The Green New Deal Resolution: Is it Viable?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, Green New Deal, resolution, mother jones

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez presents her “Green New Deal.” Image: Mother Jones

The “Green New Deal” that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass, have proposed has became the talk of the town. People are alternately warning it could spell disaster and praising it as our potential saving grace. To start the discussion from a factual place, and leaving aside political considerations, I am including key excerpts from the actual resolution that Representative Ocasio-Cortez submitted to the House of Representatives. The full resolution comprises 14 pages and consists of the requisite two main sections: “Whereas” describes the background problems, and “resolved” proposes solutions. I am posting the beginnings of both sections, along with summaries of the rest:



Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.


Ms. OCASIO-CORTEZ submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on —————


Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.

Whereas the October 2018 report entitled ‘‘Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 oC’’ by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the November 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment report found that—

(1) human activity is the dominant cause of observed climate change over the past century;
(2) a changing climate is causing sea levels to rise and an increase in wildfires,
(3) global warming at or above 2 degrees Celsius beyond preindustrialized levels will cause—

(A) mass migration from the regions most affected by climate change;
(B) more than $500,000,000,000 in lost annual economic output in the United States by the year 2100;
(C) wildfires that, by 2050, will annually burn at least twice as much forest area in the western United States than was typically burned by wildfires in the years preceding 2019;
(D) a loss of more than 99 percent of all coral reefs on Earth;
(E) more than 350,000,000 more people to be exposed globally to deadly heat stress by 2050; and
(F) a risk of damage to $1,000,000,000,000 of public infrastructure and coastal real estate in the United States; and

(4) global temperatures must be kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrialized levels to avoid the most severe impacts of a changing climate, which will require—

(A) global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from human sources of 40 to 60 percent from 2010 levels by 2030; and
(B) net-zero global emissions by 2050;

The two reports referenced are recent and fully credible, and were approved by the current US government; I have discussed both on this blog. The Fourth National Climate Assessment was officially and directly approved by the federal administration. Separately, the American representatives to the IPCC gave their approval to the IPCC 1.5oC report.

Since the resolution also directly addresses climate refugees in this ‘Whereas” and security threats to the US in subsequent ones, the authors could have also included the recent report by the US intelligence agencies (see May 23, 2017 blog). Let me just quote the heading of the second “Whereas”:

Whereas, because the United States has historically been responsible for a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions, having emitted 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions through 2014, and has a high technological capacity, the United States must take a leading role in reducing emissions through economic transformation;

This paragraph also focuses on the responsibilities that the US bears for climate change. From here the resolution shifts gears to address the economy, income inequality, stagnation, general injustices, etc. within the country. It looks at our history, from the New Deal to WWII, and moving forward.

After listing the many conditions that make the resolution necessary, the document enumerates its suggestions for remedying the problems:

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives—

(1) that it is the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal—

(A) to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers;
(B) to create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States;
(C) to invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century;
(D) to secure for all people of the United States for generations to come

(i) clean air and water;
(ii) climate and community resiliency;
(iii) healthy food;
(iv) access to nature; and
(v) a sustainable environment; and

The first resolution covers a great deal of territory, spanning well beyond the environment. The second one, that I am not showing, specifies over 10 years’-worth of steps in national mobilization necessary to accomplish all of these goals.

The submission is a congressional resolution:

In each chamber of Congress, four forms of legislative measures may be introduced or submitted, and acted upon. These include bills, joint resolutions, concurrent resolutions, and simple resolutions. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate follow similar rules when making decisions on any of these actions. Both bills and joint resolutions are used when the focus is on making laws; a joint resolution can also be used to propose an amendment to the Constitution. Both concurrent and simple resolutions are used to delegate official internal Congressional business.

I assume that this is submitted as simple resolution for official congressional business, not as a bill or joint resolution intended to become the law of the land. I also imagine that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez can count probable supporting votes and thus doesn’t presume that even if approved by the House of Representatives, Senate approval will follow.

However, the resolution is now clearly entering the political dogfight:

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the Senate would vote on the “Green New Deal” introduced by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., last week.
  • The proposal, which is not expected to pass the GOP-dominated upper chamber, could force some Democrats to make a politically awkward calculation.
  • Ocasio-Cortez welcomed McConnell’s maneuver, saying that he and the GOP are “terrified of this winning vision of a just and prosperous future.”

Omitting some of the specificity in terms of timing, the resolution resembles the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDG) that I described in the October 6, 2015 blog. The resolution could be much more effective if it separated the “green” part from the “New Deal” part. Next week I will look at possible alternative strategies that might achieve similar results while possibly attracting more bilateral support.

About climatechangefork

Micha Tomkiewicz, Ph.D., is a professor of physics in the Department of Physics, Brooklyn College, the City University of New York. He is also a professor of physics and chemistry in the School for Graduate Studies of the City University of New York. In addition, he is the founding-director of the Environmental Studies Program at Brooklyn College as well as director of the Electrochemistry Institute at that same institution.
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8 Responses to The Green New Deal Resolution: Is it Viable?

  1. Christie Correa Ruiz says:

    What stood out to me the most about AOC’s Green New Deal and Biden’s Clean Energy Revolution is the difference in time frame, as you stated AOC’s deal “specifies over 10 years’-worth of steps in national mobilization necessary to accomplish all of these goals” in my research I found that Biden extended his goals to be met in 2050. Timeframes are an additional pressure for governments officials to act, it makes me nervous to think of how far away Biden’s deadline is. Especially since I believe that he will only be president for one term, will he put in place measures to make sure that future presidents will continue to work the Clean Energy Revolution? It will only be answered with time, it was interesting to read through, compare and contrast the sentiments from your article with today’s.

  2. Christopher Beacham says:

    Since as of today, it seems very likely that Joe Biden will become president in January, it is definitely my hope that his administration puts the Green New Deal under heavy consideration. We must do something drastic in the immediate future to combat climate change, and as Biden has suggested, investing heavily in alternative energies and doing our best to phase out fossil-fuel as a primary energy source is an important first step towards making significant change in our national emissions. Considering the Trump administration’s previous stance on climate change, it is certainly a relief to see, most likely, a president headed into office with some sense of urgency regarding addressing the issue of climate change.

  3. Qi Yun (Richard) Guo says:

    While the Green New Deal Plan definitely have some flaws, it’s honestly well thought and should be implemented as soon as possible to prevent the most damage.

  4. Victoria Pope says:

    Regarding the climate refugees,if we are the main cause for this climate crisis where would these refugees be able to seek asylum? Are we not as much of a threat to them as we think they are a threat to us ? We are displacing people from their homes how would that ever be justified ?

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