The arguments against a Green New Deal are invalid

27. September 2019
Time7 min read

I'm flying home from California and as a result I'm unable to attend the climate strike that's happening all across Canada today. I still wanted to contribute in some way, so here is my #nottherestillcare. It's a post I've been working on for a while, and it still feels somewhat unfinished, but I think it's good enough and important to speak up now so here it goes.

First a brief aside. As I started writing this, out of habit I typed the words "the climate change debate" and it made me pause. Something was wrong with those words. The debate is over.

Climate change being caused by human actions is no longer disputed by anyone who isn't trying to benefit from killing our planet.

There is no debate. So we should stop calling it that. Climate change is just climate change. We're causing it, and that's that.

In many parts of the world, it's also not a change but rather a crisis, but I digress.

How the two political sides are reacting to the climate crisis change debate, and the solutions that they're proposing, make me think of this quote:

"Acting like the skilful archer, who seeing that the object he would hit is distant, and knowing the range of his bow, takes aim much above the destined mark; not designing that his arrow should strike so high, but that flying high it may alight at the point intended."
ā€“ Machiavelli, The Prince (Full Quote)

We know that the problem we're facing is huge We're addicted to the conveniences of fossil fuels, and they're killing us. And we've never faced a problem this big before. And we know the situation is dire, and we've put off dealing with it for decades. It may even be existential (as in "we're all gonna die!").

When faced with such a huge challenge, one that literally threatens our existence, do you think a band-aid solution is the right approach, or do we need to break out the big guns for this one?

Specifically, rationally speaking, what should we be asking of our politicians? Do we need more excuses? Do we need a slow, cautious approach? Or do we need them to show some ambition? To act urgently to save our collective asses?

To make the comparison clearer, I drew these two diagrams:

What low ambition looks like:

Archer aiming straight and missing his mark

What high ambition looks like:

Archer aiming high and hitting his mark as a result

It's obvious that we need to be ambitious in our pursuit of a solution to this crisis, and yet we settle for inaction and even embrace it.

Our leaders have been selling "not yet" since Reagan removed the solar panels from the White House. They're still selling "just one more pipeline" and we know that if we keep doing it, we're going to leave nothing left for our children and their children. That's just not fair and it's wrong of us on all levels.

Put bluntly, conservative politicians come in two forms: thieves or cowards. Cowards who spent decades denying the problem, and are now trying to tell us we can just bury our heads in the sand even more. Thieves who persistently erode our environmental protections, our lakes and rivers, our remaining forests and prairies, so they and their buddies can profit from stripping it right to the bone behind our backs.

But the harsh truth is this: We let them do it. We let them get away with it. We choose to let them do it because it lets us avoid confronting our own bad habits.

And the harsh reality is this: It's long overdue for us to stop.

Needs vs wants (a handy quick reference)

Want: People want to drive their cars.

Need: People need air to breathe.

We can only milk the thing that's killing us for so long

You can liken our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels to a smoker trying to quit smoking. We're addicted to the thing that's killing us. But that's no excuse to let it actually finish the job.

When a doctor has to tell a smoker that they have lung cancer, surely they both know that more smoking is only going to make it worse. I know quitting isn't easy, but it's the only choice we've got if we want to beat this thing. Climate change is like we gave the Earth cancer, but the doctor says we still have a chance of beating it if we do the hard thing now.

But while the Liberals in Canada bought a pipeline this term for $4.5 billion dollars, and Republicans gave a $1.5 trillion dollar gift to their rich buddies in an historically bad tax reform (with the exception that America's corporate tax rate was very high, much higher than Canada's for example), those who support a Green New Deal aren't trying to fleece you. They're not selling you snake oil, which is all things like "Clean Coal" are. So what that the old jobs aren't coming back though? There's a better way forward.

"Preserving our way of life"

A lot of people don't want to transition to a new job, or see their town change. They want things to be the way they were. They want to preserve their way of life, which is a fair thing.

But is preserving your way of life for a little while longer really worth ruining the whole planet for your grandkids? That's not really preserving anything.

And the only thing we're really talking about changing is moving jobs from an unsustainable, old energy sector to a new, sustainable energy sector and helping people transition into those jobs. These aren't jobs in rocket science, but rather in things like maintenance and management and training and a thousand other things. Many of these things people were already doing back in the old fossil fuel-based world, so the transition isn't as crazy as it sounds.

Sustainable energy means sustainable jobs

The best part is though, that sustainable means those jobs should be solid. They're not duct taped together like a shiny new oil pipeline waiting to spill and ruin more of our country and our planet. They're clean, so they don't poison us slowly over time, and they're sustainable, so they ought to stick around.

So if all we're talking about is creating new jobs in a new, clean, sustainable energy sector that can include you, that's not so bad is it?

"But we can't afford it"

The argument that we can't afford to pay for this now because it would put us into too much debt is flawed. The problem with it is, climate change will cost us way more later dealing with increasingly frequent forest fires, polar vortexes, heat waves, flooding, storms, and other natural disasters on the path to an eventual environmental collapse.

Each of these disasters costs taxpayers relief money, and at the rate we're going we'll bankrupt ourselves if we do nothing.

What we can't afford is to let that happen.

If we're talking about "can't afford" because it'll put us into debt for future generations, environmental destruction is just a different kind of debt, but one that has much steeper interest rates that compound over time compared to the extremely low borrowing rates countries can access today.

The only thing we can't afford is more inaction.

What to do about it

It's simple:

Start supporting politicians and/or telling your politicians at all political levels to support your regional equivalent to a Green New Deal. Get on the bandwagon that has a future, not the one who's days are numbered.

Politicians who want to keep pushing things off, or want to keep investing new money into the old fossil fuel economy, need to go.

For example, here in Canada:

$4.5 billion for a new pipeline is a bad investment. It's throwing good money after bad, which is a gambler's way of losing even more money than they already have. More pipelines is just throwing good money after bad. It's a loser investment now and it's only going to get worse for us as time goes on.

$4.5 billion would have been a great investment to kickstart a sustainable energy future. $4.5 billion could create a lot of jobs, a lot of infrastructure, a lot of clean energy. A politician with any vision should be able to see that.

But quite frankly, whether it's Trudeau or Scheer this election here in Canada, there's no vision for the future to be found in either of them. Fortunately, we do have other, much much better options.

So while we're all feeling empowered by the amazing turnout worldwide this whole week, it's important to keep that energy going, to do our civic duty and VOTE for those who support a clean and sustainable future come election day, both here and everywhere.