RELEASE: After the Green New Deal: BTI launches Breakthrough Journal Winter Issue
How do we advance green technology when idealized government solutions are no longer realistic?
Berkeley, Calif. — Today, the Breakthrough Institute released the Winter issue of the Breakthrough Journal, entitled “After the Green New Deal,” which looks at what that approach and the corresponding legislation got wrong about climate policy—and the politics that surround it.
“After the Green New Deal” begs the question, what’s to blame for this failure and finds that, “There are many answers, from partisanship; to an everythingism that lumped together environmental, social, and infrastructure concerns; to compromises that resulted in a deal that could win support but not excitement,” writes Editor Kathryn Salam in the introduction. “In other words: politics as usual.”
Each article in this issue of the Breakthrough Journal picks apart a different knot in this tangle. Science writer Leigh Phillips (whose work has been featured in Nature, Sci Am, New Scientist, Guardian, Telegraph) looks to the failure of the Green New Deal’s framers to consider union voices, among which he finds a nascent ecomodernism. Professor Michael Lind at the University of Texas, Austin warns that civil engineering projects cannot be combined with social engineering, and Judge Glock, Senior Policy Advisor, the Cicero Institute urges environmentalists to reconsider their distaste for sprawl. The issue also includes Assistant Professor Shiran Victoria Shen’s (University of Virginia) take on deregulation, Breakthrough's Food and Agriculture Analyst Alex Smith on meat, CMO and chief risk & sustainability officer at Microshare Michael Moranon on inflation, and so on.
Here’s a preview:
In “Blue Collars, Green Jobs?” Leigh Phillips explores why the Green New Deal may have been conceived as a modern version of the Rooseveltian policies that first won organized labor over to the Democratic Party. However, trade unions have criticized elements of the plan as happy talk with some conversations interpreting the pushback as a signal that the left is disintegrating, and in turn, some leftist movements have dismissed union voices as obsolete.
Philips goes on to say that the climate left should recognize the potential ecomodernism has for labor, demanding technological climate solutions, as labor has more knowledge of how energy and infrastructure systems work in practice than any other group and prefers an engineering-based approach. Advancement in clean, firm energy technology such as nuclear will protect energy sector workers’ wages, working conditions, pensions, and benefits. “What such examples suggest,” Phillips points out, “is that many on the climate left have got things the wrong way round when they ask: ‘What will it take to win labor to better climate policies?’ Labor already has solid climate policies. What will it take instead for the climate left to understand that?”
In “Deregulation Is Not the Enemy,” Assistant Professor Shiran Victoria Shen tackle’s some environmentalists’ conviction that deregulation is bad. While neoliberal economists in the 1990s had decided that economic deregulation was the key to unlocking competition and stalled economies, environmentalists argued for more regulation to control emissions, pollution, and resource use. Those environmentalist ideals have stuck around, as evident in Biden’s promises to reinstate scores of environmental regulations canceled by his predecessor.
“Environmental champions have cheered him on while the pro-business crowd has booed, but as Shen sees it, they both have the trade-off wrong. The results of deregulating the power sectors in the United States and China show that, if steered in the right direction, the process can be good for the economy and good for the environment, and make for good politics, too,” writes Salam.
In “The Coming ‘Meat Vortex’,” BTI’s Food and Agriculture Analyst Alex Smith acknowledges that even though meat production is a huge environmental problem, animal protein is unshakably popular, keeping the meat industry too powerful to pressure. Instead of tackling the meat industry head-on, the private and public sectors should treat meat the same as clean energy — invest heavily to create a viable alternative. A “meat vortex,” to borrow a phrase from Robinson Meyer, would promote more environmentally friendly meat alternatives that are cheaper, tastier, and more attractive than the animal kind.
This latest issue of the Breakthrough Journal takes the step from exploring climate change’s theoretical solutions to the implementation phase. Frictions between our “best of us” solutions and what is feasible are bound to happen, but even those are a good sign since they mean we are moving forward.