A Green New Deal: How can we Afford not to?
“While McConnell and other critics seem to think that they can defeat the Green New Deal by repeating a tired mantra – ‘we can’t afford to do it’ – the real question is: how can we afford not to? Without bold action to tackle climate change, toxic pollution and economic and racial inequity, our society will only see rising fiscal burdens. A Green New Deal would not only help us avoid mounting costs – it also would stimulate broad-based demand in the economy by investing in real drivers of economic prosperity: workers and communities. That’s in stark contrast to the GOP’s expensive recent policy priority – the nearly $2tn tax cuts of 2018 – which did little more than enrich stateless mega-corporations and the wealthiest investors.
A Green New Deal is first and foremost about justice – prioritizing working people, communities of color and others who bear the brunt of stagnant wages, polluted air and water, and climate impacts. It’s about acting at the speed and scale that equity and science demand. But if opponents want to debate the plan’s straight economic merits, Green New Deal backers should welcome the opportunity. The plan is also about fiscal foresight.
While some people talk about the costs of climate change as far-off hypotheticals, there’s growing evidence that costs are already here. On 6 February, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA released findings that climate change impacts in 2018 directly resulted in 247 deaths and $91bn in damages. The longer-term fiscal implications are also becoming clearer. In November, 13 US federal agencies reported that, under current emissions trajectories, the US economy would bear more than $500bn per year in costs due to labor and agricultural losses, sea level rise and extreme weather impacts by the end of the century. This annual half-trillion-dollar burden didn’t account for many unpredictable second-order costs of climate change, like the implications of mass forced migrations driven by water scarcity and flooding. These are risks that the Pentagon has been highlighting for a decade.”