It’s not easy being green: the Green New Deal, explained

Wondering what the deal is with the Green New Deal? We were too, so we did some digging and figured it out for you.

It’s not easy being green: the Green New Deal, explained

Wondering what the deal is with the Green New Deal? We were too, so we did some digging and figured it out for you.

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The Green New Deal is one of those things most people have heard of, yet they know little to nothing about. That’s OK, we didn’t know much either, which is why we decided to do a deep dive so you don’t have to (you’re welcome). 

You probably know the Green New Deal (or GND) from U.S. politics headlines, particularly relating to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. But we’ll get into that a little later.

The term Green New Deal is actually a bit of a throwback, dating back to the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (think the 1930s), who used the New Deal as the name for a set of social and economic reforms he implemented in response to the Great Depression. The Green New Deal married modern ideas like renewable energy and resource efficiency, with Roosevelt’s own Democrat-based economic principles.

Essentially, the GND became a platform supported by a number of Democrats, with the overarching goal of tackling climate change while also stimulating the economy. The term “Green New Deal” has been used to describe many sets of policies, all aiming to make systemic environmental and economic changes. In 2008, for example, the UN announced a Global Green New Deal and Barack Obama included one in his platform when he ran for president.

The concept continued to evolve over time, leading up to its latest iteration, which has garnered the most buzz.


The most recent edition of the GND followed the November 2018 elections, after a group of activists came together to form a plan to tackle the growing concern (and lack of adequate action) surrounding climate change. The advocacy group then recruited Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey, who ultimately proposed a congressional resolution. 

What is a congressional resolution, you might ask? Well, it’s a 14-page document that is not a bill, not a piece of legislation, nor a policy proposal; rather, think of it as simply a “first step” in what is sure to be a lengthy and turbulent process ahead.

The 14-page paper, which was introduced on Feb. 7, 2019 lays out lofty goals, aspirations and specific details of a program that, if implemented, could save the planet. (Yes, please!)


The Green New Deal addresses two big questions.

1. What does America need to do to solve climate change?

2. How can it protect people and reduce economic disparity while solving it?

As you may have guessed by now, the main objective of the GND is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also attempting to fix economic inequality. Seems like a rather hefty undertaking, eh?

The resolution points to two major reports published by the United Nations as well as federal scientists, which both warned about our grim future if we fail to address the rapidly heating planet. Higher temperatures will ultimately mean: a spike in mass migration, wildfires, deadly heat stress, trillions of dollars lost and worse, millions of lives at stake. Research shows a  3.4% increase in carbon emissions in the last year in the U.S., and 2.7% globally.  And the numbers keep rising. 

The scariest part is that once the damage is done, it’s completely irreversible.


The GND outlines bold, progressive solutions to the two major disasters facing America (and the world at large). Let’s go back to the big questions above, but this time, with some answers.

1. What does America need to do to solve climate change?

The GND says that by 2050, the entire world needs to get to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions (meaning as much carbon would need to be absorbed as released into the atmosphere), with the United States at the helm of the mission. 

To do this, we need to rethink the way we make cars, steel, concrete, and infrastructure. Our homes will need to become energy efficient, and all our food will need to be grown locally. 

The plan outlines a “10-year mobilization” to reduce America’s carbon emissions, with the goal of sourcing 100% of the country’s energy from renewable resources. This will require digitizing the power grid, upgrading every building to be energy-efficient and refurbishing the transportation system with electric vehicles and high-speed rail.

A key principle in the GND is that it’s too late to make incremental changes. If we want to prevent the inevitable decline of the planet, we need to act now.

But decarbonizing at a fast pace will undoubtedly create issues — it means millions of people will lose their jobs.

This leads to the next big question. 

2. How can it protect people and reduce economic disparity while solving it?

The biggest perceived contradiction in the GND is the fact that it seeks to combat climate change while lessening job disparity, yet inherently by tackling the first issue, the second problem is exacerbated.

That’s why the second portion of the GND addresses this conundrum. The plan requires building a ton of new things to power the planet without fossil fuels, which will inherently create new work opportunities, new industries and a new economy.

The Green New Deal promises basic elements of economic freedom, including fair job opportunities for all, public investments, training and education. It aims to confront income inequality, through a federal jobs guarantee program that assures a “living wage” for everyone.


The cost of the GND is not totally clear.

President Trump contends it could cost $100 trillion, but environmentalists say global warming will be equally costly to the U.S. economy. 

Ocasio-Cortez and other GND leaders acknowledge that implementing the proposal will be very costly, but they argue it will pay for itself through the economic growth it’ll stimulate.


Naturally, as is the case with any political proposal (especially one as extreme as the GND), different people and parties have varying views.

If you keep up with the news, you know that President Trump is more or less a non-believer in climate change. So it’s no surprise that he staunchly opposes the Green New Deal. In fact, he claimed it will take away your “airplane rights.”

Other Republicans, who by and large see the proposal as radical and overindulgent,  have echoed the same sentiment, including Senator Mitch McConnell, who called the broad and ambitious proposal a”destructive socialist daydream.”

And while the GND is a liberal concept, it’s still widely criticized by some left-wing groups. Leftist commentators have claimed that the Green New Deal doesn’t tackle the real cause of climate change: capitalism. Democrat critics say the solution to global warming requires the U.S. to become anti-capitalist. (Good luck with that.)

Opponents of the GND have offered up some alternatives, calling for a technology-oriented solution to climate change, but no one has proposed a solution that mirrors the same scale or scope of the GND. Though the GND is evidently a bit of a long shot (pun intended), it truly is the only plan that acknowledges what we know is coming.

Though the issue is obviously contentious, Canada has demonstrated support for the GND. In May, a non-partisan coalition of 70 groups launched the Pact for a Green New Deal, calling to cut fossil fuel emissions in half by 2030. The U.K. and Australia have also hopped on the bandwagon, developing similar strategies of their own.


On March 26, the Senate voted against the bill, including four Democrats. All other Senate Dems voted “present” to escape inner-party drama. Ocasio-Cortez responded to the failed bill, arguing it was unfair since there were no hearings or expert testimony

However, some progress has been made.

Shortly after the vote, House Democrats drafted a bill that requires the U.S. to fulfill its commitment under the Paris Climate Accord.  It also announced a committee responsible for reporting on the economic and national security ramifications of climate change.

Ocasio-Cortez released this short video, called “A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” in April, which added new details to the GND proposal and explained in layman’s terms what the deal is all about.

The Sunrise Movement, a youth-led political movement, with Justice Democrats and Ocasio-Cortez leading the way, will promote the GND in an eight-city tour before the 2020 election. 

The Green New Deal, and climate change in general, is sure to be a hot-button topic in the upcoming election. If the Democrats win the 2020 election, there’s a chance they’ll use the GND as a plan or outline for future legislation.

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