Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke unveiled yesterday a detailed proposal (a week after Earth Day) for a net zero carbon US economy by 2050, costing a mere $5 trillion. In so doing, Beto ups the ante for every other Democratic candidate to respond with a similarly detailed climate change proposal. Bernie Sanders and Jay Inslee are already there, but that leaves 17 other stalwarts behind.
Sing now to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel’s classic song from The Graduate (1969): “Where have you gone Joe (DiMaggio) Biden, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you,” as all other candidates will have to step up with more than a nominal refrain of “I support the goals of the Green New Deal (but not the specifics).” Score another policy and rhetorical win for AOC and the new young Congressional reps who’ve been pushing the Old (older than Trump) Guard of Democratic House leaders to stop messing with their future!
If history is any guide, major new policies take 1-2 Congresses to pass and it’s likely that the Senate and House will both be led by Democrats after the 2022 elections (look at Republicans taking the House in 2010 elections and the Senate in 2014 for a recent historical example), signaling a chance for climate change legislation by 2023. So best to get started in the House right now. (Just rejoining the Paris Climate Accord under a different isn’t going to help us stop warming at 1.5C or even 2.0C by 2050 - sorry if anyone is still under the illusion that it will.)
O’Rourke proposes specifically:
1. Start Cutting Pollution on Day One by Taking Executive Actions to Lead on Climate.
2. Mobilize a 10-year plan that puts $5 Trillion for Climate Change into Investment in Infrastructure, Innovation, and Communities.
3. Guarantee our Net-Zero Emissions Ambition by 2050, by enacting a legally enforceable standard to achieve this goal.
4. Defend Communities That Are Preparing for and Fighting Against Extreme Weather caused by climate change.
There’s a lot more in his proposal, so take a look. Coming from the shale oil & gas production region of West Texas, Beto is likely more aware than most candidates about how such a massive change will need not only to consider how to handle displaced workers and impacted regional economies, but also how future heat waves are likely to kill poor people disproportionately in places like El Paso.
I’m sure we’ll now see an avalanche of similar proposals from 2020 candidates, but kudos to Beto for being first and doing it large and in detail. Leadership is what you do before everyone agrees about what to do.
My own take is that $5 trillion is just the downpayment on such a massive economic change. But spread over 10 years, it’s less than the current year’s defense budget.
What do you think about this plan and others like it?