Our nation faces many challenges but those are minor when we consider the effects that impending changes to our climate will have on every one of us. We are witnessing more severe weather patterns that result in fierce hurricanes due to warmer tropical waters, a destabilized polar vortex which extends extreme winter weather further south, and increasingly prolonged droughts which subject more areas to the potential for wildfire. In 2021 alone we have endured 18 natural disaster events that caused more than $104 billion in damages. The United States can’t afford to ignore climate change, but we can afford to fight it!
The Green New Deal, while a resolution and not law, does provide a framework for achieving a sustainable and more environmentally responsible future. I believe the following initiatives promoted by the Green New Deal are critical for the United States to realize our climate goals and to become the global leader on climate action:
Reduce global greenhouse gas emissions between 40-60%.
The United States is the global leader of industrial innovation and it is incumbent on us to continue this tradition to ensure the survivability of our planet. Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions between 40-60% is a requirement to maintaining global temperatures within 2 degrees Celsius of preindustrialized levels. This can be achieved by targeting industries that contribute the most to greenhouse gas emissions. For example, incentives can be given to oil and gas companies for reducing their methane emissions that occur during the extraction and transport of oil and oil byproducts.
Adopt a realistic and measurable timeline for reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
We must recognize that a transition to primarily renewable resources will require a lot of time and effort. We must find opportunities to incentivize energy companies to migrate to renewable energy production and to spur innovation for the repurposing of their extraction and refining facilities on a timeline that is feasible and protects workers. These incentives can be in the form of research and development grants and short-term tax credits.
Create green jobs and workforce migration training programs.
We can’t progress our climate strategy without ensuring the success of workers currently employed in the fossil fuel industries. We must invest in training programs that allow workers to transition to new, green jobs, or to prepare them for a migration into other industries.
Legislate protections for access to clean water, air, and healthy food.
Every American has a right to clean water, clean air, and healthy food. We can grant access to these three resources through investment in mitigating pollution of our water supplies, reducing harmful emissions from agriculture, industry, and transportation, and investing in local, sustainable farming practices. Much of this work can be achieved through the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.
Direct more investment into upgrading power supply infrastructure.
To increase our renewable power generation and to ensure efficient transfer of this power, we must upgrade our nation’s power infrastructure including, but not limited to, ensuring all states have direct access to the nation’s power infrastructure. This can also help us prevent energy disasters like what was experienced in Texas during the winter storm of 2021, which caused sustained mass power outages across the state. We can achieve the first steps of this process by the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.
Invest in climate disaster mitigation programs.
The most difficult reality that we face is that it is already too late for many communities to avoid the devastating effects of climate change. We should empower local governments to create community action plans to prepare for future climate disasters and for the relief funding that will be required to assist families most heavily impacted. This could include funding assistance for relocating communities that are on the coast or even relocating families from wildfire prone areas.
Climate change demands that we act now to protect the most venerable Americans, to safeguard property, guarantee a high quality of life, and to preserve our environment. We only have one planet to call home and we must do better.