There’s nothing green about the Green New Deal


Colin Cavanaugh / Graphics Editor

Freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made waves earlier this year when she announced her ambitious plan to save the planet Earth, the Green New Deal (GND). Supporters of the GND claim that the underlying purpose of the plan is to prevent the disastrous effects of and sea levels caused by climate change. The logic is quite simple — we need to get rid of most if not all of our carbon emissions or we’re all going to die. Take it right from the mouth of Ocasio-Cortez herself, who said during a forum with Ta-Nehisi Coates, “We’re, like, the world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.” According to Ocasio-Cortez, to stop our imminent demise, we must retrofit every building in the United States, ban airplanes, and “fully get rid of farting cows.” When the U.S. does this, the world will be saved from the ravages of planet Earth. This is supposedly what makes the GND “green.”

Nevermind the infeasibility of banning airplanes and slaughtering the entire U.S. cattle population, the idea that the GND does anything to combat carbon emissions and prevent the rise of global temperatures is absurd. The GND’s fundamental flaw can be found in its myopic approach to solving the issue of climate change.

If the U.S. were to stop all emissions of fossil fuels tomorrow, the amount of CO2 emissions worldwide would drop by a mere 15%. According to a 2014 Princeton University study, even if worldwide CO2 emissions fell to zero overnight, the CO2 that has already been put into the atmosphere would continue to warm the Earth for up to 1,000 years from now (a bit more time than the 12-year expiration date Ocasio-Cortez gave humanity). This best-case scenario is of course, never going to happen.

The metaphorical nail in the coffin to any hopes the GND has at stopping climate change is that global fossil fuel consumption is set to massively increase, not decrease, in the coming decades. As The Economist reported in February, oil giants around the world are preparing to drill and ship more oil and natural gas, even as renewable energy becomes cheaper and more accessible. Exxon-Mobil alone is expecting a 25% increase in production in 2025 compared to 2017.

The oil giants vision for the world years from now stands in stark contrast from the myopic vision of world Ocasio-Cortez presents us for a good reason. They know something she obviously does not: any cut in U.S. carbon emissions would be replaced in the future by foreign emissions, and then multiplied to levels the U.S. couldn’t ever imagine reaching. 

For instance, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) estimates North American oil demand falling precipitously from now to 2040, but that fall in oil demand will immediately be made up by increased demand from the rest of the world. OPEC estimates that worldwide demand for crude oil is set to increase by 15.8 million barrels a day (mb/d) by 2040, even accounting for renewable energy advancement. China and India lead the pack in projected additional consumption (6.0 mb/d and 5.9 mb/d respectively).

The developing nations of the world, mainly located in Africa and Asia, will account for an astounding 23.8 mb/d increase in oil production (more than current North American oil demand levels). There is little incentive for countries like China to slow their oil consumption, and there is virtually no incentive for developing nations to stop buying oil. According to the Institutional for Energy Research, an estimated 60% of China’s energy is produced via coal. I can’t see China kowtowing to the whims of Ocasio-Cortez.

It would be hard for anyone to see Ocasio-Cortez successfully persuade a farmer in Lesotho, which is currently experiencing a massive food shortage, to stop running his new tractor because we need to save the polar bears. The Earth is going to continue to warm because fossil fuel consumption is going to increase, not decrease, in the future.

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