One of the elements of the Green New Deal resolution that has caused the most consternation among critics on the right is its aspiration toward “upgrading all existing buildings in the United States,” along with building new buildings to the highest energy standards.
Conservatives have spun this up into a full invasion of federal bureaucrats. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell says they’ll be nosing around your home and business, “forcing you to pay for costly updates.” New York Times columnist David Brooks cites the section on buildings as one way the Green New Deal (a “fantasy,” he calls it) would centralize “power in the hands of the Washington elite.” Scary!
The irony is that among climate policy wonks, the call to reduce building emissions is one of the more banal elements of the resolution. Anyone who has studied the problem of reducing US greenhouse gas emissions to net zero — “deep decarbonization,” in the lingo — knows that buildings are a top agenda item.
The reason is simple: Buildings are responsible for about 40 percent of the greenhouse gases in the US. Those emissions come, in part, from the fossil fuels (primarily natural gas these days but also heating oil) burned to heat (and cool) the water and space inside buildings.