Climate Change and The Green New Deal

Roughly 6 out of 10 Americans recognize that climate change is occurring, it is caused by human activity, and it is a threat to human civilization as we know it. As much as logic would have us inclined to place priority on proliferating information to educate the other 40% or so of the population who contend it is either not happening or has natural causes unrelated to human activity. Unfortunately, information and explanation rooted in hard science is not likely to persuade these people. These people’s opinions are formed based on authorities that derive their power from personality and or the familiarity of positions that the individual has been conditioned to find agreeable. They are steadfast in willed ignorance and chosen stupidity.

Understanding climate change and the likely human trajectory is simple. If we can maintain a level of CO2 in the atmosphere of less than 480ppm we should be able prevent an increase in temperature of less than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, and 2 degrees warming should be tolerable in terms of maintaining habitability and preventing major disruptions to human civilization. To maintain a carbon concentration of less than 480ppm, human beings must reduce carbon emissions by 40 to 70% by mid century. How much progress has their been in the last 20 years in the reduction of carbon emissions? (1) With the exception of 3 years, carbon emissions have risen steadily by about 3% per year. (2) Across the country we see windmills as we drive, paid for largely with tax payer money but owned by private interests. In the west we see solar farms, again paid for largely by tax payers but owned privately. What percentage of US energy is generated by solar and wind? 1% of electricity in the United States is generated by solar, and 6% is generated by wind. (3) The main point is, what reason is there to believe we will reduce carbon emissions in the next 20 years by 40 to 70% when in the last 20 years we haven’t been able to reduce carbon emissions by even 1% in the previous 20 years?

The other aspect of the more optimistic scenarios that is almost laughable if it weren’t so serious, is all scenarios with the exception of the worst case scenarios presume on technology that is able to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Technology that does not presently exist. We are talking about the development and scaling of technology that does not exist which must have value in the market to become viable for the fulfillment of a scenario that is not catastrophic. These are scientists professing faith in something that does not exist for the false hope that the earth will be habitable in 120 years.

The most probable scenario which fails to incorporate many climate related factors is the business as usual scenario with emissions rising at the present rate. Which means a CO2 concentration of over 1000ppm by the end of the century and corresponds to a temperature increase of 4 to 5 degrees C. A 4 to 5 degree increase is an earth that is largely uninhabitable for human beings, and as we approach this place, there will be increased conflict for habitable areas and the very real likelihood of nuclear conflict.

One of the greatest sources of information on the trajectory of emissions is in business news. BP has recently cashed in on new technology discovering a billion barrels of oil in the gulf.(4) A small find, relative to the 1.5 trillion barrels of known reserves, but demonstrates in the development and utilization of new technology for locating new reserves, that ambition for fossil fuel exploitation is still high. Oil and gas executives are optimistic about projects in 2019, expecting an increase in drilling both in deep water and in shale oil. (5) The Trump administration has opened up formerly protected lands in Alaska to oil exploration, as well as other formerly protected areas, including expanding offshore exploration. (6) The point is, not only is the effort to transition to renewable energy minimal, the effort to continue and increase reliance on fossil fuels is ambitious.

The republican position on climate change ranges from acknowledgement but do nothing, to denial and do nothing. Either way, the official position on climate change by the republican party with few exceptions is to do nothing.

Democrats are often animated and express great concern for the changing climate and the need to transition to renewable energy. As is the case with much of the democrats rhetorical zeal, policy and planning to address a threat to the habitability of the earth does not match rhetoric. Even Obama opened up protected lands and water for oil and gas exploration while telling the American people the danger of climate change. (7)

What are the democrats offering to address climate change? There are presently two resolutions being considered by the democratic party. The first, supported by the establishment democrats is a resolution where congress acknowledges that climate change is real, caused by humans, and congress must act immediately to address it. (8) In short, it does nothing.

The other resolution is called The Green New Deal, introduced by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The resolution itself does next to nothing. It is the itemization of goals and strategy, intent on creating a new select-committee tasked with creating plans to achieve these goals within the strategy outline.

This is the substance of the Green New Deal

  1. building resiliency against climate change-related disasters, such as extreme weather, including by leveraging funding and providing investments for community-defined projects and strategies;
  2. repairing and upgrading the infrastructure in the United States, including—
    (i) by eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible;
    (ii) by guaranteeing universal access to clean water;
    (iii) by reducing the risks posed by flooding and other climate impacts; and
    (iv) by ensuring that any infrastructure bill considered by Congress addresses climate change;
  3. meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources, including—
    (i) by dramatically expanding and upgrading existing renewable power sources; and
    (ii) by deploying new capacity;
  4. building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and ‘‘smart’’ power grids, and working to ensure affordable access to electricity;
  5. upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification;
  6. spurring massive growth in clean manufacturing in the United States and removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and industry as much as is technologically feasible, including by expanding renewable energy manufacturing and investing in existing manufacturing and industry;
  7. working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including—
    (i) by supporting family farming;
    (ii) by investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health; and
    (iii) by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food;
  8. overhauling transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in—
    (i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing;
    (ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transportation; and
    (iii) high-speed rail;
  9. mitigating and managing the long-term adverse health, economic, and other effects of pollution and climate change, including by providing funding for community-defined projects and strategies;
  10. removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and reducing pollution, including by restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage, such as preservation and afforestation;
  11. restoring and protecting threatened, endangered, and fragile ecosystems through locally appropriate and science-based projects that enhance biodiversity and support climate resiliency;
  12. cleaning up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites to promote economic development and sustainability;
  13. identifying other emission and pollution sources and creating solutions to eliminate them; and
  14. promoting the international exchange of technology, expertise, products, funding, and services, with the aim of making the United States the international leader on climate action, and to help other countries achieve a Green New Deal; (9)

Ocasio Cortez would argue the resolution is the first step, but I would counter that a list of goals absent ideas for achieving these goals calls into question the credibility the assertions of its branding. Anyone can sit down and write a list of feel good goals but as an elected representative impassioned with addressing a problem such as climate change, you are required to have ideas for accomplishing these goals, and the Green New Deal is without them. Yes I understand the resolution is intended to lay the framework for the creation of those ideas but it is presented to the public as a plan of substance.

Although I am not a fan of Pelosi, whose prominence in the democratic party stems not from her wealth of ideas for improving the lives of people and problem solving, but from her being the greatest fund raiser for the democratic party,(10) she was correct in her cynicism towards the resolution calling it “the green dream or whatever”. (11) Because it is nothing.

You have a plan with the absence of a plan. How are you going to achieve 100% of energy demand through renewable sources? Building what infrastructure? Where? At what cost, what return, owned by whom, and how will it be integrated into the market? How will you force existing utility companies to create emission free energy?

Outside of the resolution, she has proposed an increase of the top marginal tax rate to 70% which would raise about 200 billion dollars per year. She also mentioned in the resolution that funds could come from newly formed public banks and borrowing from federal reserve. She mentions updating the grid. The estimated cost of updating the grid is 5 trillion dollars,(12) more than the entire annual budget of the federal government.

Another goal is upgrading every residential and industrial building with state of the art energy efficiency. What does this mean? Is the federal government going to purchase tank-less water heaters, high efficient furnaces and air conditioning units, start a public works program to have them installed? Will there be a team of federally employed handymen who show up with a caulk gun, weather striping, and LED lightbulbs? I’m asking, because the resolution and even outside of the resolution there are no details concerning how the rubber meets the road.

Eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and industry. What emissions, from what industrial and agricultural processes, and how do you complete process to ensure the continuation of products and services from these industries after eliminating the greenhouse gases associated with those processes?

The most difficult and probably the most important goal is eliminating emissions from transportation. Transportation is the single greatest source of emissions in the United States. How are you going to eliminate emissions from transportation? Are you going to mandate that US auto manufactures cease production of gasoline fueled vehicles? Is the federal government going to mandate that no gasoline powered automobiles can be driven after a certain date? Of course not, so why do you have vague grandiose goals that are unachievable? Or what is even a general approach to eliminating emissions from transportation? Public transportation and high speed rail will fail to make a dent in the overall emissions from transportation.

On climate change, there is no real action proposed by either the democrats or the republicans. A list of goals does not a plan make. You sell people on vague ideas about a green transformation of the economy to save the planet and creating a model that can be exported around the world but all you have is a list of goals.

The best hope for humanity rests with Centers for Economic Planning, (13) which will allow people to decide production on a large scale, as a private collective entity, which will eventually allow them to wield the profits from a 5th to a 3rd of the entire market to transition to renewable energy. A CEP improves the quality of opportunities, which individually affords people the resources to make greener behavioral decisions, as ones ability to be green has a great deal to do with how much money they have to make green decisions. A center for economic planning also allows citizens to use the profits from the business they own through their CEP to influence politics the same as industry presently directs politics, meaning they can elect representatives and senators who are not affiliated with the two party monopoly, they can lobby for legislation, and otherwise create the political will to act on climate change.

For example. If the goal is to eliminate emissions from electricity generation what can the green new deal do? There is already existing power companies. Is the government going to take a socialist path and build infrastructure to compete against existing power plants? Solar farms and wind turbines that will be owned publically competing against private power? I doubt such a thing could even be done considering there is only one grid. Or is the government going to purchase all the power plants from the companies and replace them? None of that would happen. What the government can do is basically what Obama did. Offer incentives for renewable energy projects and penalize the use of fossil fuel generated electricity.

In my abudant pessimism concerning the goals related to climate change, the reader may think I missed the fact that the United States has reduced emissions by about 12% since 2005, or may not have read about the success of Caliornia in exceeding their targets to transition to renewable energy. California is on the easy side of their goals which isn’t to take away from their present accomplishment, only that the goals of 2045 exceed in difficulty the length of time between now and 2045.

Of course the people of California have paid for it with a rate of electricity that is twice as high as the national average, which for many people in California is a significant cost.

What California does not boast about is being the 6th highest producer of crude oil in the United States. I do not blame California for this because their consumption reflects in their emissions from transportation. I mention it because eventhough the US has reduced emissions nationally by about 12% since 2005, the United States is also responsible for emissions globally not achieving any reduction.

If California had zero transportation emissions I still wouldn’t have a problem with California for contributing to climate change with the oil they produce because the demand causes the production exists elsewhere.

I have heard people on the right point to China being the greatest producer of emissions which is true. There are three problems with pointing to China as a problem. 1st, as I mentioned, where does the demand that creates the emissions originate from? A significant amount of the products produced in China are created for American markets. There are a great deal of global emissions that exist because of products are made for demand created in US markets. Otherwise those emissions do not exist.

The second problem with pointing not only at the Chinesse but to other nations in general is the fact that American companies have offshored manufacturing so products are manufactured by American companies for American markets but the emissions are taking place in another country.

Back to China directly, if we were going to decide globally that every country could emit a certain amount of Co2 we would probably use population as the denominator. Per capita, the US has more than twice the emissions of China, without even considering the indirect emissions that US is responsible for outside of its borders.

What can a Center for Economic Planning do? A Center for Economic Planning or a network of Centers for Economic Planning could build a source of renewable energy, wind turbines or a solar farm or both or other. First it could lobby to ensure the cost was subsidized to minimize cost and maximize public investment return. Then the CEP would contract with the power companies to sell the power to the companies who in turn sell it to the them. The more renewable energy produced the less fossil fuel energy will be required.

A Center for Economic Planning allows for a customized approach to climate change where the citizens of each area are able to implement a market based strategy in consideration of the specific aspects of their area.
In all honesty, I don’t believe climate change is going to be addressed on par with its need, even if we could begin to achieve Centers for Economic Planning within the next few years. I am of the opinion that even if we reduced emissions globally to 0 within the next 20 years, we will still see 2 degrees warming and experience extreme stress to civilization due to the change in climate. The need for a CEP in matters of climate change is to reduce emissions to prevent the worst case scenario, but also to provide people with the resources and power to address the challenges of climate change in what has already been sown.

Since I have ventured into my own material in mentioning the Center for Economic Planning, Ill venture a little further on the subject of climate change. Climate change is liberty’s check on evolution. (14) In brevity, the distinguishing characteristic of intelligent life from primitive life is the ability of intelligent life to consciously manipulate energy. Any intelligent species evolves over millions of years from primitive species. Additionally, intelligent life requires a planet similar to the earth to evolve. This means every planet where intelligent life evolves will have fossil fuels.

Since the distinguishing characteristic of intelligent life is the manipulation of energy for useful purposes every intelligent civilization will discover fossil fuels. The use of fossil fuels will change the atmospheric composition and the inability to transition to renewable energy will cause the planet to be uninhabitable and lead the extinction of that species.

A species fails to make the transition because principles that governs the species and is reflected in their systems are those of tyranny. All intents, actions, and purposes can be classified as being consisten with liberty or tyranny. Tyranny is governed by imposition and liberty is governed by the respect of boundaries. A fuller explanation is required and available by following the citation. To avoid reproducing the entire explanation here, suffice it to say, that a species that is governed by tyranny will fail to make the transition to renewable energy. Liberty is law of nature and climate change is the tangible enforcement of that law.

1: Degree of change: the IPCC’s projections for future temperature rise. Carbon Brief, Robin Webster, 4:15:2014 https://www.carbonbrief.org/degrees-of-change-the-ipccs-projections-for-future-temperature-rise Graphic derived from IPCC table SPM.1

2: Carbon Brief. “Analysis: Fossil-Fuel Emissions in 2018 Increasing At Fastest Rate for Seven Years”. By Zeke Hausfather. https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-fossil-fuel-emissions-in-2018-increasing-at-fastest-rate-for-seven-years

3: US Energy Information Administration https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.php?page=electricity_in_the_united_states

4: CNBC, “BP Has Discovered a Billion Barrels of Oil in the Gulf of Mexico”. Tom DiChristopher, 1-9-2019 https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2019/01/08/bp-just-discovered-a-billion-barrels-of-oil-in-gulf-of-mexico.html?fbclid=IwAR1M6dQkssvrp0F8ai0iwUeXqM7lztcauyxdTBwnq6vn01D-GLFTlACvOjI

5: CNBC “Oil and Gas Firms are Ready to Spend as Confidence Grows, Survey Says”. David Reid 1-21-2019. “85 percent of American executives questioned believed there were reasons to expect an increase in drilling in 2019.” https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2019/01/22/us-oil–gas-firms-ready-to-spend-as-confidence-grows-survey-says.html?fbclid=IwAR3L1531YIFTcBE1g-AJaWvA8GZyH5DvyV8-8nkvkTW9cTU-oOrNQ7b4gvI

6: Independent “Trump Administration Reveals Plans to Open Protected Artic Land to Oil and Gas Development” Andrew Buncombe, 12/20/2018 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/arctic-oil-gas-trump-administration-alaska-wildlife-polar-bears-hunters-land-a8693611.html
The Guardian “Trump Condemned Over Plans to Allow Drilling Near National Parks”. Cassidy Randall, 9-14-2018 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/14/conservatives-democrats-trump-drilling-national-parks

7: New York Times, “Obama Shifts to Speed Oil and Gas Drilling in the US” 5/14/2011, by John M. Broder. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/us/politics/15address.html

8: Politico “Senate Democrats to Offer Unanimous Climate Resolution That’s Not the Green New Deal” By Anthony Adragna 2/26/2019 https://www.politico.com/story/2019/02/26/democrats-climate-change-1189128

9: Clean Technica, “Here’s the Full Text of Congresses Green New Deal, Introduced by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez”. By Jeffry Bloom, 2/18/2019 https://cleantechnica.com/2019/02/08/heres-the-full-text-of-congress-green-new-deal-resolution-introduced-by-rep-alexandra-ocasio-cortez/ The select committee doccument can be found at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jxUzp9SZ6-VB-4wSm8sselVMsqWZrSrYpYC9slHKLzo/edit

10: CNN Politics. “Pelosi Pulls in Staggering Sums for Dems Despite Facing Opposition in the Ranks”. Manu Raju, 8/15/2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/15/politics/nancy-pelosi-fundraising-democrats/index.html

11: Town Hall. “The Green Dream or Whatever. Pelosi Mocks the Green New Deal”. Connor Veenstra, 2/7/2019 https://townhall.com/tipsheet/connorveenstra/2019/02/07/pelosi-yet-o-support-green-new-deal-n2540973

12: The Conversation. “The Old, Dirty, Creaky, US Electric Grid Would Cost 5 Trillion to Replace. Where Should Infrastructure Spending Go?” Joshua D Rhodes, 3-16-2017 https://theconversation.com/the-old-dirty-creaky-us-electric-grid-would-cost-5-trillion-to-replace-where-should-infrastructure-spending-go-68290

13: http://orioncs.net/centers-for-economic-planning/

14: http://orioncs.net/liberty-and-tyranny/