A Green New Deal must include a just transition

We must make conscious and deliberate changes to our economic system — now. But climate-change legislation must also be carefully written to address the consequences for the people affected by the disruption to major industries.

Dear Bernie,

We're writing to you to express our grave concerns about the lack of movement shown by our government thus far on climate change. We're excited to learn that you're working on ambitious and far-reaching climate legislation to be introduced in the near future.

Given the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the time to act is now. Our country needs a Green New Deal that includes a commitment to move to a more equitable and ecologically sound political and economic system, in addition to a commitment toward transitioning to 100-percent renewable energy, with governmental investment in the necessary technology as well as green infrastructure.

While the Green Party has advocated reducing military spending by 50 percent and closing U.S. military bases around the world, the Green New Deal in its most recent iteration, as championed by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), does not include the military as a source of concern.

We urge you to address our bloated military budget in your bill.

Aside from the crippling commitment of budgetary funds, the military has an enormous impact on our environment. Our military is the country's largest institutional user of both petroleum and energy. However, this usage is not included in the count of U.S. carbon emissions due to an exemption in first the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and then in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

A truly Green New Deal must address this.

As you are aware, the recently approved $61 billion increase in the military budget which is, by itself, greater than Russia's entire 2018 military budget of approximately $46 billion.

The ways in which military operations contribute huge amounts to global carbon emissions, and thus to climate change, are enormous. For example, between 2003 and 2007, the war in Iraq generated at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The changes we make in our individual lives, including going solar, driving and flying less, eating less meat and dairy, and supporting local farms, are essential, but the decrease in carbon emissions that we achieve through these changes is dwarfed by the continued carbon emissions from the world's largest military.

Downsizing the U.S. military would help reduce our carbon emissions significantly while freeing revenue for use in the transition to an equitable green economy.

Without bold attempts to rein in our carbon emissions, we look toward a painful future, in which climate change continues to push ecosystems toward tipping points, making life in many parts of the world untenable for both humans and other species.

Addressing our excessive military spending and the resulting carbon emissions produced by war would be a powerful step in this direction.

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While reducing the military budget is imperative, we also have to rein in and transition away from an economic system that privileges profit over a livable planet.

Yet, according to a report in The New York Times, the latest preliminary estimates show a rise in United States' emissions of 3.4 percent in 2018, the largest increase in 8 years.

The time to make conscious and deliberate changes to our economic system is now. We have to substantially decrease carbon emissions. That means decreasing our use of fossil fuels significantly while immediately stepping up our transition to renewable energy.

We've already got much of the technological know-how for this. What we need is clear-sighted, courageous action.

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A substantial, rapid decrease in our use of fossil fuels will disrupt major industries.

Shutting down fossil-fuel production, ending production of vehicles that use fossil fuels, sharply curtailing the use of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, quickly transitioning away from industrial animal agriculture, and ending excessive military use of fossil fuels will disrupt major profit-making industries.

In the lives of ordinary people, this will mean mass unemployment and massive losses for investment-based retirement plans.

Of course, climate change will have the same results, but it is so easy to ignore consequences that aren't immediate, or to think it will happen to someone else - not us, not our children.

This is why it is essential that climate change legislation be carefully written to ensure a just transition to a more equitable and environmentally friendly economic system.

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Capitalism's logic of economic growth and maximization of profit, the logic that underpins consumerism, is itself at the heart of our problems. When a system is driven by massive overexploitation of resources, and produces massive amounts of atmospheric carbon, the system itself becomes a dire threat to the health of our planet.

This situation calls for a Green New Deal that is based on building a new economic system driven by the needs of people and the ecosystems in which we live, rather than by profit and militarism.

Government investment in green energy must enrich communities under democratic governance, rather than corporations, in conjunction with leadership from the communities here and around the world that have suffered most from extractive industries, including indigenous communities and communities affected by predatory mining corporations.

This investment must include an emphasis on eco-agriculture, rather than industrial agriculture, and be accompanied by training in the skills needed for good green jobs.

This is no small task. Your help moving us forward is critical.

We are grateful for your leadership on climate change. It is our hope that together, as legislators and citizens, we can create a zero-carbon economy that is both environmentally sustainable and equitable.

We need to work together to encourage, energize, and motivate our friends and neighbors to take action. The work required for systemic change in order to create a greener, humane, and stronger democracy involves us all.

We look forward to reading your new climate bill.

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