The Green New Deal Is Unserious and Juvenile

Published March 6, 2019

National Review Online

Do you ever wonder why people run for office? I mean, unless you’re a total cynic, you must assume that at least part of the motivation is wanting to do good. Sure, you want fame and prestige, but you also have strongly held views and want to affect public policy, right? So why in the world would you engage in sabotage of the ideas you hope to advance?

That’s undeniably what Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Senator Ed Markey (D., Mass.) have done with their juvenile Green New Deal.

Consider: The caricature of environmentalists is that they are just using climate change as a stalking horse for their true agenda, which is to socialize the entire economy. And lo and behold, what does the Green New Deal resolution call for? Net-zero carbon emissions in ten years, universal health care, guaranteed jobs for all, family leave, paid vacations, refurbishing every single building in the country to meet environmental standards, eliminating nuclear power, and on and on. In fact, most of the resolution doesn’t even address climate change. Here’s a flavor:

To promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth (referred to in this resolution as “frontline and vulnerable communities”);

Okaaaaay. So what Ocasio-Cortez and Markey have achieved, along with all of the Democrats who’ve endorsed this childish wish list, is to make themselves look like dummies, and to reinforce the impression that they are totally unserious about combating climate change.

If they were committed to mitigating what they claim to believe is a looming catastrophe, you might imagine that they would study the question for at least a few minutes, and even swallow hard and make some tough choices about the way forward. That’s what others have done.

Recently, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a statement noting that the “sobering realities” of climate change “dictate that we keep an open mind about all of the tools in the emissions reduction toolbox — even ones that are not our personal favorites.” In other words, they don’t like nuclear power, but they concede that it is necessary.

As Sam Thernstrom of the Energy Innovation Reform Project points out, renewables get all the love, but they are simply incapable of meeting the energy demands of our whole economy. It’s not that the sun goes down at night and the wind doesn’t always blow. It’s that in some regions, the sun gets weak and the wind stops blowing for months at a time. Batteries are improving, but not fast enough to make an all-renewables power grid practical for some time.

Other technologies, by contrast, are on the shelf and ready to go. Nuclear power, though it gives left-wingers the shakes, is safe and reliable. The accidents make headlines, but nuclear plants have not been responsible for a single death in the United States. Three Mile Island caused no damage to human beings. Even Russia’s 1986 Chernobyl meltdown, which caused many to predict tens of thousands of cancer deaths in its wake, has shown nothing of the kind. A 2015 National Institutes of Health paper found that “in spite of the best efforts of statisticians and epidemiologists, the claimed Chernobyl-induced cancers and mutations have yet to manifest themselves.” And the U.S. has been using compact nuclear reactors for decades in submarines and aircraft carriers without a single accident.

The greatest reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions were achieved by France in the 1970s and ’80s when that country made a big switch to nuclear energy. They reduced their carbon emissions by 2 percent per year, while still providing their people with affordable energy.

Carbon capture is showing promise, too. Net Power has opened a new natural-gas plant in La Porte, Texas, that buries all of the excess carbon dioxide underground.

None of the choices we face is cost free. But if people are serious about addressing climate change, they must, at the very least, acknowledge the simple reality that you cannot stamp your foot and demand that the entire U.S. economy be transformed in ten years. Evaluate the trade-offs. Be serious, or risk becoming a joke and making your issue a punchline, too.

© 2019

— Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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