Updated: Sep 8, 2020
The recent and rapid change in our Earth’s climate is primarily caused by human activity, but more specifically, the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that we emit into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. GHGs are an essential part of our atmosphere that keeps the planet warm enough for life to thrive on. However, the increase in GHGs over the years has resulted in unprecedented warming. This shift in our atmospheric conditions has trickled down to weaken the functionality of Earth’s ecosystems and threaten the biodiversity that lives within them. Additionally, the human population has been threatened by rising sea levels, air pollution, and an increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters, such as wildfires and hurricanes. Subsequently, these events have lead to Americas being unable to receive basic needs, such as clean air, education, healthy food, and housing and is an overall threat to our livelihoods.
In 2006, the global financial crisis motivated the European Greens to push the Green New Deal, which was later promoted by Howie Hawkins in 2010 during his campaign to be the New York Governor. The Green New Deal was created to collaborate and create partnerships with the communities, workers, academia, and businesses to address both economic inequalities and climate change. One way that the U.S. federal government will resolve economic inequality is by providing resources, training, and higher education to Americans. By doing this, people can acquire the skill set necessary to obtain one of the millions of new jobs that the government plans to create. Subsequently, many people in America will have high-quality health care, adequate housing, and healthy food. Regarding climate change, the main goal of the Green New Deal is to achieve a net-zero global GHG emission by 2050. By doing this, global temperatures will remain below 1.5℃ to prevent climate change from worsening.
In the Green New Deal, scientists and engineers will help the government invest in research to develop and implement clean and renewable energy into technology. New and existing infrastructures, industries, and manufacturing will use this safe and affordable technology to switch to a zero-emission energy source that will ensure maximum energy and water efficiency. To guarantee people healthy, affordable food, the government will support farmers and ranchers by investing in sustainable farming and land-use practices to increase soil health. Other land management practices, such as land preservation and afforestation, or planting trees to establish a forest, can be implemented to restore the natural ecosystem by increasing our storage of carbon in the soil. Furthermore, the Green New Deal plans to maintain climate resiliency by enhancing wildlife biodiversity through restoration and conservation practices. By doing this, threatened ecosystems will be protected so that future generations will also be able to enjoy nature as we do. If any other sources of GHG emission and pollution are identified, the government will take action by developing solutions to remove them accordingly.
In 2018, the Sunrise Movement, which is a youth-led advocacy organization, made the Green New Deal a national discussion after their sit-in outside of the House Speaker’s office after the 2018 midterm election. As a result, 81% of all voters voted in favor of the Green New Deal. Furthermore, in 2019, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez developed and advocated a 10 year plan for the Green New Deal that she believed could be made possible through government investments. With the upcoming 2020 presidential election, advocates are trying to make the Green New Deal the most important point of the election. All major Democratic presidential candidates are endorsing the Green New Deal with science backed goals of achieving net zero fossil fuel by 2050. However, conservative Republicans and the Republican presidential candidates are opposed to the deal. With all of the events that are happening, such as the protests for racial justice, economic decline, and coronavirus pandemic, climate issues are evermore present, making it easier to discuss the issues and possible resolutions that the Green New Deal can implement.
While the Green New Deal is a large-scale effort by the federal government to focus on climate change, individuals can also play a part in addressing climate change in our day to day lives. By participating in elections you are doing your part to ensure that those who elected are activists fighting for the issues you believe in. Taking small steps to improve your personal sustainability, such as carpooling or turning off the water and electricity when they are not in use, are also simple ways that we can make a conscious effort to reduce our carbon footprint. This may not seem like much from individual to individual, but these small incremental actions will accumulate, eventually making a big, revolutionary impact on our ecosystem.
(Cover image from Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images taken from Politico.)