The Green New Deal, an ambitious if at times vague call to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions while tackling economic inequality, seemed to be on the lips of everyone in Washington this year, drawing endorsements from many Democratic presidential candidates and outsized condemnation from President Trump and GOP lawmakers.
And outside of D.C.? Well, few actually know much about it.
That’s according to a nationwide public opinion poll by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) this past summer, which Scott Clement and I reported on Wednesday morning.
What the survey does show is that while Americans like many of the plan’s goals, they are less keen on increasing federal spending by trillions of dollars to achieve its vision of tackling climate change and economic inequality through government programs. Here are the key findings:
The Green New What?
According to the survey, more than 3 in 4 Americans had heard little or nothing about the Green New Deal. While overall opinion was split, opposition rose among those most familiar with the plan.
Of those who said they had heard at least “a good amount” about the Green New Deal, nearly 6 in 10 opposed it. One explanation for that overall opposition: Republicans were about twice as likely as Democrats to have heard a good amount about the plan, which has drawn lots of rhetorical attention from President Trump and GOP lawmakers.
Overall, among all adults, 20 percent supported the plan, while 20 percent were opposed and the rest said they did not know enough about it to have an opinion.
But a plurality of the American people support “drastic” action
A more encouraging result for Green New Deal proponents is that just under half of American adults — 46 percent — said the United States needs to “drastically reduce” fossil fuel use in the next few years to avoid the worst effects of climate change, while 41 percent said a gradual reduction is needed. Another 12 percent said nothing needs to be done to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change.
By more than 2 to 1, Democrats believe a drastic, rather than gradual, reduction in emissions is necessary (66 percent vs. 31 percent), while Republicans are more likely to call for either a gradual reduction (51 percent) or no reduction at all (29 percent).
Among adults who have heard at least a little about the Green New Deal, 53 percent said it is not realistic while 40 percent said it is achievable. Teenagers (57 percent) and adults under age 30 (54 percent) who have heard about it were more likely than older adults to think the Green New Deal is realistic.
And most of the Green New Deal’s goals are broadly popular.
The objectives of the Green New Deal, as defined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) in a resolution this February, are many and massive: To provide all Americans with high-quality health care, to guarantee them jobs with good wages and to meet 100 percent of their power demands through clean energy.
The guarantee of jobs with good wages for all workers is the single most popular goal, with 78 percent of Americans saying they would support the Green New Deal if it would accomplish that and only 20 percent saying they would oppose it.
The second-most popular goal is upgrading all buildings to be more energy efficient (70 percent in favor and 27 percent opposed), followed by achieving zero-emission energy sources within 10 years (69 percent to 28 percent)
Providing all people with health care through a new government program also won wide approval, by a more than 2-to-1 margin, but there was a significant disparity between the parties. Republicans and Democrats also diverged widely on whether to back major new business regulations and a reduction in the number of U.S. coal-mining jobs.
But the biggest obstacle the Green New Deal faces remains its potential cost.
Here’s the kicker to that support, though: Two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) said they would oppose the Green New Deal if it increased federal spending by trillions of dollars.
While Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution did not come with any official price tag, she has said it would cost $10 trillion over several years.Trump and other conservative lawmakers are saying that could be as high as $100 trillion, an estimate based on a tweet by a Manhattan Institute scholar.
Most of the Democratic presidential field, including former vice president Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have embraced the idea of a Green New Deal. And their campaigns attach much lower costs for their climate plans.
Biden put the cost of his climate plan at $1.7 trillion. Warren’s proposal to invest in clean energy programs as part of a Green New Deal would cost $2 trillion. And Sanders wants to spend $16.3 trillion to enact his version of the Green New Deal.
Read more here:
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— Here’s what’s decimating a once-booming fishing town: There’s a triple threat rocking the small fishing town of Tombwa, Angola, where ocean waters off the coast are some of the fastest-warming in the world. The fish are dying off in inhospitable, oxygen-depleted waters. Massive illegal fishing trawlers are sweeping up what’s left. And it’s happening around waters warming at a pace more than three times the global average rate, The Post’s Max Bearak and Chris Mooney report in the latest in a must-read series that has explored notable warming in Canada, Japan and Uruguay. The impact has been acute for Tombwa, the town of 50,000 that was once home to 20 fish factories and that now is down to two.
- The warming rate: “Sea temperatures off the Angolan coast have warmed 1.5 degrees Celsius — and possibly more — in the past century, according to a Washington Post analysis of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data,” they write. “In recent years, multiple studies have identified the waters along Tombwa’s coast in particular as a fast-warming hot spot: In one independent analysis of satellite-based NOAA data, temperatures have risen nearly 2 degrees Celsius since 1982. That is more than three times the global average rate of ocean warming.”
- The impact on fishing: “Ultimately, unchecked warming could also cause Angola to lose 20 percent of its fisheries, according to a recent study by Rashid Sumaila, an oceans expert at the University of British Columbia in Canada. The projection uses ecological and economic modeling to determine what could happen to fisheries if countries fail to cut emissions.”
— California is on fire: A brush fire, dubbed the Cave Fire, broke out Monday in Santa Barbara County and had burned through more than 4,300 acres, with about 600 firefighters helping tackle the flames by Tuesday. “In most parts of California, winds die down overnight, giving firefighters a chance to get a blaze under control. But on the Santa Barbara coast, winds grew stronger Monday night, howling through canyons and constantly changing direction. They made the Cave Fire particularly difficult to contain as dangerous embers blew all over the region,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The Cave Fire is burning under some of the toughest firefighting conditions anywhere in the world,” Los Padres National Forest Fire Chief Jim Harris said at a news conference.
— One city’s plan to combat climate change: For years, Charlotte, N.C., has been taking down flood-prone structures, bulldozing houses and apartment complexes to prevent devastating flash flooding. “The county has removed 460 structures and replaced them with absorbent grasslands, winning national praise as a prototype for regional flood planning that anticipates the impact of projected development and the growing effects of extreme weather,” The Post’s Frances Stead Sellers reports in this dispatch. But the flooding is getting worse, as the risks from climate change deepen. “We just can’t engineer ourselves out of this problem,” said Bill Hunt, a civil engineer at North Carolina State University. “What Charlotte has done works very well for two- or three-inch rains. But we don’t have tools to fix 11- or 12-inch rains.”
— Warming rivers putting grid reliability at risk: As climate change increases river temperatures, it could lead to decreased operating capacity for nuclear and natural gas generation plants, a new study from City University of New York researchers says. The study’s lead author said river temperatures and reduced flows are not often included in research about the fate of power grids, E&E News reports. “The study estimates that the capacity of U.S. generating plants by 2050 could shrink by between 5% and 12% because of restrictions on water use by nuclear and fossil fuel power plants, the study said,” per the report.
— The latest on BLM’s controversial relocation: A new Bureau of Land Management Web page that can be viewed internally by employees notes that staffers could see a pay cut following the move, the Hill reports. The site, meant to include questions and answers related to the agency’s pending relocation out of Washington, says: “An employee reassigned to a relocated position will remain at the grade and pay of his or her current position; however the respective locality pay will vary based on the location of the position
— New York grid operator may limit media coverage: The New York Independent System Operator is considering a draft proposal that would change its bylaws to “effectively bar publications from reporting on early discussions of issues ranging from pricing carbon to valuing energy storage,” Politico reports.
- What the law would do: “The proposal would limit what reporters could write about meetings in exchange for the ability to attend them, including barring any direct reports on discussions at lower-level meetings and allowing individuals to refuse to be quoted at higher-level meetings. At the moment, meetings are open to media attending in-person, without conditions … The plan has not been finalized and may be abandoned after some market participants raised concerns about press access.”
- Why this may be allowed: “Grid operators like NYISO, while holding major sway over power prices, are considered private entities and are not subject to the same standards of transparency as government bodies,” Politico adds.
- The Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety holds a hearing to examine the nomination of Robert J. Feitel, of Maryland, to be Inspector General, Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Dec. 3.
- The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds hearings to examine an original bill to create a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chronic Wasting Disease Task Force on Dec. 4.
— Trump tells impeachment jokes ahead of turkey pardon: “It seems the Democrats are accusing me of being too soft on Turkey,” Trump said at the event outside the White House. “But Bread and Butter, I should note that unlike previous witnesses, you and I have actually met. It’s very unusual.”