April 19th, 2019 by the incomparable Steve Hanley on Clean Technica
Bernie Sanders is stretching his intellectual wings as he gears up his presidential campaign. “I’m running for president so that, when we are in the White House, the movement we build together can achieve economic, racial, social and environmental justice for all.” Yup, that’s some scary stuff right there. Liberty and justice for all? Where does he get such cockamamie ideas? Oh, yeah. The Pledge of Allegiance.
Sanders Will Take On Fossil Fuels
This week, Sanders made a rather stunning proposal on behalf of himself and his supporters: “We say to Donald Trump and the fossil fuel industry that climate change is not a hoax but is an existential threat to our country and the entire planet — and we intend to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy and, in the process, create millions of good paying jobs. All of us have a moral responsibility to make certain that the planet we leave to our children and grandchildren is healthy and habitable.” If you go to BernieSanders.com, you will see his entire position on climate change:
Climate change is the single greatest threat facing our planet. Yet the giant, multi-national fossil fuel corporations have spent hundreds of millions of dollars furthering their greed and protecting their profits at the expense of our climate and our future.
The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made it clear that if we fail to substantially cut the amount of carbon in our atmosphere in under 11 years, the human, environmental, and economic costs will be severe and irreversible.
Climate change is not a problem we will have to worry about 50 years from now. Overwhelming scientific consensus indicates that climate change is already exacerbating extreme weather events like heat waves, wildfires, droughts, floods, and hurricanes. Climate change is already negatively impacting real estate values due to sea level rise and global agriculture and food security through changing water availability, flooding, and drought.
These trends will only continue as global temperatures and sea levels continue to rise. We need a president –Bernie Sanders — who understands that climate change is real and an existential threat to our country and the entire planet. When we are in the White House, we will:
- Pass a Green New Deal to save American families money and generate millions of jobs by transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels to 100% energy efficiency and sustainable energy. A Green New Deal will protect workers and the communities in which they live to ensure a transition to family-sustaining wage, union jobs.
- Invest in infrastructure and programs to protect the frontline communities most vulnerable to extreme climate impacts like wildfires, sea level rise, drought, floods, and extreme weather like hurricanes.
- Reduce carbon pollution emissions from our transportation system by building out high-speed passenger rail, electric vehicles, and public transit.
- Ban fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure and keep oil, gas, and coal in the ground by banning fossil fuel leases on public lands.
- End exports of coal, natural gas, and crude oil.
A Radical But Necessary Agenda
Wow! Those are some seriously radical ideas right there. Did anyone seriously expect that addressing climate change in an adult fashion would not involve a departure from business as usual norms? Sander’s end fossil fuel pledge got a strong endorsement from the editors of OilChange.com. No surprise there. Here’s what Collin Rees, a senior campaigner at Oil Change US, had to say:
“Directly confronting the fossil fuel industry must be a key part of any Green New Deal to tackle climate change. That’s why it’s great to see Senator Sanders’ new climate platform hit the industry where it hurts by banning new fossil fuel infrastructure, stopping fracking, banning fossil fuel leases on public lands, and ending polluting exports. Any climate plan must ensure the transition to a fossil-free economy protects workers and vulnerable communities, which is why Sanders’ commitment to a transition to family-sustaining wage and union jobs is crucial.
“Along with Senator Warren’s commitment to ban new fossil fuel leases on public lands on Day One, this plan from Senator Sanders means we’re seeing the bar for climate leadership raised to new heights. Other presidential contenders should follow suit and get serious about plans for a equitable phase-out of fossil fuels and an end to dirty infrastructure. That’s why Oil Change is joining progressive allies in asking the Democratic Party to hold a debate focused on the climate crisis and candidates’ plans to confront the fossil fuel industry and ensure a just transition.”
Sanders Wins Over Faux News Audience
Sanders is having quite a week. On Monday night, he participated in a Fox News town hall event and got cheers from the audience when he spoke about his Medicare For All proposal, according to The Atlantic. The audience response clearly took the moderators by surprise and caused a grumpy Donald Trump to tweet about how strange it was to see “Crazy Bernie” on his favorite channel. But probably what really got under his skin was seeing all those members of his so-called base applauding the senior Senator from Vermont, especially after Sanders pointedly called him out for being an inveterate liar.
“Whether you’re a conservative, a moderate, or a progressive,” Sanders said, “I don’t think the American people are proud that we have a president who is a pathological liar. And it does not give me pleasure to say that. Trump cannot even tell the truth as to where his father was born,” he continued. “It’s really that crazy. His father was born in New York; he claims he was born in Germany. If you can’t even tell the truth about where your father was born, it’s hard to believe anything he says.”
Sanders Is The Antidote To Trumpism
It goes without saying that Sanders will not be accepting any campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies. There is a long, long way to go yet in this presidential campaign but stop to consider for a moment that one of the current front runners is serious about ending the hegemony of the fossil fuel companies. That’s an incredible statement. How much will they spend to defeat him if he continues to find support among likely voters? The answer is, whatever it takes. They simply cannot afford to see Sanders get elected.
The rest of the country can’t afford to to see him not get elected if our children are to have any hope of living in a sustainable world. That may be a brutally stark statement, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
Republicans could not easily reject the Green New Deal in its old way — on the basis of totally ignoring climate change and completely denying the need to do something about it. Even oil corporations agree that climate change is happening and caused by burning fossil fuels.
Republican politicians had to look at some other excuse for refusing to do anything to save the American people from catastrophic changes to the climate, that their own misguided, fossil-fuel-loving policies are causing. “Too expensive,” they said. “It would bankrupt America. It is just an excuse to inflict crackpot socialist ideas on America.” Even those more conservative amongst the Democrats baulk at some of the radical proposals of the Green New Deal.
USA — Bankrupt, or Just Morally Bankrupt?
What will bankrupt America, without any doubt, are Republican policies, which not only fail to do anything about climate change, but perversely persist in supporting and accelerating fossil-fuel exploration, extraction, and utilization in the USA. It is a well established fact that doing nothing in the face of climate change will literally cost the Earth, and the cost of the Earth is many $trillions more than the cost of any measures to avoid climate change.
It is also the case that investing in renewable energy, and energy efficiency would create thousands of jobs for American citizens, which would be much more pleasant work than coal mining and oil extraction. It would also make an abundance of low-cost energy available to all.
But there you are, the Republican cover story’s many weak points.
Republican Concern for “Ordinary Americans”
Strangely, they also tried to say that the Green New Deal was “elitist.” Normally, Republicans don’t seem to have any problem with elitism of any kind. They normally seem happy with enormous inequalities in wealth, opportunity, housing, education, and the provision of health services.
However, they made a special exception for the Green New Deal and suddenly became very concerned that those poor ordinary people could not afford to buy $50,000 electric vehicles, could not afford photovoltaic panels on their roofs, could not afford top-quality insulation and heat-pumps in their houses.
These green policies, they said, were just fine for wealthy liberals to discuss over canapés and Proseco at their organic vegan dinner parties, but not something that could be considered or afforded by fine upstanding ordinary American citizens. This sudden outpouring of concern for the common people by Republicans was most touching, and made one wonder if they might have a real beating heart hidden in there somewhere after all.
AOC Tells It How It Is
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes was not in any way impressed, however, and replied to their specious argument with the contempt it deserved. Her manner of address was very much as I would imagine a schoolmistress who had finally lost patience with some particularly irritating badly-behaved children. She spelt it out to them very firmly, the rights and wrongs of the particular case. For anyone who has not seen this deeply gratifying event, I’ve placed a link here for your enjoyment:
An Unintended Truth
Unwittingly, it is here that the Republicans’ arguments are shining a glaring spotlight on a problem which they themselves would not like anyone to see. They have unintentionally highlighted a certain truth. I say “unintentionally,” as it is not very often that a Republican politician deliberately tells the truth. The truth is that the only way catastrophic climate change can be avoided is if all citizens adopt necessary changes in their lifestyles. As the Republicans rightly say, many US citizens lack the means to implement those changes in lifestyle which so desperately need to be made. This is so largely because of their own policies.
To overcome the poverty and inequality Republican policies have created, the only solution is to reverse those policies and provide state funding for some necessary goods. This, like providing universal health care, would be classed as “socialism.” That “socialism” word is enough to make the average Republican choke on their breakfast coffee. The question is — how else is the transition to a clean, green society to be achieved?
The Land of the Free (Market?)
If, as Republicans correctly point out, the ordinary American citizen does not have resources of their own to acquire all the necessary technology, then it must be provided for them. This, as the Green New Deal itself specifies, would require increases in taxation for the rich and corporations, and for people of low enough income to be given grants by the government, paid for out of that taxation.
Instead of allowing people to live in substandard accommodation provided by private landlords, the government needs to set up social housing trusts to build carbon neutral accommodation for people to occupy at subsidized rents. This, of course, would be “socialism,” which, according to Republicans, every fine upstanding American citizen needs to be protected from at all costs.
The USA is the land of the free: the land where people are free to be poor, without any pesky government interference; the land where people are free to die if they can’t afford the medical treatment they need, or, if they can afford it, free to go bankrupt once the money or the medical insurance has run out. This keeps US citizens free of the tyranny of higher taxes that pay for state health care for all, or other such immoral government interference.
The USA is the land where citizens are free to work in two — or even three — jobs, just to pay their rent, buy food, and cover all their bills. That also means, unfortunately, that they are free to continue polluting on a grand scale, because they can’t afford the means to do anything different.
Poison in Our Politics, Our Air, Our Water, and Our Fields
Currently, we are not only failing to reduce our emissions, but are actually increasing them. This, when we need to be reducing atmospheric concentrations tremendously. Please be absolutely clear of the difference between reducing emissions and reducing concentrations. Even if we stopped emissions altogether, the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would remain. We have to drastically reduce or completely end emissions to start the process of restoring concentrations down to something more normal. To do that, we need every home to be fully electric and efficiently insulated, and we need every car to be electric too.
However, 30 years of neoliberalism have created enormous inequalities of wealth. It is the pursuit of profits at any cost that has given us a global ecological crisis. Plastics poison the oceans, agrochemicals poison our fields and our food, hydraulic fracturing has poisoned our water, and fossil fuels are poisoning the air we breath. In the meantime, the burning of fossil fuels has doubled the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere to over 400 ppm, and those are still rising towards unprecedented levels of 1000 ppm. Further, our agriculture, our waste disposal, and extracting fossil fuels are adding huge amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas 100 times more potent than CO2 to our atmosphere.
WWIII is Here
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right that we have to mobilize like we did for WWII, as if this were WWIII. Every man, woman, and child; every city, nation, and corporation; everyone needs to be doing everything within their power to change the way we are collectively living.
But there we come back to the inevitable conclusion that neoliberalism, and free-market economics without regulation or restraint, have created a situation where millions of people in some of the world’s richest nations are too poor to be able to make the necessary changes. In the UK, there are millions of people who are working but still have to rely on charity and state benefits to feed their families. In the USA, millions of people are just making it through each month. How are any of those people going to buy electric cars or install heat pumps to replace heaters for their homes? Republicans are quick to point that out, but very slow to realize that if we are to defeat global warming, those “ordinary Americans” will have to be able to afford these things.
Republicans were quick to say that the Green New Deal should have stuck to environmental issues without including radical socialist ideas, but slow to realize that without those socialist ideas, there is no hope of defeating global warming. Socialism is actually an essential and unavoidable part of the Green New Deal, and, indeed, any solution to the catastrophe of global warming.
AOC Says —
The following is taken from material posted on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s own website:
“The level of investment required is massive. Even if every billionaire, and company came together, and were willing to pour all the resources at their disposal into this investment, the aggregate value of the investments they could make would not be sufficient.
“The speed of investment required will be massive. Even if all the billionaires, and companies could make the investments required, they would not be able to pull together a coordinated response in the narrow window of time required to jump-start major new projects, and major new economic sectors. Also, private companies are wary of making massive investments in unproven research, and technologies; the government, however, has the time horizon to be able to patiently make investments in new tech, and R&D, without necessarily having a commercial outcome, or application in mind at the time the investment is made. Major examples of government investments in “new” tech that subsequently spurred a boom in the private section include DARPA projects, the creation of the internet – and, perhaps most recently, the government’s investment in Tesla.
“Simply put, we don’t need to just stop doing some things we are doing (like using fossil fuels for energy needs); we also need to start doing new things (like overhauling whole industries, or retrofitting all buildings to be energy efficient). Starting to do new things requires some upfront investment. In the same way that a company that is trying to change how it does business may need to make big upfront capital investments today in order to reap future benefits (for e.g., building a new factory to increase production, or buying new hardware, and software to totally modernize its IT system), a country that is trying to change how its economy works will need to make big investments today to jump-start, and develop new projects, and sectors to power the new economy.
“Merely incentivizing the private sector doesn’t work – e.g. the tax incentives, and subsidies given to wind, and solar projects have been a valuable spur to growth in the US renewables industry but, even with such investment promotion subsidies, the present level of such projects is simply inadequate to transition to a fully greenhouse gas neutral economy as quickly as needed.
“Once again, we’re not saying that there isn’t a role for private sector investments; we’re just saying that the level of investment required will need every actor to pitch in, and that the government is best placed to be the prime driver.”
So, in conclusion, Republicans are very keen to say that the “Green New Deal” should not have included any political content. Some of our readers are very keen to say we should not be introducing politics into our pages, which should be purely about clean technologies.
It is so very clear, though, that politics, and more specifically the ending of neoliberalism & free-market capitalism and introduction of socialist ideas, are absolutely essential to the survival of our species. Without that, we cannot make the necessary transition to a society which respects the environment, respects the needs of the People, and brings to an end our dependency on fossil-fuels.
For anyone wishing to pursue those ideas further, there is an interesting article about the evils of capitalism in The Guardian by George Monbiot.