Media coverage of House Resolution 109 wrongly focuses on mocking its ideas and proponents rather than fostering a balanced policy debate. Criticism centers on the vague yet ambitious policy aims. Many observers question the budget impact of the resolution, though such concerns often ring hollow. Lastly, despite the potential of the Senate advancing the legislation, the media has spent more time covering the House member who introduced the bill.
However, the Green New Deal, or GND, has intentionally broad aims. It provides a framework for end goals, not a path to them. Moreover, H.R. 109 is a non-binding resolution. Even if Congress passes it, the body will not be obligated take action. There is no harm in affirming expansive progressive policy goals; indeed, there may be major benefits.
Though some in Congress may not see the value of a jobs guarantee in the context of an environmental bill, poverty and climate change are inextricably linked, and job security for those whose line of work may end due to the production of greenhouse gases is hardly a bad economic safeguard. Air travel in recent years has contributed to a spike in greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, high-speed rails have the potential to drastically reduce the production of CO2, as they would greatly decrease the need for trucking and air travel.
Not passing climate legislation is not an option. A 2018 International Panel on Climate Change report detailed potentially catastrophic effects of global warming and set a 12-year deadline to dramatically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in order to keep warming below 1.5°C— a tall order.
While some Democrats in Congress have proposed an alternative to the GND, their bill “doesn’t offer any specific plans to decrease emissions and combat climate change,” according to The Hill. The world cannot survive unambitious measures.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the H.R. 109 sponsor, sat down for an interview with Anderson Cooper in January to discuss the GND, among other topics. Cooper asked her, “How are you going to pay for all of this?” While on its face the question may appear legitimate, between 2017 and 2020, military spending will rise by $133.7 billion to $732.4 billion.
No reporter has asked President Donald Trump how his administration will fund the increase. These increases come despite an audit of the Pentagon evincing that the Department of Defense (DoD) has insufficient mechanisms for keeping track of the money it spends. The DoD is inarguably important for national security, so some leeway may be understandable. With that in mind, the Pentagon noted in 2015 that “The Department of Defense sees climate change as a present security threat.”
If unchecked, unsupervised spending is tolerable for defense, policymakers must heed the advice of the Pentagon and “include the implications of a changing climate in… frameworks for managing operational and strategic risks prudently.” The lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans must count as cause for action.
Much of the coverage of the GND has focused on Ocasio-Cortez. While this is not surprising given her social media stardom, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who introduced the bill in the Senate, is more likely to make headway moving the bill forward. Markey sits on the Committee for Environment and Public Works. Of the 10 Democratic members on the committee, three are running for president, including 2016 runner-up Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
Markey is also one of the longest serving members of Congress, having begun his tenure in the House in 1976. It stands to reason that despite Ocasio-Cortez’s electricity, Markey may have the experience to ensure the passage of the GND.
Watching the media circus surrounding H.R. 109 has been frustrating. Holding Democratic lawmakers, especially younger, newer members, to a higher standard than the President clearly demonstrates a bias against progress. And ironically, the obsessive coverage of popular, new Congress members obscures the more probable path to success for the legislation.