It’s Not Easy Being Green…

There has been a lot of discussion about the “Green New Deal” proposed by several Democrats. Critics have pooh-poohed it as “pie in the sky,” while others have praised it for setting high aspirations.

As usual, Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars has cut through the sanctimony, pro and con.

It’s really just a set of goals, not a really specific program for how to achieve those goals. The resolution calls for a “10-year national mobilization” to work toward the end goal of ending greenhouse gas emissions and replacing all of our energy production with renewable sources. In order to keep the rise in global temperatures at 1.5% or lower, it sets these goals:

(A) global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from human sources of 40 to 60 percent from 2010 levels by 2030; and
(B) net-zero global emissions by 2050;

This doesn’t seem all that far-fetched to me. What I have long called for is a national program similar to the Tennessee Valley Authority project, which was a huge push from the federal government to electrify rural areas in that valley. It should be the policy of the government to invest enormous resources in the development of new renewable energy technologies (principally solar and wind), better battery storage and to replace the current electric grid with modern technology.

As Brayton points out, the measure also calls for conservation– especially through the upgrading of older buildings and building new ones with energy efficiency in mind.

At this point, the Green New Deal is primarily symbolic; its passage would signal recognition of the threat that climate change poses, and America’s determination to do everything we can to ameliorate that threat. Recent scientific reports have underlined the immediacy of the damage being done by a warming earth: insects are disappearing; oceans are warming and rising, contributing to extreme weather events; coral reefs are disappearing…the list goes on.

In a time of significant political polarization, climate change is the common enemy: we really are all in this together. At the very least, our quarreling and hostile tribes should be able to come together to combat the changes that threaten the planet. And as the U.N. Report makes clear, those changes are on our doorstep. 

Oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished and the sea level has risen. From 1901 to 2010, the global average sea level rose by 19 cm as oceans expanded due to warming and ice melted. The sea ice extent in the Arctic has shrunk in every successive decade since 1979, with 1.07 × 106 km² of ice loss per decade.

Given current concentrations and ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases, it is likely that the end of this century that global mean temperature will continue to rise above the pre-industrial leve. The world’s oceans will warm and ice melt will continue. Average sea level rise is predicted to be 24–30 cm by 2065 and 40–63 cm by 2100 relative to the reference period of 1986–2005. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries, even if emissions are stopped.

There is alarming evidence that important tipping points, leading to irreversible changes in major ecosystems and the planetary climate system, may already have been reached or passed. Ecosystems as diverse as the Amazon rainforest and the Arctic tundra, may be approaching thresholds of dramatic change through warming and drying. Mountain glaciers are in alarming retreat and the downstream effects of reduced water supply in the driest months will have repercussions that transcend generations.

I don’t think we can get “too ambitious.”


  1. We need an “all of the above” style response to climate change. NOW. Not later. The Republicans absolutely refuse to see and respond to life as it is. WHAT in the world is wrong with these people and how do the rest of us proceed?

  2. If hoping for change over time to protect lives and our environment from further destruction is a “pie in the sky”; I want a piece of that pie. A good start would be to find a way through the Trumpian mire to end his repeal of EPA regulations; most of which were ignored for decades by corporations to increase profits, and force cleanup of massive areas of dumped hazardous waste which has already destroyed areas of our environment and caused countless deaths. Love Canal, Kerr-McGee, PG&E, Keystone pipeline leaks and dozens of others and our own Indiana Johnson County Childhood Cancer problem…adult cancers are not included in this issue so we have no count to consider. We do know the source of that contamination and that it has been and continues to be ignored by local and federal authorities.

    Looking to the future under this current administration, other than the future of Trump’s wall, is verboten. Local takeovers of private solar systems and their stored energy must be addressed and ended before considering a tax break for those who opt for solar panels. We must end the current escalating destruction of the environment; having a plan for the future is more than a high aspiration, it is a necessity. Surviving day by day under Trump has blocked our view of any future; what are the Democratic presidential wannabes doing about their current responsibilities as they scramble for leadership of a party which still has no rallying cry, no campaign foundation, no plan to end the current chaos as we are distracted by Trump’s daily idiocy with the help of his friends and the continuing revolving door at the White House.

    I agree with Sheila’s ending statement; “I don’t think we can get “too ambitious.” But I don’t believe the overload of presidential campaigners is ambition; they are tripping over their individual egos to compete with Trump’s. The New Green Deal is a start for the Democratic presidential campaign foundation…but only a start.

  3. As long as members of Congress continue to accept money from fossil fuel and other carbon producing corporations, we don’t stand a chance at making positive changes to end our destructive energy consumption.

    I and so many of us on this blog have stated repeatedly that we just don’t understand how billionaires and multi-millionaires can put profits and greed above doing whatever they can to make this planet livable for their own descendants.

  4. To my mind, part of the problem is that none of the effects of climate change are visible enough. Yes, ocean levels have risen, but only coastal areas are affected. Temperatures have gone up yearly, but summer ends and winter comes. How can there be global warming. Science denied is signs not seen. Money is a part, but so is the willing blindness of people.

  5. theres the movement in the investment industry, where your portfolio,or, stratagy, is not investing in green house producers. some colleges,and buisnesses have started this trend. keeps the two sides of the mouth from talking cons. small steps,like that,keep the non believers occupied a movement,small steps equal a final solution. europe is far ahead,decades. i talked to a organic grain buyer from germany,(ocis)he visited my friends all organic farm,in north dakota,(since inception,1949 by his dad,has never seen a herbicide,or insecticide)he raised hard red wheat. this gent comes to the farm,inspects for chemicals,does some field research,has a chat,and waits for the first test. when tests are complete,and graded, they offer a per bushel offer,and its far above market price for grown wheat with little scrutiny. that farm produced this wheat from 1949 until,he sold out in 2008.
    never had a issue with the organic buyers from europe. my buds issue,and reason to sell,local farmers planting GMO seed,and spray carry over.. the courts thru monsanto,have invalidated these organic farmers with a long tradition,in court. monsanto wins most every time,because the overall farming done,is, commercially routine practice,over the organics needs. beyer,monsanto,ciba gigie,roundup,and the big seed,GMO market,has basically killed the organic farm due,carry over of pollen,and sprays. and this is the biggest problem,where,money over rides again,need.
    I hauled bees a few years back,,the person who,owns the bees,also raises queens for commercial sale. (fertile,mn.)in conversation, he said the nicotine based insectcides (beyer)are killing the bees,as with a few other compounds. it effects the bees sense of direction,and then they die from not,colonizing. ccd,colony colapse disorder,where hives are literally empty,because the bees die when they leave,or carry this toxin back to,the hive. ive seen many a hive tossed aside after winter because its empty..when they are stacked,i hauled them to calif and texas,on the first run.almonds and fruit.

  6. Jane M. if you would watch Al Gore’s Academy Award winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth” you would be able to see the subtle signs of Global Warming. He also shared the Nobel Prize with a team of Swedish scientist for the studies of Climate Change and the effects of Global Warming. Like me, you may not understand all of the technicalities but you would understand the pictures of changes due to melting ice caps, films of the destruction happening. We do not understand the hows and whys and wheres of Global Warming because it IS a slow process which has been happening all around us our entire lives; we can better understand what our future will be if we do not make changes in our daily lives and force the government to uphold their own regulations…those which Trump hasn’t yet ended.

  7. patmcc,

    What’s wrong with these people? They are scared to death of change. Strong women send them scurrying for cover. If they don’t see immediate profit, legal or otherwise, they will reject all reason. They are Republicans. They are corrupt Republicans. Their donors are paying them – literally – to stop anything that THEY perceive as damaging to profit.

    It takes just a little vision to see the job and profit bonanza that awaits with the new industries and businesses that would emerge from the Green New Deal. Sadly, pathetically, the vision among the critics is no longer than the next quarterly report. They are proving Marx’s prophecies to be true…every day. Oh, and Todd will be happy to know that Einstein predicted this situation too.

  8. There is an interesting precedent (in addition to the TVA). The city of Evansville, realizing how close it is to the New Madrid Fault Zone, passed a building code that required earthquake-resistant design for new commercial building, and mandatory retro-fitting of old buildings. The city recognized a serious problem, even though no one knew when the next big earthquake would occur, and responded to it. That is sensible governance.

  9. Republican = short-sight, greedy, willfully blind. Both houses should unanimously support the Green New Deal.

  10. Something I think about often when reading about climate change is the danger posed by the water and power effects at the ground level. What would happen if the U.S. experienced a cyber attack on our power grid? If solar was pervasive, in use in say 50% of the public buildings and hospitals and schools, and the power grid was suddenly crashing, would solar or wind be available, at those places to offset the grid’s failure? I have never found any reliable research that answers this question. If others on this blog, who often know much more than I do, have any source for laypeople, please share.
    If the answer is that solar/wind would allow at least minimal power to all of those facilities and homes, why are we not making that a national emergency priority?
    Those who ignore all the warning signs are whistling in the wind. As other countries strategize and plan, the U.S. fights hard to protect the fossil fuel/Big Agra industries, their powerful lobbies, dark money and profound destruction of our land, soil and water, all in the name of greed and personal interest. It is dysfunctional and self-destructive.

    P.S. It seems our illustrious former Senator Coats has come under the malignant attention of the narcissist-in-chief, and is about to get the boot, joining the parade of those who refuse to support his lies and distractions.

  11. The focus should be on transportation and energy generation – Hybrid cars, electric cars, public transportation for the US that would catch us up with Europe; developing alternative energy sources from wind, solar and working on identifying new technologies for energy storage. This is how I want my taxes spent, not on subsidies for the coal and petroleum industries and not on prolonging combustion powered vehicles.

  12. Wilful ignorance of pollution and it’s effects on the environment have existed for decades. The creation of the EPA was a start. The chemical industry and fossil fuel industry has done all the can to neuter the EPA over the years. Climate has certainly changed over time. Northern and Central Indiana were 30,000 years or so ago covered by a glacier, which eventually retreated.

    The wild card has been the humans and our ability to influence and transform the environment. Last estimate I read about we now have nearly a billion registered motor vehicles on the planet, which were not on earth in 1880. Vast amounts of pesticides and herbicides are spread over the land. Rivers and lakes are so polluted you cannot eat the fish that some how manage to live in them.

    From the Web Site Common Dreams:
    If you’ve spent much time watching US cable news lately, you have been bombarded with a strange phenomenon: Republican anti-Trumpers and corporate-friendly “centrists” endlessly advising independents and Democrats how not to vote in 2020.

    • “Don’t blow it by letting the left fringe pick your nominee.”
    • “Don’t fall for pie-in-the-sky unrealistic ideas like the Green New Deal or Medicare for All.”
    • “Your only chance to defeat Trump is to pick a centrist who is strong on projecting American power.”
    • “Only an establishment Democrat will get the votes of disaffected establishment Republicans.”
    • “Democrats will only win in 2020 if they talk about balancing the budget and entitlement reform.”

    You know the people I mean. Longtime GOP operatives like Steve Schmidt, Michael Steele, Nicolle Wallace, and Rick Tyler. Hard right neocons like Bill Kristol, John Podhoretz, Max Boot, Jennifer Rubin, Bret Stephens, Noah Rothman, and Richard Haas.
    Like me—and the corporate executives who put them on the air—all of these talking heads are proud anti-Trumpers.

    But it’s important to remember that the enemy of your enemy isn’t always your friend.
    We can’t let the corporate media control the narrative. Not this time. There’s too much at stake.
    As Bernie Sanders wrote in Our Revolution:

    Media is not just about what is covered and how. It is about what is not covered. And those decisions, of what is and is not covered, are not made in the heavens. They are made by human beings who often have major conflicts of interest.

    As a general rule of thumb, the more important the issue is to large numbers of working people, the less interesting it is to corporate media. The less significant it is to ordinary people, the more attention the media pays. Further, issues being pushed by the top 1 percent get a lot of attention. Issues advocated by representatives of working families, not so much.
    For the corporate media, the real issues facing the American people— poverty, the decline of the middle class, income and wealth inequality, trade, healthcare, climate change, etc.—are fairly irrelevant.

    Why is it that the mainstream media sees politics as entertainment, and largely ignores the major crises facing our country? The answer lies in the fact that corporate media is owned by, well, large multinational corporations.

    These powerful corporations also have an agenda, and it would be naive not to believe that their views and needs impact coverage of issues important to them. Seen any specials lately as to why we pay the highest prices in the world for our prescription drugs, or why we are the only major country on earth not to have a national health care program? That may have something to do with the hundreds of millions of dollars each year that drug companies and insurance companies spend on advertising.
    Bernie Sanders is right.
    The McMega-Media does not cover for long if it all assaults on the environment by corporate America and their political puppets who enable them. Flint, Michigan is a good example.

  13. Sheila’s note that the proposed Green Revolution initiative is symbolic struck a chord with me. She is right. It is symbolic, just as the New Deal in isolated context in FDR’s day was symbolic, though as fleshed out it was enormously important since it effectively saved capitalism from fascist and communist forces of the day.

    I personally recall seeing Movietone News of the Day at a small town movie house in the Thirties where there were marches of men in uniform in New York City with hammers and sickles and swastikas prominently displayed on their shoulders. We always hear of the Great Depression in economic terms, but we hear little of how American democracy was teetering at the time and that communists and Nazis were angling to fill the political void. It was a narrow escape for our democracy in more ways than one.

    We are again faced with political takeover of our democracy from within by such as Trump and the forces of corporatism and capitalism run amok, though not as a response to economic catastrophe such as we experienced in the Thirties. This time it’s about the environment, healthcare, or anything thing else that would be a drag on corporate profits, which the powers that be apparently feel is more important than survival of humanity itself.

    These conflicts in policy choices may start with symbolism to describe how we propose to deal with our problems (as with FDR’s designation of a “New Deal”), but we are well beyond that point of reference and it is time for action, starting with the end of the political careers of those of any party in the Congress who continue to pontificate for pay while humanity is at increasing risk for oblivion.

    Whatever anyone says, Greenland and Antarctica are melting at an accelerating rate, and Miami (among others on every continent) is headed for a watery grave, and that requires action, not symbolism and/or propaganda, so, figuratively expressed, to the ramparts!

  14. The New Green Deal is a return to 2016 when we cared about the future. BT. Before Trump. It’s a recommitment to join the world as a leader.

    Some of the details not in it are the roles of our mixed economy: Government ownership of energy sources? Government ownership of the grid? (Which takes on a much larger role in getting energy from source to demand with appropriate reliability). Government ownership of the vision? Government as regulator forcing Capitalism to satisfy all stakeholders not just the investors?

    In short it’s the return of progress. Will Mitch continue to be Trump only or will the specter of 2020 have registered with him yet?

  15. Jane M.,

    What you see is a function of where you are standing. Down here on the coast of South Carolina we see daily (including yesterday) or at least weekly flooding in parts of the City of Charleston where it was formerly seldom seen or non-existent. Yesterday was merely a high tide – nothing special. Politicians are in over their heads (glug glug) because they know of no way to deal with the enormous cost of reducing the effects of climate change. Charleston is a rapidly growing, mostly liberal city so remediation is part of the discussion, and approaches have involved bringing in the world’s top experts from Holland for advice. But no remedy is in sight, and nearly as soon as a patch is agreed upon, it is overtaken by new flooding. By the way, despite its awful history, Charleston is a lovely city well worth visiting. But my recommendation would be sooner rather than later.

  16. JD @ 8:21am:
    Since it’s a bit off-topic; quick answers.

    The large wind arrays and solar arrays feed power directly into the grid. No grid; no available power from them either.

    The answer concerning solar arrays installed in private homes and buildings is a bit of a mix.

    To state the obvious, solar collectors can only generate electricity when the sun shines. Hence, during nights and cloudy days no or little electricity can be generated. Thus, currently, even those solar folks must be connected to the grid to obtain electricity at nights, etc.

    Hopefully, in the not too distant future, affordable and compact enough sized batteries will be developed that will allow those private solar collectors to store excess electricity generated during the day to enable many of them to disconnect from the grid entirely. The nightmare that keeps the large power company executives awake at night. (Go Elon Musk)

  17. John Kennedy made the challenge of putting a man on the moon within a decade – what is the matter with changing our way of life from one of destruction and overuse to one of conservation and smart tech? They are finding out that the model that is in place is not going to allow them to continue for long so those that are the most competitive are going for all the marbles and screw the rest of us?… wow genius!
    Yeah I totally back the New Green Deal – But then I am a Pagan, what do I know?…

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