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Climate Change Environment

Reducing global warming


Greens score high on the political scorecard for climate change
By Mark Dunlea, Green Party of New York State

The severe weather patterns throughout the U.S. and the world—drought, floods, heat waves, forest fires—seem to be finally waking up the American public to the fact climate change is not only real, but is already happening.

Presidential candidate Jill Stein’s Green New Deal is part of the worldwide effort by the Green Party to take immediate action to confront climate change while also creating a full-employment economy.

The Green New Deal would provide jobs to everyone who needs them, starting with a massive investment in energy efficiency, conservation, and clean renewable energy. It would be paid for by fees on carbon use, a massive cut in the military tax, and making the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share of taxes. The Greens also call for an end to tax subsidies to carbon fuels (oil, gas, coal) and nuclear power.

Green solutions include the creation of millions of new jobs in energy conservation projects such as retrofitting homes and other buildings for energy efficiency, innovative technologies for safe and clean energy that don’t rely on nuc­lear or petroleum-based sour­ces, planning and new construction for cities and towns that will free them from reliance on car traffic, and ex­panding public transportation.

In many countries across the planet, the Green Party has been able to use the seats they win in proportional elections to make climate change the key demand in their joining any coalition government. This struggle has most recently been seen in New Zealand.

Our neighbors to the north, the Canada Greens, who now have Elizabeth May as their first member of Parliament, are calling for a smart economy: “It turns old-industry blue-collar jobs into new-industry green-collar jobs. It focuses on value-added production and generates green products that will be in demand in tomorrow’s markets. A smart economy is efficient. It relies on non-polluting systems and energy sources. It ends waste. It reuses and recycles.”

In the U.S., while many environmental groups attack the Republicans for being climate change deniers, the reality is that the Democrats’ lack of action leads us to the same fate.

graphic courtesy of gp.org

Stein points out that “President Obama has adopted the ‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ platform of the Republican Party. He has embraced the energy industry position that our public lands and our environment should be sacrificed for the goal of increasing domestic production. This spin ignores the fact that our most pressing problem isn’t foreign oil—it’s what fossil fuels, both foreign and domestic, are doing to our planet. The President’s ‘all of the above’ approach is an alarming denial of the climate emergency we face and the urgent need to substantially reduce the amount of carbon we exhaust into the atmosphere.”

The Democrats are climate change evaders and enablers, prompted by enormous campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Clinton-Gore failed to even bring Kyoto up for a ratification vote in Con­gress. President Obama did little to try to get Congress to pass a climate change program even though Democrats controlled both houses. The Waxman-Markey carbon-trading scheme that did pass the House was weak and nothing happened in the Senate. Further Obama refused to engage in the political debate. Meanwhile he has provided lip service to renewable energy while saying that his energy plan is to promote all energy choices—including offshore oil and the dan­ger­ous hy­dro­fracking of natural gas.

The Democrats’ big excuse —besides blaming everything on the Republicans even though the Demo­crats have a 20-vote majority—is that the economy is so bad we first have to fix it to create jobs rather than make an unaffordable investment in transitioning to a carbon free economy. The reality is the amount of money wasted on the bailouts of Wall Street would have been a major down payment on a carbon-free economy.

In addition to being in the forefront of climate change, the Green Party has also been leading the fight across the country for a full ban on the hydrofracking of natural gas. The Obama administration has only promoted it. In New York State, the Green Party, including Howie Hawkins, 2010 Green gubernatorial candidate, called for an outright ban on hydrofracking while Democrats, the Working Families Party, and many national environmental groups only want a moratorium or better regulation. The Greens point out that instead of investing more resources into natural gas, we should focus on renewable energy.

The recently updated national Green Party platform calls for a carbon fee and dividend program. A carbon fee or tax is a direct tax on the carbon content of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas). A carbon tax is the most economically efficient means to convey crucial price signals that spur carbon-reducing investment. Carbon taxes should be phased in so businesses and households have time to adapt and can be structured to soften the impacts of added costs by distributing tax revenues to households (“dividends”) or reducing other taxes (“tax-shifting”).

The Green platform calls for these carbon fees to be applied as far upstream as possible, either when fuel passes from extraction to refining, distribution or consumption; or when it first enters the United States’ jurisdiction. The carbon fee will initially be small, a dime per kilogram of carbon, to avoid creating a shock to the economy. The fee would be increased by 10 percent each year global atmospheric carbon dioxide content is greater than 350 ppm, decreased 10 percent each year it’s less than 300 ppm, and repealed entirely when it falls below 250 ppm.

Some Greens are beginning to call for the nationalization of the oil companies and fossil fuels so the public controls their future use. A recent article by Bill McKib­ben of 350.org pointed out that the amount of fossil fuels owned by such companies is at least five times greater than the amount of carbon that we can release into the at­mosphere. Greens think something so dangerous should be put under lock and key.

German Green Party photo courtesy of Der Spiegel / dpa

Mark Dunlea

Mark Dunlea has been working for social justice issues for decades. A co-founder of the Green Party of New York, he spent thirty years working for the Hunger Action Network of New York and is the chair of the Green Education and Legal Fund. A former State Head Organizer of ACORN and co-founder of the Albany, NY chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, he was the 2018 Green Party candidate for NY State Comptroller. Dunlea is the author of Madame President: The Unauthorized Biography of the First Green Party President and co-author of Asleep At the Wheel: A Study of the Performance of Local Departments of Social Services.

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