Latshaw and Sreekrishnan: Green New Deal is the story of our future
Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., addresses The Road to the Green New Deal Tour final event at Howard University in Washington, Monday, May 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Climate Change is the greatest challenge we face and an existential threat to our humanity.

Growing consensus among environmental experts indicates that we are quickly nearing a critical point of no return that, if we don’t withstand, will produce catastrophic failures for our planet. This “point of no return” was the basis for the emission-reduction deadlines set forth in the international Paris Climate Agreement that our science-denying presidential administration foolishly withdrew from in 2017.

The Green New Deal, a set of Congressional Resolutions sponsored by Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and blocked by the Senate earlier this year, aimed to cut greenhouse gas emissions in accordance to the most ambitious, yet achievable goals laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Namely, to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100. While the legislative package, which specified greenhouse gas emission reductions of 40% to 60% by 2030 and 100% by 2050, may have sounded too bold or unattainable to the Republican Senate Majority, in actuality, it falls in line with the climate reduction goals enacted by California just last year.

Local cost-efficient and community-owned agencies, Silicon Valley Clean Energy and San Jose Clean Energy, already provide our community with 100% carbon-free default energy options that well exceed the Green New Deal’s ambitious timelines. If anything, the Green New Deal is not ambitious enough and recommends goals that are entirely realistic for the United States.

We are increasingly witnessing the destructive impacts of global temperature rise every day. The most disastrous consequence of anthropogenic climate change is the release of massive amounts of methane and carbon dioxide from the Arctic and Tundra regions of our planet, which will incite a global temperature increase of 8 degrees Celsius and trigger an ice-free Arctic Ocean for the first time in over 100,000 years, rendering much of our earth uninhabitable.

Sea levels would rise over 200 feet activating the complete flooding and obliteration of the Florida panhandle, the development of a vast inland sea in the San Joaquin Valley, and the destruction of coastal cities throughout the world.

There’s no mystery about what it will take to combat our climate emergency – we must transition away from dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy. The Green New Deal tackled this mission with a roadmap that hits its major reduction targets across all sectors: agriculture, transportation, electricity, industry and building, yielding substantial savings not only on our energy expenses, but towards our health and environmental costs alike.

The proposed roadmap could use the full authority of the Clean Air Act to eliminate most all — roughly 80% — of fossil-fuel power plants around the nation, a figure that has broad support within the scientific community.

Alongside a continued vigorous effort to spur the design of transit-oriented communities that allow for a car-less existence, the Green New Deal could steer us away from transit models that run exclusively on fossil fuels, either from gasoline, diesel or jet fuel, following the lead of many countries that are phasing out fossil-fuel cars and aircrafts by 2030 or 2040.

Despite the fact that finding alternatives to cement and steel is a particularly difficult task, as electricity and transportation are driving forces behind the building, both commercial and residential, industrial, and agricultural sectors, emission reductions across these fields are achievable as well.

While some may have been suspicious of the practicality of the Green New Deal’s 2050 zero-emission goal, we must realize that this will require the development of processes and devices not even in existence in our present-day world.

Think back to the renderings of scientists 30 years ago in 1989 and it’s divergence from our present day technology; the roadmap to our 2050 climate goals may be vague in its present day form, but we must understand that we have not only the brightest minds, but the investment capital, research, incentives and clever use of regulatory powers needed to achieve a zero-emission future.

Gary Latshaw, Ph.D, and Tara Sreekrishnan both serve on the Bay Area for a Clean Environment Board of Directors.

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