• Steve Brown

More than 600 environmental groups voice support for Green New Deal

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

While Republicans continue to deny climate change, 626 organizations have delivered a letter to all members of Congress in support of a Green New Deal. The organizations include a broad range of regional, national, and international groups, including Amazon Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, CODEPINK, Endangered Species Coalition, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Greenpeace USA, Indigenous Environmental Network, League of Women Voters of the U.S., Physicians for Social Responsibility, Surfrider Foundation, Western Watersheds Project, and numerous others.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been a leader in supporting the proposal for a Green New Deal that would wean the United States off of fossil fuels in just over a decade. The timeline for a dramatic reduction of fossil fuel use corresponds with an October 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that found limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) would require "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society," but that limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius as opposed to 2 degrees Celsius would provide "clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems."

“With more than 6,000 scientific references cited and the dedicated contribution of thousands of expert and government reviewers worldwide, this important report testifies to the breadth and policy relevance of the IPCC,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC.

Ninety-one authors and review editors from 40 countries prepared the IPCC report in response to an invitation from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) when it adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015.

“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I.

The report highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to 2 degrees Celsius, or more. For instance, by 2100, the report notes global sea level rise would be 10 centimeters lower with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with 2 degrees Celsius. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared with at least once per decade with 2 degrees Celsius. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, whereas virtually all reefs would be lost with an increase of 2 degrees Celsius.

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

Limiting global warming would also give people and ecosystems more room to adapt and remain below relevant risk thresholds, added Pörtner. The report also examines pathways available to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, what it would take to achieve them and what the consequences could be.

“The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Co-Chair of Working Group I.

The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.

“Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.

“Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with 2 degrees Celsius would reduce challenging impacts on ecosystems, human health and well-being, making it easier to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” said Priyardarshi Shukla, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.

The decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, both now and in the future, said Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

“This report gives policymakers and practitioners the information they need to make decisions that tackle climate change while considering local context and people’s needs. The next few years are probably the most important in our history,” she said.

The IPCC is the leading world body for assessing the science related to climate change, its impacts and potential future risks, and possible response options. The IPCC special report can be read HERE. The special report included 91 authors from 40 nations, 14 coordinating lead authors, 60 lead authors, 17 review editors, 188 contributing authors, more than 6,000 cited references, and a total of more than 42,000 expert and government review comments.

The letter sent to Congress supports the 1.5 degree Celsius target for aggressive and rapid action. It recommends halting all fossil fuel leasing, phasing out all fossil fuel extraction, and ending fossil fuel and other dirty energy subsidies, and a transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 or earlier. This would include ending all combustion-based power generation, nuclear, biomass, large scale hydro, and waste-to-energy generation technologies, along with an upgrade to the nation's electricity grid to make it smart, efficient, and decentralized, with the ability to incorporate battery storage and distributed energy systems that are "democratically governed."

"In addition, Congress must bring the outdated regulation of electricity into the twenty-first century, encouraging public and community ownership over power infrastructure and electricity choice, as well as permitting distributed energy sources, including rooftop and community solar programs to supply the grid," the letter notes.

The Green New Deal also includes expansion of public transportation the phasing out of fossil fuel vehicles, harnessing the full power of the Clean Air Act as a tool to set strict guidelines for a transition to renewable energy, and the inclusion of a "just transition" with a comprehensive economic plan to drive job growth and investment in a new green economy.

Included in the Green New Deal is the upholding of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and opposition to rolling back existing environmental, health, and other protections, as well as to protections for fossil fuel and dirty energy polluters.

"Fossil fuel companies should pay their fair share for damages caused by climate change, rather than shifting those costs to taxpayers," the letter states.

You may read the letter HERE.

Whether the Green New Deal can get enough political and grassroots traction to move forward in Washington, D.C., where the Republican denial of climate change is strongly entrenched, remains to be seen.

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