Montanans cherish their cold smoke powder, ice-skating and snowmobiling, and climate change could mean a fundamental change in the quality of our world-class winter. NASA believes the magnitude at which climate change continues depends largely on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere, as well as humanity’s ability to alleviate or adapt to changes. So it’s up to us to begin making changes.

In hopes of mitigating long-term effects of climate change and making our existence a more earth-friendly one, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey released a 14-page proposal known as the Green New Deal on Feb. 7, 2019 . The Green New Deal takes a successful swing at combining a progressive, Roosevelt-era economic approach with modern ideas like renewable energy. Social justice initiatives in the policy recognize climate change’s disproportionate effect in communities of low-income people, migrants, and people of color. This concept, known as environmental injustice, has long been recognized and was studied by the Environmental Protection Agency in the 2018 study “Particulate Matter Pollution.” Implementing universal basic income and healthcare is the first step to building resilience and the ability of communities to recover from natural disasters and the impending effects of the climate crisis. 

Various climate change groups across the country, including the Sunrise Movement and the Sierra Club, support the proposal, citing the immediate need for solutions and change. But economists, scientists and much of Congress question whether the Green New Deal can be implemented successfully.

The Green New Deal fails to address the implementation of nearly every brazen proposal within it. While it promises to “provide unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States” and “achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers” in 10 years, the document is painfully vague.  It lacks any methods for how we will switch to 100 percent renewable energy with our current technology, how we will provide millions of Americans jobs with full benefits and how much it will actually cost to put this Green New Deal into effect. 

At the moment, we have not developed sufficient technology to completely ditch fossil fuels (which represent about four-fifths of the nation’s energy supply) and switch to clean power. Experts across the country questioned whether the proposal is feasible within the ten-year timeline given by Ocasio-Cortez, and the answer is overwhelmingly “no.” John Holdren, a professor of environmental policy at Harvard, commented on the issue. “As a technologist studying this problem [climate change] for 50 years, I don’t think we can do it,” Holdren said. Transitioning to 100 percent clean energy would also necessitate ending coal mining and decommissioning all natural gas plants - measures that economists fear would be nearly impossible to do without collapsing the economy.   

As for cost, the American Action Forum estimates that the entire Green New Deal, encompassing both energy and “social justice” policies, would cost between $51.1 trillion and $92.9 trillion. That equates to about a $400,000 contribution from every American household. Two large issues, transportation and deterrence from fossil fuels, would make up the majority of this cost. The policy relies on completely overhauling transportation systems, which experts believe would require major financial investments, regulations, and new taxes. In addition, a tax on greenhouse gas emissions to deter the production of fossil fuels is likely. The proposal fails to provide a cost-effective and commercially feasible energy supply. 

Instead of pouring trillions of American dollars into this vague, aspirational proposal, a fraction of the money could be much better spent in other environmentally-friendly ways. Since the technology required to switch over to 100 percent renewable energy doesn’t yet exist, perhaps the government could fund a new federal agency tasked with developing and innovating efficient and environmentally-friendly energy sources so that we may better tackle climate change. Just as NASA develops technology for space exploration, a new federal agency could invest the money in science and engineering so that the Green New Deal becomes a plausible solution to climate change. 

The Green New Deal is a vague, 14-page document that lists goals without any way to reach them. When looking at the future of Earth’s climate, we must examine the capabilities of our current economy and technologies and build a solution based on reality rather than a far-fetched politician’s dream.

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