Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
[flagged] Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal Is a Winning Climate Strategy (theatlantic.com)
77 points by indigodaddy 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 70 comments



To avoid a climate disaster we need to make major changes to our economic system, and soon. Passing this ambitious political program will also require populist support, and needs to reverse the rise of inequality rather than exacerbate it (see gilets jaunes). The Green New Deal is the only mainstream political proposal out there close to achieving this.

Those who say we cannot achieve this due to deficits, are making a bad analogy between household spending and the spending of the most powerful government on earth that controls its own fiat currency. We've fought world wars, had the New Deal, and continue to spend exorbitant amounts of money on our military. It won't be easy, but we can do this.


Any system that ignore's incentives with regards to human behaviour will turn into a formula for tyranny and misery.


Climate change will do that anyway. The first thing to go when resources get scarce (I mean truly, decades-long-famine-level scarce) is individual liberty. We're talking back to a worldwide feudal warlord society within 100ish years.


Humans are surprisingly adaptable. We're a species of Saharan apes that somehow managed to find a way to thrive in the Arctic before the miracles of modern technology. Currently, we "waste" a lot of economic productivity on things like advertising and entertainment. In the time calls for it, we'll turn Siberia into a breadbasket before we let society collapse.


Life was brutal and short for the vast majority of humans for hundreds of thousands of years. The last 1-2 hundred are a complete anomaly, brought on by exactly the types of practices that are currently destroying our environment. Sure, we won't probably won't wipe ourselves out completely. But I do not look forward to 99.99% of the remaining population going back to a pre-industrial level of civilization.

The type of technological save you're talking about is already possible. The problem is we have no political or societal will to get it done. Turning Siberia into a breadbasket to feed the world (among many other needed solution) most likely requires exactly the type of tyranny the OP is talking about.


Currently, we're investing a lot of money into things like social media because the world has more than enough food and water (it just isn't distributed efficiently). If demand of food outpaces supply, we'll start pumping trillions of dollars into efforts into desalination, lab grown meat, terraforming, and better GM crops. It doesn't require any tyranny.

Inevitably, climate change will directly or indirectly kill millions of people, as well as destroy many biomes. That should be enough to motivate people to want to change. In my opinion, doom and gloom scenarios encourage people to be more skeptical.


You misspelled "billions".



I feel like that statement brushes over the frankly enormous amount of suffering throughout history - war, famine, genocide, and so on. While we might survive it's worth at least considering the costs we'll encounter along the way.


Is Solyndra a good example of why government intervention to spur solar deployment has unintentional downsides that cost far more than the benefit provided?

I think that as the cost of solar and wind come down, then markets will purchase more of it. Heavy handed government mandate just doesn't work due to inefficiency and bureaucratic mismanagement.


> Heavy handed government mandate just doesn't work due to inefficiency and bureaucratic mismanagement.

And the free market has shown that it is not capable of dealing with certain types of externalities. Consider the following example: suppose that it were guaranteed to be true that burning fossil fuels now at our current rate would cause a 5 degree C rise in temperature in 200 years. Now, of course I understand this may not be the actual case, and there is some actual amount of uncertainty, but my point is that even if it were guaranteed to be true, would free market forces cause a change in behavior? I certainly don't see how they would: there is money to be made now, while global devastation is someone else's problem.

I wish folks would get away from the "government vs free market" tribalism and come to the more rational conclusion that there are some things the free market is excellent at, but dealing with far off consequences in the face of short term gain is definitely not one of them.


Free market forces cause a change in behavior, though not the one you think is ideal. We would most likely install more air conditioning. Property values would change, with both winners and losers. Canada would benefit greatly.

No, we wouldn't stop the temperature rise, but that wouldn't be the end of the world. Alternatives are not viable because even the most brutally abusive whole-world government wouldn't be able to stop cheaters, and anyway in that case the cure is worse than the disease.


Severe climate change of that which is estimated if we don't change course would cause the deaths of hundreds of millions if not billions of people. Talking about installing more AC and changing property values seems to be missing the point.


If we do change course, that would cause the deaths of hundreds of millions if not billions of people. This is what it would take to change course. You'd have to send the dissenters off to prison camps, which would realistically become death camps. The required level of control was tried in the 20th century, for just a moderate portion of the world, and that is exactly what happened.

You simply can't make the entire world change course, not without killings done on a scale never seen before.


I'm curious about that too.

I think Solyndra by itself is not strong evidence of anything. Any big loan program will have big failures. The real question of efficacy is not "were there zero losers" but "were there enough winners in the portfolio to make up for the losers".

Furthermore, I think the case could be made that governments are partly responsible for solar's historic price decline. The manufacturers needed economies of scale and learning, and demand subsidized go by governments (Germany, USA, China, Spain, etc.) really helped accelerate those private sector advancements. I'm not really sure how to evaluate this narrative, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were some academic economists who have looked at it.


Arguably Solyndra failed because the Chinese government pumped far more money into their solar industry then the US did, managing to produce developments that dramatically reduced traditional solar production costs.


Solyndra was one exceptional case - the statistics showed (when Solyndra infamously imploded) that the vast majority (95%+) of governmentally supported green projects were successfully repaid and didn’t turn out poorly.

Besides we already give billions in subsidies to big oil. If you honestly want a level playing field we need to stop giveaways to polluters first.


What was the downside? It was part of a loan program that made money -- and while Solyndra didn't survive, it's because solar prices plummeted in a way that's good for consumers and good for the environment.


It's more an example of the government picking a winner, and the winner actually losing in the market.

What if it wasn't a loan guarantee but rather a direct investment or payment by the federal government?


> government picking a winner

Bumper sticker slogans aside, seems to me like the program was quite successful and had no real downsides.


I am just curious if people from the fossil fuel industry hang around here and how they feel about this stuff...


I am just curious if people who buy fossil fuels via gasoline or plane tickets or products distributed via fossil fuels hang around here and how they feel...


It's great that people are talking about the Green New Deal in a broader context, and that Ocasio-Cortez is pushing it into the US mainstream, but it's worth remembering that the idea (and policy targets) of a "Green New Deal" have been around for at least 10 years: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_New_Deal


At this point I’m reserving all judgement until I can closely examine the financials.

Often these types of extravagant projects involve the same type of “forward looking” growth estimates that almost never pan out after every middle man takes their slice off the top.

I really hope we don’t become too enamored with new political alternatives that our critical eye gets lazy.


"new political alternatives"

New political alternatives to the status quo of a 1.5º celsius temperature increase by 2030 and an overall increase of 3º celsius, resulting in catastrophic climate change? Or am I misunderstanding you?


Look here: catastrophic global warming predictions.

Don’t look here: junior incoming legislature proposes laws that mandate the government employ everyone at taxpayer expense.

Don’t look here: middlemen are historically extremely good at extracting money from every government dollar.

Don’t look here: there’s zero proof or evidence that any of this legislation will make any material impact on global warming.

Or am I misunderstanding you?


I think you are arguing that reducing carbon fuels usage, reducing carbon added to the atmosphere won't make any impact on slowing climate change. That is wrong I believe. Or are you arguing something different, that we can't correlate laws to reduce carbon use with actual carbon usage. Both ideas seem wrong to me.


Everyone wants to protect the environment. But I watch out for two important costs: economic, and centralization of power. Unfortunately, this seems likely to have high costs in both areas.

I prefer a decentralized approach. People nearly always underestimate the rate of technological change. Solar panels, battery tech, and electric cars are a winning combination. Some investments/incentives for public charging infrastructure and maybe some gas taxes will go a long way.

Once electric car total ownership costs get low enough, then gasoline cars will be worthless scrap heaps over night. Once solar power and battery tech improves enough, it will take over very quickly.

I don't see a case for radicalism here. It feels like a fight and will disrupt many lives, and it doesn't need to be that way. Resistance to clean tech disappears quickly when you show people that it works. Maybe just some minor policy tweaks to push it along.


> Everyone wants to protect the environment. But I watch out for two important costs: economic, and centralization of power... I prefer a decentralized approach. People nearly always underestimate the rate of technological change. Solar panels, battery tech, and electric cars are a winning combination...

You do realize that these technologies you tout have all benefitted from serious, centralized subsidy and incentive programs from major economies like EU, China, and the USA, right?

Similarly oil, coal, cars, etc benefitted from those same subsidies in their turn.

Even though millions of people making local choices is the way to make macro changes, those choices are sensibly based on local, short-term criteria. If you think there's an externality not overt at the point of use, you need a large centealized solution to change it.

Even the markets for purely consumer products like, say, the VCR were unlocked by crucial central policies like refusing to kowtow to music/Hollywood in the 1970s and 80s. Mobile phones boomed in the 1990s...except in the US where the government was uninterested in making the policies that unlocked those markets. Credit card infrastructure in the US is primitive because the clearing cartels aren't interested in fixing things....while their entire business would not exit had the government not mandated certain rules on card acceptance, cash discounts, and locus liability back in the 1960s.

Etc.


Sigh.

First-world governments start war and topple governments to secure fossil fuel resource, and spend $$$ to build infrastructure to handle it - infrastructure that will be managed by governments or multi-national conglomerates.

But we can't have carbon tax or solar subsidy, as they will lead to centralization of power.

It's the same kind of logic that leads to people asking "Why do we need centralized project X when we can have highways?"

Again and again.


I agree. Technology always makes progress, so it is inevitable that clean energy will be dominant in the future. The question is whether that will be too little too late.

> gasoline cars will be worthless scrap heaps over night

This is true if the market is allowed to operate freely — “free” should not be confused with “unregulated.” Unfortunately, when it comes to energy in the US, the market is cleverly controlled to push the inevitable rise of clean energy back several decades. It has been this way for a while now. The regulation here might seem heavy handed, but that’s the kind of push that clean energy needs to win the uphill battle it’s fighting. If we hadn’t rigged the market for so long, then the natural progress of technology would have addressed climate change in time. But now we’ve waited to long, and we need hard hitting policies to peddle back the pace of the damage.

> It feels like a fight and will disrupt many lives, and it doesn’t need to be that way.

This is where you won me back over. The truth is that it is a fight. But it is important to note for those of us who want to address climate change that how we fight is important. Unlike some other markets, we haven’t really had the opportunity as a country to see what a regulated, climate-focused market looks like. So, if we push some policies that take away jobs from people who have been working in coal mines their entire lives, then that’s going to be the headline. Everyone for so long has been saying that clean energy is too radical, and it will kill the economy. We have the opportunity to implement a comprehensive plan for a gradual transition. Bring clean technology to the forefront while helping those that will suffer to slowly transition into retirement. If we can address climate change, create a new sector of jobs, and let an old market die gracefully, then the naysayers will have nothing of substance to complain about.


I prefer a decentralized approach. ... Once electric car total ownership costs get low enough, then gasoline cars will be worthless scrap heaps over night. Once solar power and battery tech improves enough, it will take over very quickly.

Let's see. Capacity of a Tesla battery: 85kWh. Let's say 1m^2 of solar panel can produce 200W in good sunlight, and we'll handwave away all other conversion inefficiencies. Let's say we get 8 hours of good sunlight a day, so in a day 1m^2 of solar panel will give 1.6kWh. So with 54m^2 of solar panel, we can get 1 Tesla charge in a day. Maybe that could work outside of a city where everyone has a big backyard, or can cover the roof in solar panels, or both (I don't think my roof is anywhere near that big at least on its south-facing side, and the back is in shade). Maybe you can buffer it in a vanadium-redox battery so you can actually charge the car overnight. But with the cost and the amount of solar you need if you can only get 100W/m^2 for 4 hours a day, that's going to get real big and hence expensive. And that's when you will really need the vehicle because maybe the weather is too bad for alternatives.

Electric cars in cities are going to go on being powered by a central grid forever, basically, because physics.


Few people are putting 85kwh into their car everyday. Their daily driving requires just a fraction of that, more like 10-15kwh. In the summer my solar panels generate 2-3x that amount easily.

You are correct that there's still a need for a grid. But that grid can be cleaner and more efficient with renewables and energy storage that gives everyone similar benefits to solar panels on their roof.


And that central grid in places like California is already 50% non-carbon and improving rapidly.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_California

"California is the only state with extensive deployment of wind, solar, and geothermal energy. California's venture capital investments in sustainable energy are greater than the other 49 states combined, at $2.2 billion in 2012. In August 2018, California's legislature passed legislation that mandates completely carbon-free electricity generation by 2045."


Most people drive under 20 miles a day. which is about 350 watts * 20 = 7 kw. or using your path 54 square meters covers the energy needs of 85/7 = 12 cars.

This is the same idea as you don't use up a full tank of gas on most days.


> Once electric car total ownership costs get low enough

What does car ownership have to do with two billion people around the globe moving one mile inland? Why would car prices help during a bread riot?


Strawman much?

GP comment was clearly directed in support of a decentralized "winning tech will win without the need and costs of centralized government planning".

My Nissan LEAF is wildly cheaper (~40-70% cheaper) to operate per-mile than my wife's very sensible Honda CR-V. Her car is wildly cheaper all-in because it's a 2005 vs the 2015 LEAF. Give it 5 more years for the common electrics to be readily and plentifully available on the used market and this will even out. The electric cars are already coming. Quickly.

This is all happening without the need for a government program to guarantee a job with the government for anyone who wants one as the article pitches as an essential part of the "Green New Deal". (What does a government job have to do with sea level rise either?)


> This is all happening without the need for a government program to guarantee a job with the government for anyone who wants one as the article pitches as an essential part of the "Green New Deal".

If we're going to decarbonize the economy at a decent rate, we most likely will need to find a just solution for those whose jobs will be disappearing under them (e.g. workers in the fossil fuel industry).

See the riots in France for what happens when you give tax cuts to the rich and try to make the working classes pay for decarbonizing.

Some kind of federal job guarantee could be a way to guarantee some amount of income for displaced workers.


How are you going to decentralize planning around rising oceans?


IMO, by setting desired outcomes and incentives, not by mandating specific solutions and certainly not by creating a government jobs program to create the solutions that the government dictates are "the winner".

I don't want ocean levels or carbon levels to be the next Joint Strike Fighter...


The Dems can talk as much as they want, but to achieve any meaningful lasting changes they will need consensus across the aisle. Making these policies palatable to the American people instead of mandating from on high will be the key. Otherwise, once the political winds shift, everything will be rolled back again.


Why is this story being flagged?

Auto-flagging due to "controversy"? Or have climate deniers finally realized that grandiose talks of government overreach don't sell any more, and started to adopt "suppressing dissenting opinions"?


Politics.

"Off-Topic: Most stories about politics... If they'd cover it on TV news, it's probably off-topic."

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


If you want to stop climate change, stop lashing it to unpopular and divisive ideas like conservation or socialism. Efforts to avoid climate change would have been a lot more succeasful if environmentalists hadn’t hijacked it to push anti-consumption (and anti-capitalist) ideas. Universal nuclear power would have slashed CO2 emissions while allowing unabated growth.[1] Instead they told everone to put on a sweater.

[1] People talk about costs for wind and solar “coming down” but it’s been too late for awhile now. We could have addressed this in the 1960s with nuclear. Now we’re pissing into the wind.


How do you know conservation is unpopular?


Because nobody does it, at least not at any scale sufficient to matter. SUVs are the most popular type of new passanger vehicle in the US! The same is true in China and Indian where per-capita energy use is exploding.


Hunters are intense conservationists. We should encourage more people to hunt and we'll get lots of conservation.


> But voters—who have more quotidian concerns than optimally elegant economic policy—don’t always feel the same way. They don’t want gas prices to go up.

The US is never going to take a substantial action against climate change until there's a huge change in attitude. On one side, conservatives are in denial. On the other side, liberals want companies or the government to pay for change and magically shield the cost away from the people. A carbon tax would be much more straightforward and effective than a "Green New Deal," but you don't get elected for promising to raise taxes. Instead, we get feel good programs like Cash for Clunkers and solar panel rebates that mostly just help the wealthy.


> On one side, ... On the other side, ...

Your brilliant solution is carbon tax, which is exactly what liberals ALREADY tried to do and couldn't get through because of Republican opposition. It's fine to fault both sides, but lazy to do so when it makes no sense just because you want to elevate yourself as some kind of free-thinker. And as far as popular support, I'll note that it just failed as a ballot initiative in the liberal state of Washington -- and while that proposal was a stronger one than other efforts, good luck trying to do carbon tax nationally given the track record there. I think we still try, but the arrogance with which people treat environmentalists bothers me -- get off the sidelines and join the efforts if you want to push for something else.

An effort that focuses on green jobs, like the Green New Deal plan, is actually quite creative. I don't know if it's the best thing to push, but I'll support any effort that's gaining momentum that I think will be a good thing. You have to work as a coalition among people who are willing to put in the work.


> I'll note that it just failed as a ballot initiative in the liberal state of Washington -- and while that proposal was a stronger one than other efforts, good luck trying to do carbon tax nationally given the track record there.

Also, I just looked up this ballot measure and it looks pretty solid. The fact that it failed proves my point. It's easy to see how a tax would negatively affect their livelihoods, so people oppose it. The costs of building new wind turbines and tax rebates for electric cars are obscured, so they're popular even though they have questionable efficacy.


I am in washington state and I think it failed because the implications of the plan was unclear - no one could say how much taxes would be (there were various estimates) and no one had any idea how to use the revenue generated to reduce costs of poorer people - we don't don't have an income tax here so its hard to give govt money back through tax cuts.

I supported this and I (naively) think of myself as fairly well informed but for even someone more capable of reading the details it was unclear (there was going to be a state wide panel that would figure out the details)...

The earlier carbon tax plan was a lot easier to understand and support. Although it makes people lose their shit, I think we should add an income tax in conjunction with carbon taxes. The state needs more money to pay for infrastructure needs, rich overpaid programmers like me can afford more money to build roads and mass transit faster. Add taxes on carbon fuels and then rebate the costs with tax cuts to poorer people and perhaps it could be neutral for your average person.


So what you're saying is that we should push policies we think will not generate popular support that can't pass, regardless of the consequences? I genuinely don't understand the point you're making, not trying to be difficult.


Legislatures have a much better chance of voting for a carbon tax than the people, and they should prioritize this over other green initiatives.

The more fundamental issue is how the climate issue is framed in the US. The narrative is that we can drastically cut emissions without affecting the average family's livelihoods, but the greedy Republicans just won't let that happen. In reality, everyone needs to make a sacrifice, and we can do a better job of acknowledging these sacrifices. As coal becomes becomes less popular, thousands of people will lose their jobs. It's disrespectful to suggest that this isn't a problem because we can just retrain them to build windmills. I don't have a good solution either, but much more effective legislation would be passed if Democrats and Republicans worked together rather than spend time fighting.

I'm sure you'll point that Republicans are less willing to compromise than Democrats, but that's an entirely different can of worms.


> Legislatures have a much better chance of voting for a carbon tax than the people, and they should prioritize this over other green initiatives.

Without public support I just have trouble seeing that happen. I don't think we disagree that much though.

> It's disrespectful to suggest that this isn't a problem because we can just retrain them to build windmills.

I certainly would agree that the people who lose jobs would mostly not be the same people who would be trained to take the new jobs that would be created. I remember reading Janesville and being pretty clearly convinced that skills training programs to people who lose their jobs are often counter-productive. That said, I do still think overall for the economy it'd be a positive.


This isn't about assigning blame to a political party. Democrats only have so much political capital, and they can't afford to waste it on a pie in the sky, like cap and trade or a green New Deal.


When you say "this isn't about assigning blame to a political party" what I hear is "there should be no political price to pay for opposing measures that we need to address climate change."

If you want to argue a measure is bad on the merits, then fine argue that.


Meanwhile, headlines are remarkable in the emphasis of their own agenda, whichever way the banana peels:

https://freebeacon.com/politics/alexandria-ocasio-cortezs-gr...

'What is more, such programs would entail a massive expansion of government spending and power. Chris Edwards, an economist at the Cato Institute, told the Free Beacon by email that in his view, "the plan seems more about [Ocasio-Cortez's] socialist leveling philosophy than reducing pollution."'


> The single most crucial aspect of the Green New Deal is its proposed job guarantee, a controversial policy that says that every American can have a job with the government if they want one. Data for Progress, a leftist advocacy group, claims that the Green New Deal could generate 10 million new jobs across the country over 10 years.

Let's deal with Climate Change by implementing socialism. Yes, I'm sure that will work. Reminds me of the regexp joke. Have a problem? Use a regexp! Now two problems.


We already have socialism, we are just in denial. Social security, taxes to cover job losses. We have a crappy socialism that doesn't protect people well, but that's what we are.


The "capitalism" approach - cap-and-trade - didn't work because Republicans on Congress successfully opposed it and some people were concerned about economic impact. So the end result is that now people are pushing for something that prioritizes "jobs."

And now people like you are opposed because it's socialism. The truth is that some people will ALWAYS oppose anything that hurts the fossil fuel industry and will find excuses to oppose it no matter what.


U.S. emissions have declined three years in a row. (Sounds like the capitalist approach might be working?) But by all means, instead of going after countries whose emissions are actually increasing, let's instead implement one of the most murderous political philosophies of all time. If these politicians were serious about addressing the issue, they wouldn't tie it to such a controversial measure.


This issue is urgent and no, we aren't doing enough here to avert disaster. And we need to do more at home WHILE we do more abroad -- we cannot use that as an excuse for inaction.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/23/health/climate-change-report-...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/climate/ipcc-climate-repo...


> The single most crucial aspect of the Green New Deal is its proposed job guarantee, a controversial policy that says that every American can have a job with the government if they want one.

One of the pros/cons of capitalism is that companies and workers will fight policies that make them less money. The Holy Grail for any capitalist policy is something that does the right thing and makes money.

Doing the right thing is unfortunately optional. Making money is not. Idealists want big government policy to just do the right thing. Capitalists want businesses to have unrestricted access to making money. If we can align policy with both interests I think we can make serious progress.

In my opinion, I think we have a better chance at fighting climate change with a bill that fits in s piece of paper rather than thousands of pages of regulations and loopholes.


Solar is already winning in terms of cost and I think there's more efficiency to come: https://www.businessinsider.com/solar-power-cost-decrease-20...

This was predicted a decade ago. Solar will bring electricity costs down, then electric cars will gradually take over.


I guess I agree that the legislation should be simple. For example legislation that ban carbon pollution within certain industries by a certain date. Say, by 2035 for electricity, 2045 for agriculture. That would really set things in motion wouldn't it.

It would make a lot of old folks mad, but the younger generation would know which skills to build for the new economy.


the younger generation would know which skills to build for the new economy

Homesteading, hunting, fishing, foraging...


I'm not a primitivist. A sustainable economy will require more people, to work in agriculture and energy to reduce carbon intensity. It will require more of our best minds working on these problems instead of using their talents to get more clicks using machine learning.

Our economies are more planned than we like to admit. It's just that right now we don't exercise any control over the direction or goals of our economic production.


> One of the pros/cons of capitalism is that companies and workers will fight policies that make them less money. The Holy Grail for any capitalist policy is something that does the right thing and makes money.

I am really sympathetic to this idea but I think there's a bit of a underlying assumption here -- this requires _rational actors_. This isn't always the case. For example, racial or gender hiring discrimination happens, but it's irrational, since artificially shrinking a hiring pool can lead companies to miss out on great candidates that would have led to greater profits.

Frankly I think the world would be a better place if "the market is rational" but I don't see a lot of strong historical evidence for that. It would be a lot easier to create policies to shape behavior in positive ways if that were the case.

I certainly don't disagree that addressing climate change will be impossible until there's a Holy Grail solution, but I'm skeptical that it would adopted quickly or by everyone.

> If we can align policy with both interests I think we can make serious progress.

Agreed 100%


One of the pros of capitalism is money is made by giving people what they value and giving people what they value is the right thing. No bills are needed only a change in values.


> No bills are needed only a change in values.

I think there are exceptions to this rule like slavery, segregation, climate change, etc. Sometimes the damage from certain ideas and behaviors is so severe that waiting for culture to change isn't the best course of action.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: