The Green New Deal: Explained

Nora Tahbaz

What is it? 

The Green New Deal (GND) is a document written by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other congresspeople, discussing how the United States needs to take action to prevent harsh effects from climate change. It has been a controversial document in the news since it was presented to the United States Congress in 2019.  This is one reason many individuals have been reluctant to read it in addition to what has been said about it in the news by other congresspeople, other politicians, and members of the public. Here is a detailed yet simple explanation of The GND and the revolutionary actions it proposes. 


All in all, this document is a call to action and asserts that the United States needs to take responsibility for the disproportionate release of greenhouse gases by creating and signing a GND. The document outlines possible actions the U.S. should take to protect the planet while also making clear points on how this will be beneficial for U.S. citizens. It is important to note the focus on doing what is right for the U.S. population as well as the global population. This essentially circles back to the fact that helping prevent climate change is the same as helping save people’s lives. 

The GND starts off with discussing the “October 2018 report titled ‘Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius’ by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the November 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment report,” which both found that human activity is the main cause of observed climate change over the past century. In addition, the first page mentions many climate change outcomes, including sea levels rising, an increase in wildfires, severe storms, droughts, and “other extreme weather events that threaten human life, healthy communities, and critical infrastructure”, all of which we are currently witnessing. This introduction aslo points to the economic strain climate change will put on our economy and that it could risk trillions of dollars. 

What We Need To Do:

The rest of the GND is a detailed list of what the United States needs to do as the largest contributor of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, “having emitted 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions through 2014”. There is an emphasis on responsibility, which is important to recognize because the U.S. is responsible for much of the greenhouse effect. During industrialization, the United States, along with other westernized countries relied on the burning of fossil fuels to build up their economies. This is one of the main reasons why we are currently in this situation. The other main reason is that despite the advancement of climate science and improved energy technologies, countries still continue to put money into burning fossil fuels. Therefore, we should be taking the largest actions possible to mitigate climate change impacts. If we don’t take significant responsibility and act now, people in economically developing countries who are already experiencing major impacts of climate change, will continue to experience even worse effects in the years to come.

This document outlines specifically that the US has the opportunity to “(1) create millions of good, high-wage jobs in the United States; (2) to provide unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States; and (3) to counteract systemic injustices,” which points to some of the major issues climate change can have on people and how being environmentally sustainable as a country can help solve some of the inequities and inequalities we see today. Furthermore, The GND says that it is “the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal”, to achieve a long list of possible actions. This list includes things like, “(A) to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers… (D) to secure for all people of the United States for generations to come, (i) clean air and water; (ii) climate and community resiliency; (iii) healthy food; (iv) access to nature; and (v) a sustainable environment”. These last five points are important because they point out how these are basic needs, yet, many U.S. citizens, like people in Flint, Michigan, are not having these basic needs met. 

Why is it Important? 

It is important to realize that the GND is calling for an entire re-working of the systems we have in place in the United States. There are portions that are related to the environment and portions that discuss inequalities and racial issues in this country, which is a critical part of the environmental movement. Not only is this calling for environmental justice for the environment, but it is calling for environmental justice for American citizens, by saying that “climate change, pollution, and environmental destruction have exacerbated system racism, regional, social, environmental and economic injustices”. This is important because for a long time the conversation has excluded how climate change impacts people and has only focused on species degradation, which allowed people to disconnect themselves from the issue. But because this document clearly states how U.S. citizens will be impacted, it humanizes the problem and forces people to confront their actions and realize how they can deeply impact others. 

Wait, There’s More

Not only does this document discuss eliminating greenhouse gasses, racial justice issues, economic inequalities and providing basic needs, it also touches on rebuilding better infrastructure all across our country. This GND, calls for “(D) making public investments in the research and development of new clean and renewable energy technologies and industries, (E) directing investments to spur economic development, deepen and diversify industry and business in local and regional economies, and build wealth and community ownership, while prioritizing high-quality job creation and economic, social and environmental benefits in frontline and vulnerable communities, and deindustrialized communities, that may otherwise struggle with the transition away from greenhouse gas intensive industries”. These are items that are intended to fix a broken system and safely bring communities to a new world of sustainable living. This systematic overhaul is what many people are calling for because the systems we exist in today are not allowing us to progress towards a more sustainable and productive future. 

In Conclusion

Overall, The GND was meant to start the conversation amongst government officials and bring forth the idea that the U.S. should take a large amount of responsibility for the greenhouse gases we emit that are damaging the planet’s natural systems. Unfortunately, politics has affected this issue, which is discouraging because it is merely about protecting people. Many scientists have previously stated that we are trying to stop climate change so that we, humans, can continue to inhabit Earth. The planet will continue spinning with or without us, but if we want to protect Earth in its current condition, and in a form we can survive on, we need to take the actions proposed in this document.