The Green New Deal proposal in Congress has caused a great deal of buzz, some of it enthusiastic, some of it skeptical and some of it negative. But we should be asking this: If not the Green New Deal, or something like it, then what are our options? There should be no debate about the fact that the United States and the rest of the world must act boldly and quickly to pull back from far more disastrous impacts of climate change than we are experiencing today.
This post offers a set of slides that show some of the good news and the bad news about our response to climate change so far. Many of the illustrations come from Statista, a service that analyzes data from more than 22,500 sources to spot trends on a wide variety of topics including energy and climate. Others come from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communications, PoliticoPro and other data organizations.
What we see is this: Although climate change must be addressed by every nation, the United States is in the driver’s seat in several ways. We have the world’s largest coal reserves. We lead the world in oil production. We are the second-largest carbon dioxide polluter.
The world’s scientists tell us that most of the proved reserves of fossil fuels must remain unburned. Yet U.S. oil companies such as ExxonMobil are racing to tap those reserves and to find more. ExxonMobil expects that its oil and gas production in 2025 will be 25% higher than in 2017. The movement to have institutional investors divest from fossil energy companies is not stopping the big producers so far. Neither are shareholder resolutions and lawsuits. Total, British Petroleum and Chevron reportedly plan to increase their oil and gas production, too.
Under the Trump Administration, climate-changing carbon emissions have grown again after several years of declining. As one of the charts illustrates, solar jobs have declined during Trump’s two years in office, largely because of his trade policies. While worldwide spending on oil and gas production rose in 2017, investments in renewable energy fell for the first time in three years.
Is the Green New Deal controversial? Yes. Is it ambitious? Definitely. But it also has started Congress talking again about climate change, and offers a blueprint that can be improved upon. We have to ask: If we in the United States do not begin doing something about climate change immediately, and doing it aggressively, then what? The Green New Deal so far is a framework for further discussion. If naysayers don’t like it, then they should tell us their better ideas for the United States to achieve net-zero carbon energy by 2050.