Why New Infrastructure And Redistribution May Boost Carbon Emissions In Short Run

Why New Infrastructure And Redistribution May Boost Carbon Emissions In Short Run The Chickamauga Dam, completed in 1940, was a crowning achievement of the New Deal. Everett Historical/Shutterstock

The Green New Deal has broadened imaginations worldwide on the subject of climate change, encouraging people to consider what action to tackle it could do for society. US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced the Green New Deal resolution in February 2019, calling for a rapid transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions, a massive investment in infrastructure and financial redistribution.

While the project would attempt to halt further warming, it would also counter inequality and compensate losers from the energy transition, such as workers in carbon-intensive industries such as coal mining.

It’s already helped wrest the political agenda in the US from the regressive policies and scandals of the Trump administration, and has gained bipartisan support among US voters, despite right-wing pundits denouncing it as a communist plot.

The Green New Deal borrows its name and ethos from the New Deal – introduced in the 1930s by then US president Franklin D. Roosevelt to kickstart an economy crippled by the Great Depression. But are strategies which echo the needs of the 1930s and 1940s – ending the Depression and defeating Nazism – suitable for the rapid transition from fossil fuels that defines our needs in the early 21st century?

Can any strategy which relies on historical analogies be adapted to the current climate emergency?

Teaching an old deal new tricks

The Green New Deal’s proposed investment in public infrastructure and focus on inequality mirrors the original aims of the New Deal, but economic transformation will look very different under a Green New Deal. Whereas Roosevelt’s New Deal aimed to grow the economy, its modern equivalent entails shrinking many economic activities currently central to the economy’s operations.

Another way of looking at this is that the original New Deal spurred a massive increase in greenhouse gas emissions. By generating huge public investment in roads and power stations, as well as redistributing wealth through the emerging welfare state, it set the stage for what some call the “great acceleration” in greenhouse gas emissions during and after World War II.

In the US, military build-up was central to this early on, but then it was sustained by the expansion of consumption after the war – most directly by the shift to mass car ownership and urban sprawl that “locked in” high fossil energy use, not only in transport but in housing.

The urban sprawl which the New Deal nurtured has ‘locked in’ high consumption, high emission lifestyles. John Wollwerth/Shutterstock

The Green New Deal therefore contains a basic contradiction that anyone pursuing it will have to wrestle with as it develops. Many of the measures proposed – such as investing in infrastructure and spreading wealth more evenly – will intrinsically work in tension with efforts to decarbonise the economy.

They create dynamics that increase energy use at the same time as other parts of the Green New Deal are trying to reduce it. For example, building infrastructure such as new road networks will both create demand for carbon-intensive cement manufacture and opportunities for more people to travel by car.

To reach net zero emissions by sometime early in the second half of the 21st century, as the Paris Agreement and the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C state we must, the global economy has to decarbonise by at least 3% per year. In rich countries such as the US, this needs to happen more rapidly so that poorer countries, which have contributed less overall to global warming, have more time to adapt.

The targets in the Green New Deal are consistent with this sort of time-frame for decarbonising the global economy. But, even if wealthy countries like the US “only” have to achieve 3% cuts per year, as the economy grows by – say – 2%, then in effect the country has to cut emissions by around 5% per year relative to the growing size of the economy. To illustrate the scale of this challenge, historically, emissions have declined relative to GDP by only about 1% per year, in the aftermath of the 2008 recession.

So the challenge is enormous. But of course, the effect of much of the Green New Deal – to invest in infrastructure, to redistribute income – will be to generate significant economic growth. Indeed, this is the point – to get the US economy out of its present stagnation.

But it’s hard to see how this will be done without generating new sources of carbon emissions – more housing, more cars and more consumption generally. Herein lies the tension that will recur through the life of the Green New Deal, even if it gets through the immediate quagmire of US politics.

A Green New Deal will aim to kickstart manufacturing – can it be done without supercharging carbon emissions? Think4photop/Shutterstock

Its supporters will have to manage this tension, even though the vast majority of the US left and environmental movement are behind it.

If one imperative is to build new infrastructure to get the US economy going, how much of this will really do more than pay lip service to the energy system transformation in practice? The “Green” in Green New Deal demands that all new infrastructure built is effectively carbon neutral.

Even new transit infrastructure, for example, would have to be entirely electric, at the same time as that electricity system is supposed to rapidly abandon coal and then natural gas. It’s easy to imagine which will win when that tension works its way through the political process.

It’s not that the Green New Deal isn’t worth pursuing – it’s an extremely promising development. It’s just important to remember Naomi Klein’s invocation that “this changes everything” – dealing with climate change is unlikely to lend itself to off-the-shelf solutions from an earlier age.The Conversation

About The Author

Matthew Paterson, Professor of International Politics, University of Manchester

Este artículo fue publicado originalmente en The Conversation. Lea el original.

Related Books

Climate Adaptation Finance and Investment in California

by Jesse M. Keenan
0367026074This book serves as a guide for local governments and private enterprises as they navigate the unchartered waters of investing in climate change adaptation and resilience. This book serves not only as a resource guide for identifying potential funding sources but also as a roadmap for asset management and public finance processes. It highlights practical synergies between funding mechanisms, as well as the conflicts that may arise between varying interests and strategies. While the main focus of this work is on the State of California, this book offers broader insights for how states, local governments and private enterprises can take those critical first steps in investing in society’s collective adaptation to climate change. Available On Amazon

Nature-Based Solutions to Climate Change Adaptation in Urban Areas: Linkages between Science, Policy and Practice

by Nadja Kabisch, Horst Korn, Jutta Stadler, Aletta Bonn
3030104176
This open access book brings together research findings and experiences from science, policy and practice to highlight and debate the importance of nature-based solutions to climate change adaptation in urban areas. Emphasis is given to the potential of nature-based approaches to create multiple-benefits for society.

The expert contributions present recommendations for creating synergies between ongoing policy processes, scientific programmes and practical implementation of climate change and nature conservation measures in global urban areas. Available On Amazon

A Critical Approach to Climate Change Adaptation: Discourses, Policies and Practices

by Silja Klepp, Libertad Chavez-Rodriguez
9781138056299This edited volume brings together critical research on climate change adaptation discourses, policies, and practices from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Drawing on examples from countries including Colombia, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Russia, Tanzania, Indonesia, and the Pacific Islands, the chapters describe how adaptation measures are interpreted, transformed, and implemented at grassroots level and how these measures are changing or interfering with power relations, legal pluralismm and local (ecological) knowledge. As a whole, the book challenges established perspectives of climate change adaptation by taking into account issues of cultural diversity, environmental justicem and human rights, as well as feminist or intersectional approaches. This innovative approach allows for analyses of the new configurations of knowledge and power that are evolving in the name of climate change adaptation. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWnltlfrdehiiditjakomsfaptruesswsvthtrurvi

LATEST VIDEOS

Bill Nye And The Climate Crisis
by MSNBC
On a special show before a live studio audience, Bill Nye the science guy discusses the climate crisis with Chris Hayes.
How Greenland's Massive Ice Melt Will Totally Transform The World
by Channel 4 News
Remember that heatwave back in August? Well, the Arctic remembers it too. Record rates of ice melt have been recorded…
China Is Positioned To Lead On Climate Change As The US Rolls Back Its Policies
China Is Positioned To Lead On Climate Change As The US Rolls Back Its Policies
by Kelly Sims Gallagher and Fang Zhang
As the effects of climate change become more widespread and alarming, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has…
What Happens When The Permafrost Thaws?
by Official W5
Almost half of Canada sits on permanently frozen land called permafrost, but climate change is causing it to thaw and…
We Are Striking to Disrupt the System: An Hour with 16-Year-Old Climate Activist Greta Thunberg
by Democracy Now!
In her first extended broadcast interview in the United States, we spend the hour with Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old…
Annual Assessment of North Cascades Glaciers Finds Shocking Loss of Volume
Annual Assessment of North Cascades Glaciers Finds Shocking Loss of Volume
by Mauri Pelto
The summer of 2019 found the North Cascade Glacier Climate Project in the field for the 36th consecutive summer…
Breakdown In Coral Reef Iconic Spawning Puts Species At Risk Of Extinction
Breakdown In Coral Reef Iconic Spawning Puts Species At Risk Of Extinction
by Heidi Burdett
Breakdown In Coral Reef Iconic Spawning Puts Species At Risk Of Extinction
How Climate Change Is Driving Emigration From Central America
How Climate Change Is Driving Emigration From Central America
by Miranda Cady Hallett
Clouds of dust rose behind the wheels of the pickup truck as we hurtled over the back road in Palo Verde, El Salvador.

LATEST ARTICLES

How Climate Change Could Threaten The World’s Traditional Food Dishes
How Climate Change Could Threaten The World’s Traditional Food Dishes
by Daisy Dunne
Climate change is likely to alter the way that the world grows, trades and enjoys food.
Bill Nye And The Climate Crisis
by MSNBC
On a special show before a live studio audience, Bill Nye the science guy discusses the climate crisis with Chris Hayes.
How Greenland's Massive Ice Melt Will Totally Transform The World
by Channel 4 News
Remember that heatwave back in August? Well, the Arctic remembers it too. Record rates of ice melt have been recorded…
China Is Positioned To Lead On Climate Change As The US Rolls Back Its Policies
China Is Positioned To Lead On Climate Change As The US Rolls Back Its Policies
by Kelly Sims Gallagher and Fang Zhang
As the effects of climate change become more widespread and alarming, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has…
We Need More Carbon In Our Soil To Help Australian Farmers Through The Drought
We Need More Carbon In Our Soil To Help Australian Farmers Through The Drought
by Nanthi Bolan
Australia has never been a stranger to droughts, but climate change is now super-charging them.
Climate Breakdown Is Pushing Brazil's Iconic Araucaria Tree To Extinction
Climate Breakdown Is Pushing Brazil's Iconic Araucaria Tree To Extinction
by Oliver Wilson
For hundreds of thousands of years, the distinctive candelabra shapes of Araucaria trees (Araucaria angustifolia) have…
Roiled By Trump Politics, NOAA Seeks Accountability, Atonement
by MSNBC
Rachel Maddow reports on the backlash within the weather science community over an unsigned statement from NOAA…
Extreme Cities: Ground Zero for Climate Change
by The Laura Flanders Show
No matter how we tackle climate change, cities are key.