Two United States congressional candidates and a panel of three experts discussed a proposed “Green New Deal” with students Tuesday.
The town hall meeting, held by Students for Bernie at Ohio State in the US Bank Conference Theatre, was organized for students to discuss concerns and better understand the implications of adopting a Green New Deal policy.
A Green New Deal is a resolution by lawmakers to adopt policies that would address climate change, create jobs in multiple sectors and reach 100 percent renewable energy within 10 years, Cathy Becker, Ohio seat of the nationwide environmental activist group the Sierra Club, said.
Morgan Harper, a Democratic candidate running for Ohio’s third congressional district representing Columbus, was also on the panel, along with Xavier Carrigan, who is running in the fifth district, representing Findlay and Bowling Green.
“The climate crisis is a major existential threat for all of us. We don’t have a whole lot else to talk about if we don’t have a planet that is habitable,” Harper said.
Becker emphasized the need to revitalize U.S. water and transportation systems on top of a renewable energy grid.
“There are 3,000 communities [in the United States] that have lead contamination worse than Flint, Michigan,” Becker said.
A future under this resolution could possibly see expenditure on high-speed trains, new bridges and hazardous waste cleanup, Becker said.
Panelists also discussed government funding of a clean-energy transition. Becker said these policies would be decentralized and implemented by local governments but funded by the federal government.
“Today we can fund the Green New Deal using the power of the purse of the government,” Fadhel Kaboub, associate professor of economics at Denison University, said. “The question is: What will be the limit of that spending?”
A key aspect of a Green New Deal is lessening the overall economic inequality that Kaboub said is created in the current private sector.
In transitioning the economy under a Green New Deal, Kaboub said there will be a massive transfer of jobs as the fossil fuel, transportation and health insurance industries will eventually be dismantled from their current form.
“It’s going to displace millions of workers away from the system we are trying to decarbonize because we are going to produce a more efficient system. We need a just transition for those workers, a job guarantee. We are literally talking about rebuilding communities, rebuilding the social fabric that has been dismantled over the last 40 years,” Kaboub said.
In some respects, a Green New Deal resolution has been accepted in cities including Cleveland and Cincinnati. Becker has helped form a commitment — titled “Getting to 100” — that 150 U.S. cities have made to eventually achieve 100 percent renewable energy.
“Columbus has not [committed]. However, Columbus is doing some really great things. They have a program to do 30,000 home energy audits, concentrating in low-income areas to help install energy efficiency upgrades to their homes,” Becker said.
Thomas Bartlett, a fourth-year in social work and treasurer of Students for Bernie at Ohio State, said younger people care about the issue because they might have to deal with the aftermath of environment not being taken care of.
Bartlett said student activism is important when taking on global political issues.
“If you think back to Vietnam and other major social changes, a lot of the big community change occurred on college campuses. If it’s a cause you really care about, there is probably an organization out there fighting for it,” Bartlett said.
The town hall meeting was also sponsored by the Sunrise Movement and Ohio for Bernie.