Politicians, journalists, celebrities and left-wing activists are touting the Green New Deal as humanity’s last chance to save the planet. And while the plan is quickly becoming a litmus test for Democratic presidential candidates, it does not mean it is a serious policy proposal.
In fact, the Green New Deal includes proposals that have nothing to do with Earth’s climate or environment. Progressive elites and “democratic socialists view the plan as a grab bag of their radical agenda to transform America into the kind of socialist utopia that only exists in fiction. Free health care? Check. Free college? Check. Free child care? Check. Free paycheck? Check.
It appears the effort to “save the planet from melting” is really just a cynical publicity stunt by people who think America is a planet. Reality check: America is not a planet, and countries like China would happily watch us jump over the cliff by destroying our economy with the Green New Deal.
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Here is the truth: While Earth’s climate is changing, there is no credible scenario that will lead to the destruction — or salvation — of the planet within 10 to 12 years, as some Green New Deal proponents allege. Also true: Communities and local businesses in my home state of Florida are already dealing with the very real impacts of rising sea levels, and yet, the Green New Deal will do nothing to address that reality. Thankfully, there are realistic proposals that will make longer-term climate challenges much easier to deal with.
The South Atlantic Coastal Study is one example. SACS is a comprehensive, multiyear U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report that will create a practical blueprint of specific projects and strategies for states and localities, from North Carolina to Florida to Mississippi, to improve coastal resilience and mitigation with the help of the federal government.
Real help isn’t flashy
SACS is not flashy. It is not, as candidate Barack Obama said in 2008, “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” However, it is the type of serious policy work that prepares local communities on the front lines to make better decisions on how to counter and adapt to new and ongoing coastal changes. It is the type of work that will have a positive, tangible impact on families, small businesses and coastal communities.
In 2016, I was proud to lead the successful authorization of the SACS in Congress, with support from Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. Last year, I fought to get this important tool fully funded, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Army Corps and state and local partners to ensure this effort is successful.
As that process moves forward, so too will Congress. We should debate how to best address problems such as sea level rise, but our debates must be based on facts.
What real impact will the Green New Deal, or any plan for that matter, have on Americans affected by rising sea levels? The authors cannot say. As a policymaker, I welcome robust debate, and I appreciate when people on both sides of the aisle offer new ideas to significant issues facing our country. But engaging in publicity stunts designed to pander to a progressive base seeking to repackage socialism will do nothing to address the actual problems Americans are facing every day.
Green New Deal makes progress harder
In many ways, the Green New Deal makes real progress on complex issues like climate change all the more difficult. If the Green New Deal is the new litmus test of the radical left, genuine efforts like the SACS become nonstarters in their eyes.
It is also extremely corrosive to America’s spirit: A Green New Deal fact sheet even proposed giving money to those who are “unwilling to work.” Clearly, the plan’s authors think little of Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown’s “The Dignity of Work tour.” Not surprisingly, labor unions also disagree. “We will not accept proposals that could cause immediate harm to millions of our members and their families,” the AFL-CIO said.
America has a choice in how it prepares for the future. The Green New Deal might have been a successful publicity stunt, but it is a fundamentally unserious choice. If actually implemented, it would bankrupt our nation and leave our communities more vulnerable. That cannot and will not be the future of America.
Marco Rubio is a Republican senator from Florida. Follow him on Twitter: @MarcoRubio