Our planet is a mess.
The past four years have been the four hottest on record, and July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded. Greenland is expected to lose 440 billion tons of ice this year, a rate that was the “worst-case scenario” for 2070. The West is on fire, the middle of the country is flooded, and the Atlantic is seeing hurricanes of increasing frequency and intensity. In Alaska, salmon are dying because of the heat. All the while, the top 5 US oil and gas companies posted revenues over $760 billion (1), and the federal government subsidized the industry to the tune of $26 billion annually (2).
Climate change is an existential threat, and we need to recognize that we’re already living through the negative effects. The increase in natural disasters is costing us hundreds of billions of dollars, and the total cost of climate change will run into the trillions while taking an untold number of lives. And the people who are most affected by these impacts of climate change are the least able to deal with it – economically disadvantaged and minority communities face a disproportionate burden.
The right time to deal with this crisis was decades ago. We’ve waited too long, so we need to act fast and recognize that all options need to be on the table in order to adapt to the changed world we live in while mitigating behaviors that make it worse and reversing the damage we’ve already done. We can’t dismiss any ideas – especially not those that have support from the scientific community – or rule anything out because it doesn’t fit our ideological framework.
Why have we so far barely made a dent in what we need to do in order to combat this crisis? When 78% of our fellow Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, it’s hard to mobilize people to care about the massive problem of climate change. Many think, “I can’t pay my bills. The penguins will have to wait.” It’s impossible to think about the future if you can’t feed your kids today. We need to get the economic boot off of the throats of our fellow Americans so everyone can get their heads up and start facing this threat head-on.
We need to bring the full force of America to bear on this problem, or we will fail, and the world will suffer. My approach is five-pronged:
- Build a sustainable economy by transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, upgrading our infrastructure, and improving the way we farm and use land. Public financing options will allow individuals to make the right decisions for their families.
- Build a sustainable world. The United States, throughout history, has led the world in times of crisis. We’re the most entrepreneurial country in the history of the world. It’s time to activate the American imagination and work ethic to provide the innovation and technology that will power the rest of the world.
- Move our people to higher ground. Natural disasters and other effects of climate change are already causing damage and death. We need to adapt our country to this new reality.
- Reverse the damage we’ve done. Research needs to be done on removing carbon from our atmosphere, cooling the planet and rejuvenating ecosystems.
- Hold future administrations accountable. We need to pass a constitutional amendment that creates a duty on the federal and state governments to be stewards for the environment.
Climate change is big, and it is scary. It’s destabilizing the world, and it’s costing American lives.
But it’s also a massive opportunity.
We can make the United States the center of a new global, sustainable energy sector. This will bring money to the American people, and will create jobs in installation and maintenance that will be local and less likely to be automated. It will also reduce a primary source of income used by some of our biggest adversaries (Russia, Iran, Venezuela all rely on oil, and terrorist organizations utilize it as a primary fundraising mechanism). We can save the world for our children, make the environment healthier, and build a much stronger economy. We need to come together and get back to what America is all about – innovation, hard work, and solving the biggest problems the world is facing.
Let’s go, America.
We need to set an aggressive but realistic timeline in order to hit the targets required to ensure that our way of life can continue, we don’t lose trillions of dollars, and we don’t lose thousands of American lives in the process.
Achieve net-zero emissions goal – 2049
- 2025 – Establish net-zero standards for new buildings
- 2027 – New nuclear reactors begin to come online
- 2030 – Zero-emission standard for all new cars
- 2035 – 100% emissions free electric grid
- 2040 – Net-zero for all transportation sectors
- 2045 – 85% methane recapture
- 2049 – Fully green economy
Budget Overview (Direct Spend)
$400 billion invested in Democracy Dollars over 20 years
$10 billion invested in a debt forgiveness fund for rural co-ops
$200 billion invested in Grid Modernization over 15 years
$50 billion invested in the next generation of safe, clean nuclear power over 5 years
$250 billion invested in net-zero emission ground transportation over 15 years
$80.8 billion invested in net-zero emission air transportation over 15 years
$285.5 billion invested in sustainable agricultural, forestry, and land methods use over 15 years
$5 billion invested in research for sustainable materials over 5 years
$45 billion invested in National Labs over 15 years
$3 trillion to finance loans for household investments in renewable energy over 20 years
$60 billion invested in vocational and apprenticeship programs over 15 years
$70 billion invested in combating rising sea levels over 20 years
$25 billion in pre-disaster mitigation grants for high-risk hurricane communities over 10 years
$122.5 billion invested in fire prevention and combating wildfires over 5 years
$90 billion to establish and fund the Climate Change Adaptation Institute over 20 years
$800 million invested in geoengineering research methods
$200 billion discretionary spending to fund additional necessary programs over 20 years
TOTAL INVESTED OVER 20 YEARS: $4.87 Trillion
Build to a Sustainable Economy
Thanks in part to the activism of the millennial and Gen Z generations, combating climate change by moving to a sustainable economy is a central issue of the 2020 Presidential Election. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced the Green New Deal, which accomplished exactly what it set out to achieve: sparking a national conversation about how we define the scope of the problem and the scope of the solution.
The backlash was immediate, and the argument against it was that it will cost us jobs, money, and growth. But I’m a numbers guy, and I looked at the math. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
First, the impact of climate change on health outcomes and life expectancy, not to mention increased damage and lost lives from natural disasters, is in the trillions. And that’s if it doesn’t end up making the planet increasingly uninhabitable for human life.
Second, the last time we dedicated the American people to a massive manufacturing project – World War II – we grew our economy, kicked off decades of growth, and created a set of middle class jobs that provided upward mobility and a good life for half a century.
Why do so many people believe moving to a sustainable economy will have such a negative impact on our economy and individual budgets, then? Because of the oil companies. They’ve been making trillions of dollars for generations, externalizing all the costs to the world while burying reports on climate change and lobbying against climate legislation. When you’re pulling in trillions of dollars, a few hundred million on lobbying and false advertisements is a drop in the bucket.
The wide field of Democratic candidates presents an exciting opportunity for us to discuss how we will take on the fossil fuel industry and tackle this urgent global crisis. The Green New Deal has done a great job in starting the conversation, and its goals of lowering emissions, converting to renewable energy, and creating good paying jobs are commendable. We need to strive for these goals and set up a realistic plan utilizing all options in order to get to a fully sustainable economy ahead of 2050.
Oil companies will stop getting subsidized under my plan. The rest of us will see cheaper energy costs, better air quality, and new, local jobs that we can use to support our families.