The Green New Deal: We Must Act Now!

The Green New Deal: We Must Act Now!

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, speaks as Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, right, listens during a news conference announcing Green New Deal legislation in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. A sweeping package of climate-change measures unveiled Thursday by Ocasio-Cortez drew a tepid response from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who didn’t explicitly throw her support behind the measure. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg© 2019 Bloomberg Finance LP

Since late January, I have not needed a jacket and today it was announced that has been the warmest February day on record. While I appreciate the early Spring, I am concerned by this weather and moreso, that nothing aside from rhetoric is passing from policy to the industrial sector to the individual who decides that she cannot live without her car or current spending habits. Since it was announced in December that the U.S. Senate is to consider the Green New Deal (GND) a resolution introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) earlier this month. It is an ambitious plan proposing sweeping measures to combat climate change which aims to rapidly forge a carbon emissions-free economy while also proposing to fight economic and racial inequality. The GND proposes a10-year national mobilization which will restructure production, transportation, farming, and manufacturing. It also proposes “additional measures such as basic income programs [or] universal health care programs” as well as programs for worker retraining, higher education and retirement benefits. Sounds good?

Well, that depends on what we as individuals plan to do to meet this plan halfway. These temperatures are not going to go down any time soon and we need to make social and cultural changes to how we contribute to climate change now.

On my portal I have a page that is entitled aptly, “Don’t Just Think About It—Do It!” I created this page in response to many readers who years ago asked me what they could do to stop contributing to climate change. I ought to update that page, but the vast majority of my list consists of changes that are uniquely cultural. One things that North Americans are often shocked by when the travel is stepping into the home of even a middle class Colombian or Moroccan. People just don’t so much stuff. And this is where we need to sit down and think to ourselves, “Do I need all this?” Changes to global warming are not going to occur without our making serious changes in our individual and familial habits and this will necessarily extend to how our society makes going green in praxis possible (or not).

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a 700-page report on global warming last fall documenting the devastating impacts of the 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) on the earth and the consensus was that droughts, rising sea levels, devastating storms are going to augment in number. We don’t have time to contemplate what to do but must act now given that the ecological state of the planet can create a refugee crisis, famine and disease within a very short period of time

So, what do we do aside from worrying about our water bottles being BPA-free plastic and recycling?

First, we must educate ourselves and our children on all the facets of how our lifestyles are effecting damage on the planet. The fact of climate change is well-documented and for any climate change skeptic reading this, I urge you to reconsider your position and read. The fact is that according to the IPCC report, we have just 12 years to limit global warming and that is not much time at all. If you haven’t time to read up, then watch The 11th Hour (2007), An Inconvenient Truth (2006) and Chasing Ice (2012). For children there are countless tools for them to learn about climate change from A Beautiful Planet (2016) and Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012). And for those with even less time, are public awareness posters at bus stops, subway stations and other civic areas presenting ecological information. And thanks to the paper-saving innovation of the QR code generator, readers need only scan the QR codes on these posters to access paperless, detailed peer-reviewed studies, videos and statistical information. Lastly, there are online ecological tools for children which explain the current state of planet and what children can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

Then there is the issue as to how we can cut greenhouse gas emissions enough to reach the more climate mitigation goal. And such aspirations require a monumental shift in energy use and that translates to social and cultural changes. Greenhouse gas mitigation pathways currently rely on the systems which we already have in place and they require a super rapid deployment of these pathways. For instance, the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C goal will require quite literally taking carbon dioxide out of the air even if every country abides by current 1992 Kyoto Protocol guidelines or its successor, the 2018 Paris Agreement.

For starters, if you believe that your automobile habits are not significantly contributing to carbon emissions, just read this report entitled, “Transport in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)” (2017) and make sure you are sitting down. Now turn to India’s NDC page here from 2016 and note this, “Even now, when the per capita emissions of many developed countries vary between 7 to15 metric tonnes, the per capita emissions in India were only about 1.56 metric tonnes in 2010.” Now let’s fact check what India claims above: India’s carbon emissions were actually 1.4 metric tonnes per capita in 2010 while the United States had an emissions rate of 17.44. The only thing separating these two figures are how societies consume products and produce waste. I anything speaks to carbon emissions being a bi-product of specific societies, these figures do.

Last year, the European Federation for Transport and Environment (AISBL) published a report, “CO2 Emissions From Cars: The Facts,” which documents the relationship between carbon emissions and automobiles. In short, the evidence is damning as this report covers everything from car size, weight, the demand for speed and power and the “dieselization” of automobiles. The recommendations made are that the sales of new automobiles with engines must cease by 2035. But what does this mean for countries like the United States and Canada where buying cars is almost a national obsession and where mass transport is not nearly as well-developed as it is in countries like India or those within the European Union?

North Americans also have a fondness for having the latest model of automobile which has brought leasing vehicles into the green economy where some have argued that car leasing may actually be greener in certain situations over car ownership. But even before thinking of buying another car, the question needs to be this: Do I need to own a car?

Most major cities in North America have a number of car sharing programs such as Montreal’s Communauto which I personally used for many years and Zip Car’s many metropolitan locations across the U.S. and Canada and also in countries like Taiwan, Turkey and Costa Rica. The bottom line is that if you only need a car a few times a month, ecologically and economically, a car share is the better option. And if you are just considering ecological benefits alone, hands down car sharing is always more ecological. The ideal solution is that we can improve local and national transport services in North America while using car sharing for those moments when a car is needed.

How we measure need also needs to change if we are to expect climate change to stop and this means changing how we use vehicles and changing our economic spending habits. How often do you eat out? Buy new clothes? Buy plastics? And what does your garbage look like?

Recently, I installed a compost bin in my backyard and that is where all my paper and food waste goes. I use the services of a packing free grocery system and what little glass I have goes straight into recycling. I effectively have no waste. I recently joined a car sharing program and will need to use the vehicle perhaps twice a month and for rest of my transport, I walk and cycle. And for what products I buy, such as clothing, I attempt to buy locally and ethically-made products and to buy at local second-hand shops when possible. And I avoid plastics like the plague with the exception of my computer which is its own problem for necessary green alternatives. I have taught my children that we don’t buy things just for the sake of another plastic chachka that makes flashing lights and sounds.

There is no perfect solution to curbing our carbon footprint, but we do need to act now. Talking about “how sad the world is” and the “state of climate change” is unhelpful if it is not joined with action. So, don’t just say it, do it!

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