When Democratic Socialist Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) first proposed her “Green New Deal,” it was not a concrete policy proposal. Rather, it was a grand vision of the environmental and social justice convictions she and her supporters espouse. For AOC and her supporters, the Green New Deal represents movement toward a global utopia with abundant green energy, cleaner air and water, equality of outcomes (not just opportunities) for all, environmental justice, and ultimately free from the evils of capitalism. 

The promise of a greener, more equitable tomorrow is something that many long for, but it is doubtful that AOC’s Green New Deal will indeed lead us to the promised land. 

House Resolution 109 was introduced in February 2019 and includes a wide range of policies that, if enacted into law, could cost approximately $600,000 per household. According to a new study co-authored by the former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, HR 109 could cost as much as $93 trillion. With this price tag, a greener future seems firmly out of reach.  

Despite this insurmountable cost, there are more pressing concerns with how the Green New Deal may change life as we know it and not necessarily for the better. In some ways, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis may provide a window into how AOC and others view life in a “Green New Deal” society. 

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recently reported that COVID-19 will be responsible for the biggest yearly drop in greenhouse gas emissions since World War II due to lack of emissions from transportation and industrial energy production.  Many climate advocates have called for this level of reduction every year. For example, the United Nations Environment Programme recommends 7.6% each year to stave off climate change.

Prominent climate activist Eric Holthaus wrote on Twitter. “We’re doing it. It’s possible!  That’s the whole point of a Green New Deal.  We can build a better world for everyone out of the ashes of the old one.”

Quoted in the Washington Examiner, AOC agreed that the COVID-19 shutdown reflects her vision of a climate change solution.

It is deeply concerning to imagine that the current COVID-19 reality is what AOC and others envision for the future. While the pandemic and subsequent ‘shutdowns’ have yield significant carbon reductions, these are simply a fortunate side-effect of an otherwise tragic and crippling global health and economic crisis. 

According to the latest numbers from the US Department of Labor, 33 million people have filed for unemployment benefits under COVID-19 (as of 5/25/2020). The total of unemployed people now number more than the total population of the State of Texas (29 million). 

The economy is in free fall. 

Beyond this, many families are distressed, restless, and miserable. 

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, domestic abuse is worsening and in a recent KFF poll, nearly half of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the virus. Millions of people are starting to speak out and they are not “ok” with endlessly staying at home. People are desperate to return to work, to travel to see family, and resume their normal lives. 

The current reality cannot be the ‘price we pay’ to combat climate change because all it buys us is minimum emission reductions to limit warming. If COVID-19 is indeed a preview of the Green New Deal, AOC should be aware that most American’s will likely say “no thanks.” We need a new model for how we combat climate change – we need a different new deal.