We Need to Cut the Crap on Climate Change

I can’t tell you how much this pisses me off:

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have fused two major presidential campaign issues — housing and climate change — in a $172 billion policy proposal released Thursday.

Dubbed the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, the proposal aims to transform the entire stock of public housing in the US, 1.2 million units, into energy-efficient homes powered by onsite renewable energy. Authors say the bill would create about 240,000 jobs per year and reduce greenhouse emissions equivalent to taking 1.2 million cars off the road.

This is the first piece of legislation with official Green New Deal branding….

Let’s just accept the estimate that this proposal is the equivalent of taking 1.2 million cars off the road. That’s 0.4 percent of all cars in the US. Transport accounts for 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, so this represents a total reduction of about 0.12 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

In other words, this housing proposal, the very first GND proposal to hit the public stage, is just noise. If we approved it, we’d be spending $172 billion on something we literally couldn’t even measure.

This needs to stop. Conservatives are already convinced that progressives don’t really care about climate change. They figure that the GND is little more than a thin excuse to spend lots of money on liberal pieties—and why shouldn’t they believe it if this is the kind of thing we’re peddling? It’s obvious that this is just a mediocre jobs program dressed up in the language of climate change.

Does this look like anyone is truly taking climate change seriously?

Source: Global Carbon Budget

I understand that climate change seems frustrating right now. There’s obviously no chance of Congress taking any action as long as Republicans remain in charge of things, so it’s natural to look around for things that will at least make them look bad—like forcing them to vote against 240,000 new green jobs. But this proposal might as well be a huge neon sign admitting that the fight against climate change is just a partisan schtick. If we really cared about climate change, what we’d be doing is proposing to spend money on the biggest bang for the buck possible. Then, somewhere far down the road, we might include public housing as part of our final mop up. But it sure wouldn’t come first.

Since I’ve already admitted that nothing is going to pass in the near future anyway, why am I making such a stink about this? I’m not sure. Part of the reason is that I’ve become more and more obsessed with climate change over the past few years, and I’m desperate for progressives to start taking it truly seriously. No more wishful thinking about what the public will accept. No more “environmental justice” programs dressed up in GND language. No more pretense that Republicans are the only thing standing in our way. Climate change is just too important for all that. If it’s really an existential crisis, then even longstanding liberal priorities are sometimes going to need to be sacrificed in favor of getting something done quickly. We only have a few decades left.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.