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Creating a Climate for Real Change The Green New Deal is only a starting point toward a sustainable future.


Thanks to human-induced greenhouse warming, the Earth’s average temperature today is about 1.2°C (2.2°F) higher than it was in the pre-fossil-fuel era. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

reported in 2018 that if warming is allowed to surpass 1.5°C, the world will risk widespread ecological destruction and human suffering. To keep temperatures below that limit, they concluded, global greenhouse emissions would have to be cut almost in half before 2030, and net-zero emissions would have to be achieved by 2050.

The United Nations projected in its 2019 Emissions Gap Report that the world is on course for a catastrophic 3.2°C of warming by the end of this century. To hold warming to 1.5°C, the report said, will require that global greenhouse emissions, which have been rising by 1.5 percent annually over the past decade, turn around immediately and start falling at the precipitous rate of 7.6 percent per year.

Since 2018, climate groups in the United States have been pushing for a Green New Deal, a plan that calls for cutting net U.S. greenhouse emissions to zero through a just transition to an economy that runs on non-fossil energy. The still-evolving plan has given the climate movement a big shot in the arm, providing a sweeping national policy initiative that millions now regard as something worth rallying around.

In that, the Green New Deal is part of a long tradition. The women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights struggle, the movement to end the

Vietnam War, the nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s, and the fight for reproductive choice have all focused on big demands: groundbreaking legislation, concrete policy changes, or robust reinforcement of Constitutional rights.

The Green New Deal has revived interest in public planning and the kind of massive investment that can secure basic needs, including energy, for all. It has eclipsed previously popular half- and quarter-measures that would have only nibbled around the edges of the climate crisis. It has inspired vigorous resistance to the Trump Administration’s obsessively pro-fossil-fuel, anti-ecological policies. It has explicitly linked the need for climate mitigation to the need for social and racial justice, inclusion, and workers’ power. It intends to shift the economic center of gravity away from the owning and investing classes toward those who do the nation’s work.

Those visionary features have not only positioned the Green New Deal at the heart of the

Excerpted with permission from Stan Cox’s new book, The Green New Deal and Beyond: Ending the Climate Emergency While We Still Can, just published by City Lights Publishers.

Stan Cox, the author of several previous books, is the lead scientist at the Land Institute, a Kansasbased research organization.


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