Economists predict that climate change will create global instability as resources become scarcer and competition greater. The Stern Report estimates that enacting federal legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will cost 1-2% of the global GDP. If the worst impacts of climate change are not mitigated, however, the total cost of global warming in the United States could be as high as 3.6 percent of GDP by 2100.
The Green New Deal (GND) is getting increasing attention in the national public conversation regarding climate action. Discussion of this topic can be very hyperbolic. It is important to take the time to read the actual Congressional resolution, for which the preamble lays out a number of scientific & economic facts as well as careful forecasts with regard to climate impact. The resolution also advances strategies (e.g., modernization of buildings to maximize energy efficiency; accelerated development of zero-emission vehicles; afforestation) that should unite Americans, whatever their political worldview. In general, the GND resolution makes the case that the immense gravity and speed of climate change requires a response that is comparable in scale to this unprecedented challenge. The GND rightly alludes to past periods of American history where government and the private sector have together risen to address monumental emergencies, rightly notes that decarbonization needs to affect all sectors of the economy (and not just the electricity sector), and rightly points to the importance of paying special attention to the threats to vulnerable ecosystems and to frontline communities. As we reflect on the GND, we believe that any ambitious climate action plan like the GND must include the following principles in its implementation:
1.) Environmentally, we have to do everything possible to ensure that the manufacturing of renewable energy technologies (e.g., wind turbines, solar panels, utility-scale batteries) are themselves produced in a manner that is environmentally sound and protective of the safety & well-being of workers.
a. we have to be mindful that implementation of any kind of ambitious climate action plan needs to consider the consequences of the plan on the U.S. economy (including the national debt), and carefully models for the immense financial costs of climate inaction. The issue of the GND and debt particularly speaks to matters outside the traditional scope of environmental organizations (e.g., a potential federal job guarantee, federal provision of health care & affordable housing, and the implicit need to restructure the overall US tax system to finance those public investments).
b. we need to make sure that all levels of government are creating evidence-based public policy that reduces barriers to sustainable economy entrepreneurs, particularly those in distressed rural and urban communities. Entrepreneurs who have grown their businesses into successful companies have been at the forefront of the rapid decarbonizing changes in the U.S. power sector and transportation sector; they often face obstacles posed by aging and legacy industries. We favor reducing barriers to these entrepreneurs over federal grant programs.
This resource and this one are high-level cases for the GND, from an economic perspective.
3.) Technically, we have to ensure that the accelerated ramp-up of renewable energy maintains high levels of reliability of our electricity grid.
4.) Politically, we need to forge a plan that engages people of good faith — those sincerely interested in problem solving and sincerely interested in bridge-building — across the political spectrum. By doing so, an ambitious climate action plan can be become law, and move beyond being a discussion document.
As we think about the local dimensions of the GND, note that HEC is working on decarbonization efforts in the power sector (by advancing solar energy), the transportation sector (by advancing mass transit & greenways), and the agriculture sector (by advancing the plant-based economy). We are very involved in adaptation efforts through our work on stormwater management and forest protection. Last, HEC is deeply engaged in environmental justice initiatives in historically marginalized communities in Marion County and Lake County. We are also involved, judiciously, in local climate policy initiatives in Indianapolis.