‘Green New Deal’ faces issue of warming head on


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On Feb. 7, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey introduced a joint resolution called the Green New Deal aimed at addressing climate change by revamping the U.S. infrastructure to phase out the use of fossil fuels within a decade. The joint resolution would also serve to battle economic inequality and reform the nation’s social safety net.

Introduction of the Green New Deal suggests that the direct threat of climate change necessitates a social, industrial and economic national mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II.

The joint resolution references the October 2018 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Nov. 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment report, which cite human activity as the dominant cause of recently observed climate change.

The two reports advise that warming should be kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to avert climate change-induced disasters such as an increase in wildfires, severe storms, droughts and other extreme weather events.

According to a survey conducted by Yale and George Mason universities, more than 80 percent of registered voters are in favor of reducing the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Ikela Lewis, a senior psychology major at Sierra Nevada College, believes there is a correlation between global warming and climate change.

“Based on the evidence I have seen from the scientific community, to not believe global warming is affecting climate change is pure wishful ignorance,” he said.

Brian Sanchez, a senior sustainability major at SNC, believes that greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere are contributing to global warming.

“The greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are absorbing and trapping heat which is having a direct impact to global warming,” he said.

Scientists say the accumulation of heat in the oceans is the strongest evidence of how fast the earth is warming due to heat-trapping gases released by the burning of fossil fuels. Earth’s temperature is rising, and it isn’t just in the air around us. More than 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed into the oceans that cover two-thirds of the planet’s surface.

This accrued heat is “really the memory of past climate change,” said Kevin Trenberth, the head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

In an interview with Inside Climate News, Trenberth says the rate at which the oceans are heating up has nearly doubled since 1992, and that heat is reaching ever deeper waters according to a recent study. Ocean temperatures have been rising about 0.12 degrees Celsius per decade on average over the past 50 years.

This contributes to more frequent and intense weather events. In the three back-to-back deadly hurricanes of 2017 – Harvey, Irma and Maria – warmer waters played a role in worsening the storms.

As oceans heat up, thermal expansion causes sea levels that are already rising from the melting of land ice to rise even more. Nearly 50 percent of the sea level rise so far has come from ocean warming, according to Trenberth.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1997. Also, the National Atmospheric and Oceanographic Administration (NOAA) reports that recent decades have been the warmest since at least around 1,000 AD.

Global warming is a reality, but the Green New Deal faces an abundance of political, economic and technological hurdles not only in the United States, but globally.

“It’s not good enough for us to reduce our own use if we’re continuing to send these fuels to Asia and other global markets,” said Marilyn Brown, regents’ professor in the School of Public Policy and director of the Climate and Energy Policy Laboratory, in an interview with Georgia Tech’s digital media.

“This doesn’t mean we should wait to act, but we need to worry about our role as an enabler of pollution through our fossil fuel exports,” she said. “We need to be sure that other countries have green alternatives that are equally appealing to them and policies that promote them.”

According to a report produced by Sustainability for All, China is responsible for 30 percent of the global carbon emissions, followed by the United States at 15 percent, India at 7 percent, Russia at 5 percent and Japan at 4 percent.

With enough money and political will, the U.S. electric grid could make major changes, but to do so within the next 10 years seems unlikely. The Guardian reported that currently the U.S. gets 17 percent of its power from renewable energy and less than half of that is from wind and solar, according to the Energy Information Administration. Nuclear power, which uses mined uranium, is carbon free, but makes up just 20 percent of the grid.

One major hurdle facing proponents of the Green New Deal is that the entire U.S. economy and that of the world is built around fossil fuels. While voters like the idea of eliminating greenhouse gases, they may not sign on for the cost unless lawmakers can definitely show a Green New Deal would stimulate the economy and improve their lives.

Haley Lazer, a senior environmental science major at SNC, believes dramatically reducing the use of fossil fuels needs to be done, but is not optimistic that it will happen.

“Global warming is real and is having an adverse effect on our planet. We do need to act, but I do not see it happening in the time frame proposed because of the grip large oil companies have on the economy,” she said.