Bernie Sanders just released his version of what a Green New Deal would look like, if he became president, and it seems incredibly ambitious. The proposed set of federal policies aims to simultaneously avoid a climate crisis while building a green economy that protects workers and vulnerable communities.
With $ 16.3 billion spent over 15 years, the Sanders climate deal is by far the most expensive of all the Democratic candidates left in the primary race. It's also arguably the most progressive - pushing for the US to have a carbon-free economy by 2050. The Vermont senator also set a benchmark goal by 2030 of reaching 100 percent renewable energy in the two industries. most carbon intensive in the country, the transport and energy sector, investing in solar, wind and geothermal energy. Sanders' plan would also declare climate change a national emergency, re-engage the United States with the Paris climate agreement, and commit $ 200 billion in funding to help developing nations reduce their emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.
"The Sanders climate deal is by far the most expensive of all the Democratic candidates"
According to the United Nations international panel of scientists, to avoid the worst effects of climate change, the world needs to become carbon neutral by mid-century. That goal allows countries to continue emitting gases that warm the planet, as long as they remove the same amount from the atmosphere. It is considered a more realistic approach to prevent the planet from warming beyond the crucial tipping point identified by United Nations scientists, especially since we are not on track to meet the targets set in the Paris climate agreement. Sanders' goals are more ambitious, because unlike the United Nations and other presidential hopefuls, he seeks to completely stop burning fossil fuels, and does not rely on commonly discussed alternatives to achieve his goal.
"To reach our goal of 100 percent sustainable energy, we will not rely on any bogus solutions like nuclear, geoengineering, carbon capture and sequestration, or trash incinerators," Sanders writes in the nearly 14,000-word manifesto.
"We will not rely on any false solutions like nuclear, geoengineering, carbon capture and sequestration"Bernie sanders
Sanders is the first candidate to explicitly spell out those measures in his plan for a Green New Deal. When Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a resolution for a Green New Deal in February of this year, both lawmakers sidestepped the issue, dropping nuclear power and seizing carbon on the table.
Nuclear power, geoengineering, and carbon capture are controversial. Opponents of nuclear power worry about its safety and what to do with nuclear waste. Geoengineering, or the use of technology to manipulate the weather, has yet to be proven. Carbon capture technologies, which remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, are also very expensive and emerging. And critics say reliance on these measures does not address the concerns of communities living near power plants, pipelines, fossil fuel deposits, uranium mines and toxic landfills.
The question that remains is whether Sanders could really achieve his lofty goals. First, it comes with a gigantic price tag of $ 16.3 billion. Rival Joe Biden's climate proposal is just $ 1.7 trillion. And even though Sanders has set foot in nuclear power, carbon capture, and geoengineering, not even all the environmentalists are on board.
"We need to have all the options on the table"
"We need to have all the options on the table," Joshua Freed, vice president of clean energy for the Democratic think tank Third Way, told The New York Times. "The Sanders plan appears to be great, but it is not serious."
Freed's concerns hint at heightened tensions between progressives and moderates within the Democratic party, as others hope that Sanders' moon shot will nudge politics toward bolder climate measures. Adrien Salazar, a climate campaign strategist at the progressive think tank Demos, tells The Verge. "A movement to get the United States to fully decarbonize by 2050 changes the narrative - that's a new standard for what is actually bold and ambitious."