As many of us know, Binghamton is notorious for its cloudiness. Last week, you may or may not have noticed that the sky was not covered by clouds, but by smoke that traveled from the fires on the West Coast all the way to the East. It was an ominous sign of the dreadful infernos engulfing parts of California, Oregon and Washington. Climate change is not like the coronavirus, which has ravaged the country in only a few months. It is, instead, an increasingly dangerous scourge on the earth, only growing in intensity and mortality over time. As many things in life, those most marginalized and those in the most exploited countries will be the ones who suffer the most.
There’s no way to sugarcoat what’s unfolding, both now and in recent history. The West Coast is on fire due to decreased moisture and increased temperatures from climate change. Further, not even a year ago, we all watched as fires destroyed Australia. Hurricanes in the east have been increasing in intensity due to increased ocean temperatures from climate change. In the past few years, we’ve seen devastating hurricanes like Maria, Harvey, Michael, Florence, Dorian and Irma. Further, it is not a coincidence that the past five years have been five of the hottest since we started tracking global temperatures. The fight against COVID-19 has garnered international mobilization. Climate change requires the same mentality.
I wish I could say we have a government which is putting its full force to combatting this lurking menace. However, that image is not the reality. Our government has totally and completely failed to address climate change in any meaningful way. We have one party beyond the pale that won’t even accept that climate change is occurring and on the other side of the aisle, we have Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House, and other congressional Democrats. When representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposed her version of a Green New Deal, a mild social democratic proposal, Pelosi downplayed representative Ocasio-Cortez’s plan, labeling it the “green dream, or whatever they call it.” Pelosi doesn’t believe in even basic reform to benefit the environment. She instead dismisses those that go against the status quo.
I would like to say we have a strong candidate to fight climate change on the Democratic ticket, but instead we have Joe “nothing will fundamentally change” Biden, who hopes his understated approach will attract votes from the nervous public. Biden released two climate and economic plans, the latter more ambitious than the former. Although there were improvements, they don’t seem to be extremely relevant in the grand scheme of social change. Take a $15 minimum wage as an example: Biden claims to support it, but seldom brings it up, let alone making it central to his message. If a candidate doesn’t bring up their policies often, I think it’s a fair conclusion to draw that they either don’t really care that much or they will not really fight for it when it comes to pushing through related legislation. Even if Biden did truly care, even if he did want to fight for it, he still wouldn’t be the one for the job. Another example is Obamacare, arguably the crowning achievement of the Obama administration, a market-based moderate health care plan pushed by right-wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation back in the 1990s. When the best you can do on health care is push Romneycare, it would be ridiculous to assume that your efforts in combating climate change are going to have any teeth. This is not to say Biden is worse than Trump, but it is to say that if our goal is to save the planet, Biden will not accomplish that goal. Biden, Pelosi and virtually every other elected member of Congress will not save us.
The last point I would like to bring up is that a Green New Deal should be palatable to nearly all ideologies and people in the United States. If you support greater economic growth, a Green New Deal would include a massive infrastructure program which would employ millions, and therefore spur such growth. If you support domestic manufacturing, research on new green technology for the energy sector would propel U.S. manufacturing to revitalize the Midwest, which has been in economic decline for decades. If you would like to stay competitive in the global economy, especially against a rising China, what better way to do so than by spearheading the next green industrial revolution?
The climate is changing around us and very few offer any responses, let alone adequate solutions. Even our most ambitious politicians are still moderate in the scale of the problem. The reality is that we are hurtling toward a cliff right now. We either will put pedal to the metal and go full speed ahead or continue the status quo and merely go off the cliff at a smooth coasting speed. That is a horrible situation, and the reality is we must either work to change this trajectory or begin preparing for the inevitable impact.
Seth Gully is a junior triple-majoring in philosophy, politics and law, economics and French.