The Green New Deal has sparked a timely impassioned national conversation on the imperative of addressing climate-change risks to our economy, environment and security and the associated needs of disadvantaged communities.
The mission is clear: Action is urgently needed to set and follow high-impact pathways to a low-carbon future. We must, however, strive for a broader public consensus that respects local differences and allows all citizens equal opportunity to build a prosperous, fair, safe and secure low-carbon future.
We should first dispel any question about the gravity of addressing climate change. The accelerated pace of change is significantly stressing the world's natural, social and economic systems. We are already paying the price — extreme weather, forest fires, drought, sea-level rise and coastal storm intensity are all high-cost leading indicators.
The price tag for inaction promises to get much higher, and the transformation to a low-carbon energy will inevitably stretch to mid-century and beyond. Those who can least afford it — the poorest Americans and the world's developing countries — will be economically hit worst and first and continue to pay the steepest price unless the rate of investment and innovation is accelerated and extended into all parts of our country.
The need for urgency and the disparate impacts of inaction underscores the dangers of magical thinking at either extreme. Climate deniers, as well as those with demonstrably impractical, short-term, feel-good solutions are moving us sideways when forward motion is essential.
The urgent need to act now on climate requires focus and prioritization. It is time to do the hard work of forging a broadly acceptable and practical plan to transform the energy system. A wise and just transition to a low-carbon economy, moving as fast as is technically and socially possible, must minimize stranded physical assets as well as stranded workers and communities. It will be based on practicality, not ideology. In other words, it had to be a Green REAL Deal to achieve real results.