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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 12/13/18

Think We Can't Afford the Green New Deal? We Can't Afford Not To

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If we were facing a deadly virus, or even a deadly foe, we would hope, even with Donald Trump and his criminal empire in office, the federal government would at least address its urgency.

If we could detect on our radar a nefarious entity barreling toward Earth possessing the potential to wipe out humanity, one would assume, even with Donald Trump and his criminal empire in office, we would prioritize its imminent arrival.

One would assume, even with Donald Trump and his criminal empire in office, with such a tangible threat, we would put aside our "fake news" partisanship and pull together as a global community, like when aliens from space attacked Earth in the 1996 film Independence Day.

Well, that virus, that nefarious entity, that tangible threat is here.

It's already wreaking havoc on our health, weather, jobs, food supplies, and economies. It's threatening to render life, or at least human life, extinct by the end of the century.

And, of course, with Donald Trump and his criminal empire in office, what are we doing?

We're telling people, "There is nothing to see. Everything is fine. Go back to your 'fake news' and Netflix. We'll take it from here."

This is eerily reminiscent of when former President Bill Clinton warned president-elect George W. Bush about Osama bin Laden's intent to attack the United States and was ignored because Bush wanted to not "waste" the "political capital" he would spend waging a little war in the Middle East.

Like that seminal moment in history, the exigency facing us today couldn't get more dire. As a recent headline in The Washington Post states: "We are in trouble ."

As global leaders assemble this week at the U.N. Climate Summit in Katowice, Poland for climate talks, conversation will inevitably be on the fact that with global carbon dioxide emissions now at record highs, it's no longer simply a matter of how we curb ourfossil fuel consumption, but on how we manage tosurvive in an environment destined to turn hostile within our lifetimes.

There is not a single facet of society--any society--climate change will not adversely impact.

Aside from having to adapt to warmer weather and devastating storms; rising sea levels; heavier snow; hotter, muggier summers; wildfires; dwindling coastlines; etc., we're talking increases in mosquito-borne diseases,like Lyme and Zika; we're talking invasive species. Unseasonably warm temperatures mean upsets in complex relationshipsbetween animals and their environments. Hibernating animals risk being deprived of early-spring food sources. Due to melting snow, animals that rely on seasonal camouflage, like snowshoe hares, will retain their winter coats in the spring, making them easier prey.

If the Trump administration's abysmal response to the "migrant caravan" at our Southern border is any indication, the impending climate change-fueled refugee crisis is going to present us more humanitarian crises, because with a fluctuating climate comes a fluctuating environment that displaces millions of people, creates food shortages,and threatens governments' stability. When farmersare unable to effectively cultivate crops because the normal seasonal behavior upon which growers depend is disrupted, many will choose to migrate to more hospitable settings. The likelihood of territorial disputes, therefore, increases as those who have resources suddenly find those resources scarce, and governments are placed in the position of having to provide for more with less.

But, of course, so-called "conservatives," with a nod and wink to their petro-billionaire buddies, spout off on Fox so-called News climate change being a "hoax." Some might even reluctantly concede it's real, but argue we don't have the finances to afforddoing anything about it.

So much for "conservative."

Since all they care about is cost, appeal to their wallets.

Environmentally we face a financial crash more severe than the 2008 crisis, according to some of the world's most prominent investors, who issued a warningat the U.N. summit Monday. From an economic standpoint, maintaining the status quo actually costs more thanenacting changes experts suggest.

This is where the Green New Deal about which reps.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and more than 15 members of Congress have been beating the drum.

Here's how it works.

We mobilize people and resourcesakin to how we did it during World War II and the Apollo moon missions so we are able to transform our energy system, transportation, housing, and agriculture away from fossil fuel dependence.

And yes, we can afford it.

If we can hand $1.5 trillion in permanent tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations, we can afford to preserve what is left of the planet and humanity.

According to SUNY Stony Brook economics and public policy professor Stephanie Kelton, economic adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign, in her piece "We Can Pay for a Green New Deal:"

blockquote>"Anything that is technically feasible is financially affordable. And it won't be a drag on the economy, unlike the climate crisis itself, which will cause tens of billions of dollars worth of damage to American homes, communities and infrastructure each year. A Green New Deal will actually help the economy by stimulating productivity, job growth and consumer spending, as government spending has often done. (You don't have to go back to the original New Deal for evidence of that.)"blockquote>

This requires a new way of approaching the federal budget.

Dr. Kelton and the piece's other writers, Andres Bernal and Greg Carlock, say:

"Taxes can shape incentives and help change behaviors within the private sector. Taxes should be raised to break up concentrations of wealth and income, and to punish polluters for the cost and consequences of their actions. In a period without federal leadership on the climate crisis, this is how many state and local governments are considering carbon pricing. That's useful not because we 'need to pay for it' but to end polluters' harmful behavior."

They go on to posit how we can invest in a green infrastructure without raising revenue without destroying the economy, and pre-empt the counterargument that this is some "radical" idea by stating this is the way the economy has functioned for decades.

Congress can pass any budget; the federal government already pays for everything it wants because it has the ability to print its own money.

This is how we paid for President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.

The US National Climate Assessment released last month concludes "Impacts of climate change are intensifying across the country," and "Climate-related threats to Americans' physical, social, and economic wellbeing are rising."

The dozens of draft report chapters break down how much man-made climate change is already not only affecting the environment in the United States but also the economy.

For example, fisheries, tourism, human health, and public safety are being "transformed, degraded or lost due in part to climate change impacts, particularly sea level rise and higher numbers of extreme weather events."

Climate change costs could climb into the billions annually.

We can't afford to combat the most existential threat in history?

How can we afford not to?

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Ted Millar is a writer and teacher. His work has been in featured in myriad literary journals, including Straight Forward Poetry, Better Than Starbucks, the Broke Bohemian, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices (more...)

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