Yale University has been tracking American attitudes on Climate Change since late 2008. This is a link to the full latest report:
The Green New Deal is generating a lot of buzz in Washington. Well, what's in it? Many willfully or inadvertently believe the Green New Deal is actual legislation; it is not. What it is is a blueprint that Congress will vote on setting basic goals to address climate change. Whether it passes or not, nothing changes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stated that the resolution will be passed to various committees with jurisdiction to develop a plan for legislation where needed. Passage in the Senate is iffy at best. Whatever comes out of the committees is where change will come.
Here is a bullet point list of the goals to directly address climate change:
• Repairing and upgrading U.S. infrastructure by: a) eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible; b) guaranteeing universal access to clean water; c) reducing the risks posed by climate impacts: and d) ensuring that any infrastructure bill considered by Congress addresses climate change.
• Meeting 100% of the power demand of the US through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources, including: a) dramatically expanding and upgrading renewable power sources; b) deploying new capacity.
• Building/upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and "smart" power grids, and ensuring affordable access to electricity.
• Upgrading all existing buildings in the US and building new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficient, water-efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification.
• Spurring massive growth in clean manufacturing in the US by removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and industry as much as is technologically feasible, including expanding renewable energy manufacturing and investing in existing manufacturing and energy.
• Collaborating with farmers and ranchers in the US to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible by: a) supporting family farming, investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health; and c) building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food.
• Overhauling the transportation systems in the US to removed pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as is technologically feasible by investing in: a) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; b) clean, affordable and accessible public transit; and c) high speed rail.
• Mitigating and managing the long-term adverse health, economic, and other effects of pollution and climate change, by providing funding for community-defined projects and strategies.
• Removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and reducing pollution by restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solution that increase soil carbon storage, such as land preservation and afforestation.
• Restoring and protecting threatened, endangered, and fragile ecosystems through locally appropriate science-based projects that enhance biodiversity and support climate resiliency.
• Cleaning up hazardous waste sites.
• Identifying emissions and pollution sources and creating solutions to eliminate them.
• Promoting the international exchange of technology expertise, products, funding, and services, with the aim of making the US the international leader on climate action.
The rest deals with social/political ideas to help people cope with climate change, minimize the disruptions in employment (that are going to come one way or the other), funding research, supporting local communities, etc. We'll leave that aside for now.
So, what the heck is all this? It's not as radical as Mitch and the Gang want you to think. So, what is likely to come out of all this, if anything? What's doable and what's an LSD dream?
Our engineers have been telling us for years that our infrastructure is at a D grade level. We have stopped building things like Hoover Dam, LSU's Tiger Stadium, taking care of our roads, having world class airports, building and improving our public transportation to get around our cities, or being smart in how we build.
There has been quite a bit of talk about establishing an infrastructure bank where public/private investment can be leveraged to fund a myriad of infrastructure projects. Need to upgrade the freeways in your city? Go to the infrastructure bank, take out a loan at an attractive interest rate and way you go.
Our electrical gird is notoriously inefficient. The grid we have, a complex network of transmission lines, that distributes power from plants to substations and end, users, needs a lot of work. It's increasingly prone to blackouts, 6-8% of the power that goes through the lines is lost in transmission resulting in a loss of 3.9 billion kWh, 19.5% billion in losses every year. The idea here would be to string new, more efficient lines and manage power usage better with computers via a smart grid. This is doable and will probably be done.
Flint, MI is not alone. We have lots of communities that still have old lead pipes. Lead is proven to actually reduce one's mental capacities. IOW, drinking water contaminated with lead makes us dumber. For public health reasons alone, we need to address this.
If you go to Europe you'll find that their public transportation systems put ours to shame. Bullet trains zip around, for example. Is high-speed rail feasible here in the U.S.? Yes, and no. The U.S. is vast with long distances between population centers, but high speed rail is more feasible in the East where major cities are closer together.
Anyone who drives a car knows traffic congestion is becoming unbearable. We spend hours in our cars every day trying to get somewhere. In Europe, their underground rail systems move people around very efficiently. You can board a train and get to within 2-3 blocks of your destination in Paris. Can't do that in the US outside of possibly NYC/San Francisco/Chicago; NY and Chicago's systems are in dire need of redos, they're old and antiquated. My city, Atlanta, chokes on traffic, most of it due to people going to and from work. We have a mass transit train system and it works fine if you want to go from a few suburbs to downtown or the airport, but that's about it. MARTA needs expansion; so does LA's train system among others.
An infrastructure bank could help various cities fund this sort of stuff.
IOW, an infrastructure bank would be a big part of addressing the woeful state of our infrastructure.
MOVING TO RENEWABLES
This is already happening. It needs to happen faster. Coal power plants are being retired at a faster pace. Wind/Solar are getting dirt cheap and are taking their place. Many power companies have gone to natural gas instead of coal, and that does cut greenhouse gas emissions 50% over coal, but it's not enough.
Politically, what are we talking about? Probably tax credits and such to encourage utilities to move to renewables faster. Funding research to develop better batteries is a good idea. Tesla is already doing many interesting things in this arena. The battery storage facility built in Queensland, Australia last year has been a huge success. The entire project will pay for itself with savings in 3 years or so. Other utilities have taken notice and are moving to replace ultra expensive peaker plants (that come on line when demands on a grid skyrocket at a huge cost). Others are starting to combine battery storage with wind/solar farms to provide more consistent electrical generation.
On the distributed power side (read rooftop solar), the phase out of tax credits for homeowners adding solar roofs should be stopped. Keep the incentives in place until costs come down some more.
To encourage adoption of EVs, we need a carrot and stick approach. The tax breaks have spurred the adoption of EVs. Unfortunately, the way the law was written, GM and Tesla, the two American companies that have dived into EVs the most, are being penalized for their success. The tax breaks should either be eliminated or the law rewritten so that Tesla/GM customers can still benefit. Why penalize these two companies for being pioneers? Doesn't make sense.
This isn't worth too much. It means rewriting building codes to encourage/mandate better insulation, installation of environmentally friendly windows, installation of solar panels on new homes and businesses, tax benefits for those who spend their own bucks to retrofit their homes with solar panels, etc.
It's right there in the Constitution that the federal government should advance scientific research. This is nothing more than a line item on the federal budget to fund more research at universities and private businesses.
I look at all this and can't find anything all that "radical." There is no mandate to ban cows. There is a goal of using our farmland more efficiently. Who's against promoting the family farm over agribusinesses with their frankenseeds (as Brad Pitt called 'em in "The Big Short")? Championing the family farm was a pillar of the Republican Party for decades. Some investment in things like an infrastructure bank and tax breaks to encourage people to buy solar panels, spending some money on upgrading/installing new public transit. Haven't we always done this? Abe Lincoln traded land for the first transcontinental railroad during the Civil War. Revamping building codes? That's nothing new. We shouldn't get rid of lead pipes carrying our drinking water? Conserving our lands, planting trees, taking care of nature is a horrible idea? Nope.
All I see here is a bit more government involvement, nothing all that extraordinary, and spending some money to build some things. What's so radical about it?