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.


as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.


as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend


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.


Support our journalism

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


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.