In 2018, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change set a deadline: Snuff greenhouse gas emissions 45 percent by 2030 to keep warming from creeping past 1.5 degrees Celsius, the threshold beyond which lie the worst consequences of an overheated planet. Technologically, the scientists pointed out, we have the tools to make such a drastic clamp-down happen, but we’ve struggled to put them to work.
The past two years have provided an especially dire preview of what may come if we don’t. In 2019, wildfires flared in southern California and eastern Australia, destroying homes and habitats. And already 2020 has seen more fires Down Under, massive flooding in the Southeast, and Antarctic temps hitting close to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in February—accelerating melting and pushing up sea levels worldwide.
In the US, 2019’s proposed Green New Deal, the brainchild of Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Edward Markey (MA), presented the most ambitious climate blueprint to ever cross lawmakers’ desks. The resolution—inspired by both FDR’s sweeping 1930s social and economic safety net and modern, groundbreaking climate policies in progressive states like California—called for a transformation of energy, economic, and social structures. The grand plan aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions by switching to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, while providing a safety net for displaced workers, increasing the efficiency of buildings, and decarbonizing agriculture and manufacturing. Recognizing that climate change often hurts low-income communities the most, it also addresses income inequality through goals like providing training opportunities for a new wave of green jobs.
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