Good to Be Green: So, What's the Deal?

What do cows have to do with it? Plus, climate change as threat multiplier. | ISSUE 8, Feb. 8, 2019

ONE | The Big Green Machine. TWO | A is for ‘Aspirational.’ THREE | It’s a Cow Thing. FOUR | ‘The Hard Work of Reform.’ FIVE | Climate Change = Threat Multiplier. PS | You Promised Cartoons

ONE | The Big Green Machine
The Green New Deal (GND) got some fleshing out finally, as the parameters of an ambitious concept to address the climate crisis were unveiled in Congress 02.07.19. And if you wanted a family portrait of the climate denialist ‘What, Me Worry?’ mindset, read the sneering responses to the following tweet in support of the GND by Bill McKibben, elder statesman of American environmentalism. McKibben acknowledges an important point. The GND is just the start of a conversation and nowhere near legislation. But it’s one the larger family — the human race — has been putting off for decades.

I’ll leave you to explore the Twitter sneers (“…a press release with outlandish dreams”) and the plan’s outlines. You might start with this L.A. Times overview of what is really an opening gambit by that magnetic North Pole of social media sneerdom, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (‘Alexandria Unicornia-Cortez’ to magnetized sneerers),  Sen. Edward J. Markey and about 60 co-sponsors. But climate politics’ moment in the global warming sun may finally be here, at least in Democratic presidential politics. (For comparison, consider 2016’s presidential debates, where a total of 5 minutes, 27 seconds were spent on climate change and environmental issues.)

Climate change issues, and more specifically demands by Democratic activists for policies grouped under the label of a Green New Deal, are fast becoming a marquee issue in the presidential race. Increased voter anxiety over the warming planet and a deft marketing campaign by progressive activists have pushed candidates to take positions substantially bolder and louder than those of past elections…

On Thursday, backers of a Green New Deal unveiled a plan in Congress notable for its audacious goal of restructuring the entire national economy around the climate fight and pouring trillions of dollars into clean energy and innovation.


TWO | A is for ‘Aspirational’
Even-keeled Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, in a post titled “The Green New Deal Is Out, But It’s Still Kind of Hazy,” pegs the roll-out as “aspirational.” He’s disappointed the document doesn’t zoom in on finer details of coping with an existential human crisis (Earth, after all, will be fine without us). What he’d like to see:

  • A goal for when we’ll get to 100 percent clean power generation. UPDATE: Whoops, there is a timeline: ten years for everything. Unfortunately, that’s not even in the ballpark of realistic.

  • A set of goals for specific kinds of power generation like wind and solar.

  • At least a mention of funding for science efforts to develop new methods of clean power.

  • A nod toward carbon taxes or cap-and-trade.

Drum concludes:

I suppose the goal here is to propose something vague enough that no one will object to it. (No one who’s a Democrat, anyway.) Perhaps this is the right way to go, but I hope it’s not so fuzzy that it turns into a meaningless document that everyone can co-sponsor in order to feel good about themselves, but without really making any real commitment to doing anything.


‘Yes, as a matter of fact, farting cows like me ARE contributing to global warming.’ | Photo by Gary Rocket | unsplash.com


THREE | It’s a Cow Thing
For the historic record (and since denialists are chewing lots of social media cud on it) the whole “farting cows” line should be noted in the Green New Deal FAQ (since removed). It was apparently an attempt to be wry about a serious issue. Bovine flatulence is actually a thing in the mathematics of global warming.

… Greenhouse gas emissions from cows have a bigger environmental impact than one might expect. Methane gas produced by bovine flatulence contributes a significant portion of the greenhouse gases contributing to global warming, according to the United Nations. Livestock farming produces about 18 percent of all those environmentally damaging gases — and about a quarter of that chunk comes from cow farts and burps, the U.N. says.

The lawmakers appear to recognize this. One of the Green New Deal's 14 infrastructure and industrial proposals is to "work with farmers and ranchers to create a sustainable, pollution and greenhouse gas free, food system that ensures universal access to healthy food and expands independent family farming."


FOUR | ‘The Hard Work of Reform’

Slate weighs in with an important caveat of what it calls the GND’s “fatal flaw”:

… the Green New Deal has a big blind spot: It doesn’t address the places Americans live. And our physical geography—where we sleep, work, shop, worship, and send our kids to play, and how we move between those places—is more foundational to a green, fair future than just about anything else. The proposal encapsulates the liberal delusion on climate change: that technology and spending can spare us the hard work of reform.


FIVE | Climate Change = Threat Multiplier

Sometimes, a single concept says it all. Like this one, by climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe. Climate threat as “threat multiplier.” What issue do you care about?

From the Foreign Policy entry by Hayhoe:

A thermometer isn’t Democratic or Republican. It doesn’t give us a different number depending on how we vote. And climate change isn’t a liberal or conservative issue. It is a human issue. We care about a changing climate because it affects every single one of us who share this planet—the only home we have….

That’s why we have to present every option. We need to hear libertarian solutions, free market solutions, bipartisan solutions. But by hiding from the problem and pretending as if their opinion were somehow able to alter reality, Republicans today are counting themselves out of the game. The longer they ignore climate change, the more difficult and expensive it’s going to be to fix—and the more suffering there will be.


PS | You Promised Cartoons
I did. The illustration above is by Australian cartoonist and children’s book illustrator Cathy Wilcox (here and here). Issue Six, Item Three referenced the climate change fever Australia is experiencing. Yet another reminder climate change is here and now — just as climate change denial is here and there, Down Under and everywhere.


NOTE: I also promised in Issue 7 (“The Kids Are Alright: The Youngster Climate Crusade”) to reduce the newsletter from 10 to 5 items. Feedback and suggested items are most welcome. Pass the issue forward! If you caught it, subscribe for free at: ChangingClimateTimes.substack.com. | Be well. Douglas John Imbrogno, douglasjohnmartin AT icloud.com