Editorial: Is the Green New Deal viable?


Angelo Lynn

As Mr. Mueller prepares to testify in committee on Wednesday, Trump manipulates his contrived crisis of the day, Democrats running for president try to find any available oxygen to break out from the pack, Iran tests the western alliance, and Rebecca Holcomb prepares her 18-month run for the governorship of Vermont against Gov. Phil Scott — amid dozens of other newsworthy events of the week — the Addison Independent is turning its attention on whether the so-called Green New Deal could possibly offer a path for economic progress in the Vermont.

Why?

Because regardless of how important the other news of the week might be, the issue of climate change is the most crucial of our times, and if it can also be a driver of economic growth in Vermont, we need to seize that opportunity ahead of the pack.

The question in Vermont is not whether to embrace the arguments of climate change (as the vast majority do, among them Republican Gov. Phil Scott,) but what, if any, public investment can be afforded and to what benefit?

In a public discussion this Thursday, July 25 at 9 a.m. at the Ilsley Library community room (downstairs), we’ll tackle some of these issues, along with a youthful perspective from members of the Sunrise Movement, an environmental growth pushing the Green New Deal as a national political platform. The discussion will focus on what practical steps Vermont can take on its own.

But first, understand two points when we reference the Green New Deal:

• It’s a national movement (started around 2006) that came into prevalence in the 2016 presidential campaign by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and largely adopted by Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders in his 2016 presidential campaign. Of the 20 Democrats now running in the presidential primary, almost all reference it and give it tacit, if not full, support. President Trump and Republicans, no surprise, are opposed.

• Second, it’s not just about climate change. Rather, a large part of the initiative is transitioning the national economy away from one based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable energy. The understanding is that transformation will require a massive public investment similar to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal after the Great Recession of the 1930s. The national goal is to create environmental stability and a more just and equitable economy.

The five specific projects key to the Green New Deal include: replacing and upgrading every U.S. building to achieve maximal energy efficiency; meeting close to 100 percent of the nation’s power demand through clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources through wind turbine and solar cell industries; making public investments into domestic manufacturing industries to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions; and overhauling the nation’s public transportation system by investing in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing and affordable public transportation.

That’s the pie-in-the-sky overview, and there is reason for derision among political opponents, including: one, the cost would be enormous; and, two, for the initiative to significantly move the needle, it needs to be national in scope and with Trump in the White House and Republicans in control of the Senate, it’s going nowhere fast.

Equally important, however, is that the Republicans are on the wrong side (again) of what is a growing national and global concern. Recent polls show an overwhelming percentage of Americans now accept the science of climate change and are in favor (wholly or somewhat) of doing something about it. If Trump is ousted and Senate Republicans lose power to Democrats, expect substantial change quickly and the states that are well positioned could benefit from new jobs supported by federal investment.

To that end, most of the political effort at this point is to change the national perspective, rather than promote specific bills in Congress. In a past conversation with environmental reporter Amy Goodman, Ripton resident and national environmentalist Bill McKibben put the expectations of the Green New Deal in perspective: “What we’re playing for now is less a set of policies, though the Green New Deal is the set of policies that we’re going to need, but … a change in the zeitgeist, a sense of what’s natural and obvious and normal, going forward. And if we can get that change, then the legislation will follow rather easily.”

Grasping the change to come and translating such lofty goals into pragmatic legislation, however, is a different ballgame and that’s part of what we hope to discuss at Thursday’s meeting. Join us, if you can.

Angelo Lynn

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