Prove your humanity

The Green New Deal —  should it aim to create jobs and other social policies or focus solely on stemming climate change? On the latest episode of Trump on Earth, we hear both sides of the argument.

The Green New Deal is an ambitious 14-page proposal that offers a sweeping set of proposals to tackle climate change. But it goes beyond just saving the planet; there’s also an economic vision focused on social justice, including a guarantee for new high-paying jobs. The plan has been ridiculed by President Trump and some Republicans are using the proposal to paint Democrats as socialists and claim that it will mean an end to milkshakes and cheeseburgers.

Most Democratic presidential candidates have signed onto the plan, at least to the idea of pushing the nation toward renewable energy and a zero-carbon economy, with opportunities for workers. But the best approach for how to do that is up for debate.

An editorial in The Washington Post criticized the Green New Deal, saying the focus needs to be on climate change alone.

“The goal is so fundamental that policymakers should focus above all else on quickly and efficiently decarbonizing,” the authors wrote. “They should not muddle this aspiration with other social policy such as creating a federal jobs guarantee.”

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To get some different perspectives on this, we hear first from Joseph Kane, senior research associate with the Brookings Institution. Kane and his colleagues wrote a piece about the Green New Deal, calling its vision “exciting and solid,” and that the transition to a cleaner economy can be expected to bring jobs for all kinds of workers.

“The Green New Deal still has many unknowns,” Kane says. “But the aim of this vision is how can we really clean the economy, both in terms of technology and infrastructure investments, but also by investing in human capital, too.”

Kane argues that the bigger question moving forward is what types of jobs will be part of the transition. We’re not talking just solar installers here.

“I think the goal is to create opportunities for all types of workers across all skill levels, to gain on the job training pathways to long-term careers.” Kane says. “In areas that are experiencing climate change, we are already seeing the growth in these kinds of jobs — jobs that we’re going to need to deal with the effects of climate change.”

He says that the Green New Deal has pried open a policy window where even just a few months ago it was shut.

“So even if the Green New Deal doesn’t really go anywhere, I think it has opened people’s minds to some big ideas,” Kane says. “I think we need to move beyond the politics and really think about some of the very tangible next steps that could be taken from this vision and actually be translated into feasible action.”

But what are the possible next steps?

Bob Inglis argues that there needs to be a laser focus on reducing carbon in the atmosphere by putting a price on carbon. Inglis is a former Republican Congressman and the executive director of a nonprofit organization called RepublicEN (the E stands for energy, enterprise, environment — “all that good stuff,” Inglis says).

Inglis says that while he appreciates the sentiment of the Green New Deal, he believes that we need to act quickly to avoid the worst of climate change. That means letting go of the broader social policy objectives.

“I was in Congress when in 1993, Clinton was attempting to do health care and it basically consumed that entire Congress,” Inglis says. “That was for one element that’s proposed in the Green New Deal. So what I would say is, let’s not try to solve all the problems of the world in one piece of legislation.”

Inglis says that if we really believe that global warming is an emergency situation, Congress needs to take that up first and then deal with a jobs program or universal basic income later.

“It’s sort of like trying to have open heart surgery at the same time that you’re having a knee replacement,” he says. “Climate change is that open heart surgery. We can come back later and talk about the knee surgery of a universal basic income or a hip replacement of health care that covers all Americans. But let’s get that heart pumping just right first.”