasted this act with the current administration. “President Trump thinks that climate change is a hoax. President Trump is dangerously, dangerously wrong,” Sanders told the New York Times. “Climate change is an existential threat to the entire country and the entire world and we must be extraordinarily aggressive.”
The boldest features of his proposal are his immediate sustainable energy goals and the scope of our investment in his plan. Our outdated power grid will be modernized into a resilient smart grid, integrating wind, solar, and geothermal energies. Within ten years, the Green New Deal will have all of our electricity and transportation running on 100 percent sustainable sources of energy. The public investment of $16.3 trillion — a price tag that will surely raise eyebrows — will pay for itself within 15 years. To give that number a bit of context, the US spends about $600 billion each year on military spending, which is where more than half of our tax dollars go annually.
The Green New Deal acknowledges that communities of color, working class communities, and the global poor face the highest risk of having their lives affected by climate shifts that our societies are not prepared to bear. Seeking climate justice, the proposal will move toward building an equitable future by providing these groups with green jobs and the resources they need to adapt to the changing climate. As with the Green New Deal that was first put forth by the Sunrise Movement, Sanders’s proposal will create 20 million green jobs that pay a living wage; many of these jobs will be available to those who currently work in the bottom rungs of the fossil fuel industry, people whose jobs will be displaced by the shift to green energies. As for the fossil fuel companies? They are going to feel the $3.1 trillion Bern when they lose their government subsidies and “pay for their pollution” through criminal and civil lawsuits.
After reading about the fires in the Amazon, chances are that a lot of us are ready to consider such an ambitious proposal. Washington Governor Jay Inslee, after ending his primary bid this week, expressed hope that we’ll be able to pull together. “I’ve been fighting climate change for 25 years, and I’ve never been so confident of the ability of America to reach critical mass, to move the ball,” he told MSNBC on Wednesday night. “I believe we are going to have a candidate to fight this battle, I’m inspired by the people I’ve met across the country, the young people in the Sunrise Movement, the climate strikers, these people have given me confidence we can move ahead.”