To the editor:
The Green New Deal (GND) has brought needed energy and attention to the climate debate. At the same time, it is more aspirational than achievable. What we desperately need is climate policy focused on affordable, actionable strategies for reducing global emissions that can be passed by this or the next Congress.
Reducing CO2 emissions will be expensive, very expensive. Spending on climate action will compete for funding with other important priorities in a budget with projected trillion-dollar annual deficits. Climate policy should focus on least-cost strategies for reducing “global” emissions rather than focusing solely on US emissions or overreaching to a list of progressive ideas.
The US contributes around 14% of global emissions and it won’t be enough to reduce or even eliminate our emissions. Our policies need to include environmental tariffs or other inducements pushing developing counties to limit their emissions.
A least-cost approach should invest in global efforts, like reforestation and hydro development, rather than wringing out the costly last ton of US carbon emissions. It should redirect existing subsidies, like those for biofuels, to the most cost-effective projects and use carbon taxes to encourage market innovation and fund research on carbon capture.
Tying the GND to a larger social agenda or unrealistic and unaffordable goals will not lead to meaningful climate action. The urgency of the crisis requires us to focus to what is achievable and affordable. It may also require sacrificing environmental purity around nuclear plants, natural gas generation and dam removal.
The Green New Deal is a call to action. We should not let the perfect stand get in the way of acting now!