The Editors: The Green New Deal should be improved, not mocked

Bill Clark/AP photo

On Feb. 7 a group of Democrats in Congress unveiled a resolution calling for a “Green New Deal,” a massive, 10-year mobilization by the federal government to head off the worst-case scenario of global climate change. The outline for future legislation seeks to meet “100 percent of the power demand in the United States” through renewable sources. Other goals include eliminating greenhouse gas emissions “as much as technologically feasible” and to “achieve maximal energy efficiency” in every building in the United States. It also foresees a radical transformation of the U.S. economy to create millions of new jobs, improve health care and housing, and repair the “historical oppression” of “vulnerable communities,” including low-income workers and migrants.

The resolution, introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, both Democrats, quickly attracted the support of more than 80 members of Congress, as well as several Democrats running for president in 2020. But Republicans have mocked the proposal, with Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming calling it a “socialist manifesto.” The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, called it a plan “to end air travel and cow farts,” and Republicans seem ready to tie Democratic candidates to each and every provision of the proposal.

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While it is clear that not everything in the Green New Deal is realistically achievable, what is less realistic still is to dismiss it out of hand in order to continue the pretense that climate change can be ignored.  

However indistinct its path to actualization may seem now, the resolution should be welcomed as an important first step toward more detailed legislation.

The Green New Deal is in many ways consistent with the message of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’,” which calls on Catholics to favor “forms of industrial production with maximum energy efficiency” (No. 180). The resolution’s call for the protection of “frontline and vulnerable communities” echoes the encyclical’s warning that the costs of climate change fall most heavily on the poor. In addition, the creation of jobs is consistent with the church’s recognition of the necessity and dignity of labor. While there is much work to be done to identify policies that are economically, technologically and politically feasible, ridiculing the idea that climate change demands significant and expeditious political and economic adaptations is incompatible with the spirit of “Laudato Si’.”

Yet proponents of the Green New Deal should also take the challenge of climate change seriously enough to avoid turning this resolution into a wish list for every item on their agenda, especially those that are red flags for political conservatives. Whatever one thinks of the advisability of a federal employment guarantee, that question need not have been linked to reforms focusing on clean energy. A focus on job creation through infrastructure investments and the development of green technologies—which is also in the resolution—would demonstrate a desire to attract and maintain political support for a challenging agenda.

The difficulty of responding to the complex problems of climate change is reminiscent of the many attempts to improve health care in the United States. Since World War II, Congress has repeatedly thrown out worthwhile proposals for being too ambitious or displeasing too many constituencies and has even tried to roll back incremental progress toward a health care system on a par with other industrialized nations. The health of our planet is at least as important, but this time we do not have the luxury of spending more than seven decades searching for a solution that pleases everyone.

However indistinct its path to actualization may seem now, the resolution should be welcomed as an important first step toward more detailed legislation.

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J Cosgrove
6 months ago

The Green New Deal should be improved, not mocked

No it should be forgotten quickly as well as its authors. Mocking just reminds us of this nonsense. It has nothing to do with global warming. See http://bit.ly/2Sho6Fz Let's hear it for cow f__rts.
Where is electricity to come from. Solar and wind are certainly not the answer and nuclear power is banned too. I know let's all become a 15th century utopia where about 98% of the people were impoverished. But we have to burn wood.

Stanley Kopacz
5 months 3 weeks ago

Wrong end. It's cow belches, not flatulence, but flatulence is funnier to the mockers and other adolescents. CH4 and H2S ARE problems, though, and another reason why America should shut down the comments.

J Cosgrove
5 months 3 weeks ago

The original fact sheet used the word “fart.” They pulled it. The “Green New Deal” is one of the worse set of ideas in the history of political action it’s beyond mocking such idiocy.

Every time you complain about comments means that commenters must be getting very close to a truth you don’t like. The mockers and adolescents, the ones you mock, are the adults.

Stanley Kopacz
5 months 3 weeks ago

I already have a truth I don't like. It's called climate change. Why ever would I like this truth? I liked the fossil fuel party as much as anyone. Hell, I like big ass 4WD trucks, SUVs and even steam locomotives. I'd rather the changes that have to be made be made slower or not at all. But that would be ignoring the very unpleasant truth derived from the science of climatology. And I am unable to use flat earther obfuscation to ignore it. And I like civilization and want to save the thing.

J Cosgrove
5 months 3 weeks ago

How successful have the climate prediction models been? Answer, not very successful!!! You can not resist mocking people. What has the flat earth to do with this? I know as much science as you do and what I know is that no climate scientist understands the climate. So how could you? Listen to a prominent climate scientist. http://bit.ly/2H8A9mM He is not denying anything.
Until you start acknowledging what is known and not known, mocking people doesn't get it done. It just means you do not have the goods.

Chuck Kotlarz
6 months ago

A recent article in Bloomberg notes Germany’s policies similar to the Green New Deal have created the world’s most energy efficient economy and one of the most competitive.

J Cosgrove
6 months ago

Only about 13% of the energy in Germany is renewable. They are paying very high prices for their energy and it is affecting the economy. The average household pays twice as much for electricity as in the United States.

Jose A
6 months ago

Chuck your drinking the Bloomberg cool-aid yet again? Here is something you should know about the German economy.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/15/germany-2018-gdp-data.html
German economy posts weakest growth in five years....a growth of 1.5 GDP in 2018.

Jose A
6 months ago

Green deal is nothing of a deal. It is going to hurt many struggling people who are currently marginalized and deal them out.

Randal Agostini
6 months ago

The Green New Deal should be exposed for what it is - Socialism - the imposition of Government ideas, rules and regulations. The Catholic Church espouses the principle of Subsidiarity, because it is the very basis of our supernatural nature - what we are created for. We are designed to complement one another, not to be slaves of the few. Ideas and solutions come from people - not from bureaucracies, and especially not from people whose sole purpose is power.

Randal Agostini
6 months ago

The Green New Deal should be exposed for what it is - Socialism - the imposition of Government ideas, rules and regulations. The Catholic Church espouses the principle of Subsidiarity, because it is the very basis of our supernatural nature - what we are created for. We are designed to complement one another, not to be slaves of the few. Ideas and solutions come from people - not from bureaucracies, and especially not from people whose sole purpose is power.

Chuck Kotlarz
6 months ago

The Green New Deal perhaps understates AOC’s vision of the common good. A constitutional amendment lowering the minimum age for president to thirty years merits consideration. Recall that soldiers with an average age of twenty-six became America’s greatest generation.

J Cosgrove
6 months ago

Socialism is one of the greatest evils ever instituted on mankind. AOC supports Maduro and socialism. Is that her vision of the common good? Everybody should watch http://bit.ly/2XeIZF4

Charles Erlinger
5 months 4 weeks ago

The upcoming national elections in 2020 will present a panorama of furious contentions on many subjects, only one of which concerns aspirational resolutions like the Green New Deal. But the foundational subject about which the contenders will be engaged, whether explicitly or not, will be THE BIG J (Justice). To review, here is a short account of the history, tradition and lore about justice that we all inherit:

In the political realm in every society, regardless of the form of governance prevailing at any period, the question has arisen as to the “right order in relationships” between those who have governing power and those who are governed. This power relationship is inevitably asymmetric.

Until a few hundred years ago, not only in Europe but also in Asia and North Africa, and, as European explorers discovered, even in the prehistoric Western Hemisphere, some variant of monarchic or tribal/monarchic autocratic governance predominated. Even multinational empires such as the Roman, Chinese, Spanish, Ottoman and British either were from the start, or at times became, some form of monarchic, autocratic governance. Models of succession in these autocratic societies have varied from superiority in war to dynastic succession to theocratic appointment models.

Surviving records of the thoughts about what constituted the “right order” in governance relationships reveal that those who pondered this question came up with the concept of justice as that quality, or virtue, which is the essential component of “right order.”

Justice is what the Old Testament prophets demanded of their rulers. Justice is what the Greek philosophers considered to be indispensable. Justice was thought to be essential by the wisest Christian philosophers, to say nothing of the epic poets, especially from the 12th century through the 16th century.

But Justice is also what was demanded by the American and French revolutionaries, as well as by the restive citizens of the Papal States in Italy in the 18th and19th centuries, and in the colonies of European powers in Asia, Africa and South America in the 19th and 20th centuries. In these cases, revolutionary consciousness was aware that justice need not merely be hoped for from a monarchical. autocratic authority as on the past, but could be built into some new kind of democratic authority. The challenge remained to insure that justice was a guaranteed characteristic of the power relationship between the governing and the governed. The challenge consists in the governed obtaining and maintaining the means of enforcing the “right relationship” with those governing.

Many of those whom we recognize as wise observers and commenters on this challenge historically, tended to philosophize on the problem of justice within the context of their own experiences. Thus, Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas tended to assume that the challenge of justice needed to be met in the context of monarchical systems of governance. Post-Enlightenment thinkers, on the other hand, tended to think of the problem of justice in the context of democratic forms, although some of their political progeny devolved into democratic veneers over autocratic structures.

The justice that has been of concern relative to “right relations” between the governing and the governed is distributive justice, that is, what is due to every human participant in a society from what is good in that society. This is different from commutative justice, which is what is due to an individual person from another individual person in a fair exchange of goods, services or similar transactions and mutual understandings. Distributive justice is concerned with the human right to shares of the common good.

The solutions that a society develops to establish distributive justice, therefore, require answers on on four things: (1) what is meant by the common good; (2) what rights should be attributed to the members of the society; (3) how a share, or allotment of the common good for each person, should be quantified, and then conveyed, according to the principle of justice, in recognition of the pertinent human rights; and (4) what character attributes of governing persons are most likely to produce the practical actions to accomplish item (3).

The first requirement has variously been addressed in general terms by respected thinkers from classical times. A succinct summary of these general terms is discussed by the philosopher Josef Pieper in his book The Four Cardinal Virtues (Notre Dame, Indiana:University of Notre Dame, 1966)

“Provisionally, the [common good] might be defined as…the ‘social product,’ the total product of community life…. Individuals do work together in all the group activities and professions within a society and cooperate in the production of something that is quite unique, and perhaps irreducible to organized concepts. The result is that food, clothing shelter, means of communication, transmission of news, care of the sick, education and schools, along with many other kinds of goods for consumption are now available for the people, that is, the ‘social whole.” (p.96)

He continues,

“…The [common good] extends far beyond the range of material goods produced by mechanical means….The perfection of the human community demands that there be men who dedicate themselves to a life of contemplation, a tenet which signifies that the society of men relies for its functioning on a knowledge of the truth, and that nations thrive in proportion to the depth of reality opened up and accessible to them.” (p97)

The second requirement, concerning rights, is perhaps the most contentious issue in the area of distributive justice, and the most rapidly developing subject as well. As a reminder of the contentiousness of this subject, note that both the American Revolution and the American Civil War were fought over Rights. Basic human rights founded on wide acknowledgement of natural law concepts seem to have been widely accepted, in principle but obviously not in practice, in biblical, classical and early European and North African societies until at least the 8th century.

After a slow beginning in the Early Middle Ages, coincident with evolving societal changes in religious doctrine and practice, governing forms and conventions, and the flowering of universities and certain religious orders in the Catholic Church, philosophical and political attention to questions of rights greatly increased. This attention exploded, in Europe and North America at least, after the Reformation, the Counter-reformation, the Enlightenment, the American and the French Revolutions, the American Civil War, and various counter-colonial revolutions and independence struggles in the Papal States, the Western Hemisphere and elsewhere. Another explosion in the attention to human rights occurred after WWII and the formation of the United Nations.

The third requirement, regarding the allocation of shares of the common good, has, conceptually at least, become significantly more complex to administer under a democratic form of government than it had been under any of the various autocratic forms. But this complexity simply highlights the importance of the moral virtue of Prudence for those holding governing power.

There are few better references to the classical thoughts about the virtue of Prudence than those found in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. These can be found in the Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part:

“The worth of prudence consists not in thought merely, but in its application to action, which is the end [objective] of the practical reason. Wherefore if any defect occur in this, it is most contrary to prudence, since, the end [objective] being of most import in everything, it follows that a defect which touches the end [objective] is the worst of all. Hence the Philosopher goes on to say (Ethic. vi, 5) that prudence is "something more than a merely rational habit," such as art is, since, as stated above (I-II, Q. 57, A. 4) it includes application to action, which application is an act of the will.”

“…To prudence belongs only the application of right reason in matters of counsel, which are those wherein there is no fixed way of obtaining the end….”

“Now actions are in singular matters: and so it is necessary for the prudent man to know both the universal principles of reason, and the singulars about which actions are concerned….”

“…It is because the infinite number of singulars cannot be comprehended by human reason, that "our counsels are uncertain" (Wis. 9:14). Nevertheless experience reduces the infinity of singulars to a certain finite number which occur as a general rule, and the knowledge of these suffices for human prudence.”

In The Judeo-Christian tradition, Prudence, like all of the moral virtues, rises above the classical concept of the attribute of a habitually good person in the Greek sense. Virtues are both habits of conduct, the products of training and repetitive practice, and actions of the intellect and will led by the Spirit, toward the end objective of human life taught in the scriptures. Justice and Prudence team up to first, recognize and identify that objective, and second to identify the action necessary to achieve it according to the behavioral standards taught in scripture.

The fourth and last requirement, concerning the character attributes of governing persons, is summarized by Josef Pieper (p92)

‘If political life is to regain its dignity, a proper appreciation of the eminence of the ruler’s task and of the lofty human qualities required for it must be revived in the mind of the public. This means the very opposite of a totalitarian glorification of power. It implies rather that an arduous and unremitting effort of education should impart to the people an incontrovertible ideal image of the requirement a man must meet if he is to exercise authority…. Wherever prudence and justice are lacking, there can be no fitness for the proper exercise of power. In Aristotle’s Politics, as well as in the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, these two cardinal virtues are called the virtues characteristic of sovereigns and rulers…. The prudent man is not merely a ‘tactician’ able to steer an affair successfully to its conclusion. Prudence implies the kind of objectivity that lets itself be determined by reality….”

Stanley Kopacz
5 months 4 weeks ago

Only 13% of the energy requirements of the German nation including transportation and agriculture? A correction must be made. Electric motors are much more efficient than internal combustion engines (ICE). The range of a Tesla Model S is 265 miles on a battery capacity of 85kWh equivalent to 306 MegaJoules (MJ). A Prius at 50 mpg can travel 265 miles on 5.3 gallons of gasoline which contains 693.2 MJ of energy. This means that the Tesla performs the same service as a Prius, one of the most efficient hybrids, with only 44% of the energy requirements. Therefore, the 13% is misleading since an electrified private auto fleet will require less than half the energy that the present ICE-based fleet requires. Of course, the ultimate energy savings would accrue from eschewing private automobiles completely. Germans, however, suffer from an arational love of automobiles perhaps even more intense than our own. A society where we can all walk to the supermarket instead of needing to drive would be more energy efficient and reduce the size of our collective arse.

Tim O'Leary
5 months 3 weeks ago

The Editors have it backward. The Green New Deal should first be mocked, and its supporters scolded for virtue signaling that grabs power while destroying both the environment and the economy. Socialism makes everything worse. Why would anyone with a modicum of scientific or economic or political understanding sign onto this? The USA is not a planet. China produces more than the US and EU combined. The Asia Pacific region is growing triple the rest of the world. India, Russia and Brazil together match the US, but they are still rising. I am a pragmatic environmentalist. I think the climate change dangers are overblown, but I want to hedge my bets. I want solutions that can actually work. So, here are some recommendations that I wish the Jesuits thought of before defending their base:
• Accelerate the shift from oil to natural gas by providing tax incentives to the oil companies.
• Reduce the regulatory obstacles to nuclear power plants (40% of the power in France is nuclear) and set a goal of surpassing the French in 10 years (if this is feasible).
• Facilitate the shift to solar by renewing subsidies to solar roofs on buildings.
• Ban all foreign car imports that are not electric. Or, put an increasing tariff on them.
• Finance a massive charging system near all interstates, pay for them with tolls.
• Keep the economy purring along, which encourages innovation and green technology.

Leave the cows alone. Let people have all the kids they want. We need them more than they need us.

Chuck Kotlarz
5 months 3 weeks ago

Mr. O'Leary, times change, sometimes rather quickly. China is also the world’s biggest spender on clean energy. In the U.S., one electric utility at year end will have wind power capacity equivalent to 90% of its customers’ annual retail usage. In 2004, the utility had no wind power capacity. The project phase finishing this year is the largest economic development in the host state’s history.

Tim O'Leary
5 months 3 weeks ago

Chuck - that is great about that US electric utility. Right now, In China, coal is about 60% of all energy supply and generates 65% of total electricity. China is responsible for 46% of global production and 51% of global demand. China approved >$6.5 billion worth of new coal mining projects in 2018, and production increased 5.2% to 3.55 billion tonnes. Either they come up with a clean coal solution or they will wipe out any gains in the US & EU in Carbon reductions. In the graph from the Guardian below, it shows the US and EU slightly reducing their carbon input. The rest of the world is growing fast. So, in 2018, if US and EU got to zero, the Global carbon output would go down from 37M tonnes to 30M tonnes, and will be back to 37 in another 5-10 years. We need technological solutions, and only a very healthy US & EU economy can provide funding for the new solutions that do not as yet exist. The Gren New Deal would kill any chance of addressing a global issue.

References below.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/judeclemente/2019/01/23/coal-is-not-dead-china-proves-it/#38b498e565fa
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/05/brutal-news-global-carbon-emissions-jump-to-all-time-high-in-2018

For imports, now a much larger portion of the supply mix, coal imports in China were up 9% last year.

Chuck Kotlarz
5 months 3 weeks ago

Tim, nice references...thanks.

Christopher Scott
5 months 3 weeks ago

Environmentalism fundamentally embraces population control as the basis of the environmental movement and the green new deal, with the Jesuits completely on board. In other words they support pro abortion, pro euthanasia and healthcare rationing policies.

Patrick Robinson
5 months 2 weeks ago

There are estmates that the Green New Deal paired with Medicare for All would cost each household in the country $650,000 over ten years. These proposals are not taken seriously because they are not serious proposals. Over the past decade , the US reduced its CO2 emissions while most signatories to the flawed Paris Accord have raised theirs. Through capital markets new technologies are being developed that will further reduce carbon emissions. For example, all car makers are moving toward electric vehicles. A mandate against internal combustion engines is simply unnecessary. Through technological evolution, EVs will naturally become the cars of the future. The greatest threat to a cleaner economy is an embrace of a socialistic, government controlled economy that will choke off further capital funded developments.

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