There has been much talk about the Green New Deal for a while. Leaving aside the authorship of the name, we can say that it is inspired by the famous, vilified and celebrated New Deal, by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
It should be remembered that one of the New Deal programs was the “Civilian Conservation Corps,” (Civil Corps of Environmental Protection), dedicated to the afforestation of the Dust Bowl, caused by the constant desertification of the American Midwest. To give us an idea of the magnitude of the program, Roosevelt got it approved on March 31st., 1933, and by July 1st., 1933 there were already 1,463 work camps, with 250,000 unemployed youth, 25,000 adults, 28,000 veterans and 14,000 American Indians The task of organization and recruitment was entrusted to the army, which subsequently took advantage of it to create and train in a record time the huge and efficient army that later fought in Europe and the Pacific. In the US, some organizations inspired by the “Civilian Conservation Corps” were created, but perhaps the most important one is The Sea Ranger Service, based in the Netherlands, which in combination with the government of this nation is dedicated to safeguarding and recovering the marine bottoms and its ecosystem.
Roosevelt’s New Deal did not change the world economic system, but it did humanize and democratize it, guiding it from an exclusively capitalist system to getting the whole society benefit from it. At the same time, it enhanced the rights and freedoms of human beings. We cannot say that it was an economic success as such, as full employment did not occur until the US entered the Second World War.
We do not know what would have happened if Roosevelt had been able to develop his project without the constant boycotts and impediments of the business world, and the cuts and prohibitions of the US Supreme Court who understood it competed with the business class’ infrastructure investments. In 1939 the economy had not yet reached the level of the 20’s. The opposition of business circles to the New Deal and their attempts to hinder the process, resulted in a fall in private investment and Government could not compensate it.
The successful outcome of the war economy launched in 1941, suggests that the New Deal would have taken the US and much of the world out of the great depression.
Creating a war economy is also raising a country using its most important material: people. Now we face with a similar situation, only that this time we need it to help us survive as a society and perhaps as a civilization.
The Green New Deal was born from a proposal by Van Jones, former Special Adviser for Green Jobs, Business and innovation of Barack Obama, who boosted green investments throughout the country, together with new infrastructures, industries and, above all, research. The idea has been adopted by The European Energy Centre and the political activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The failures and successes of the New Deal teach us how to face the new challenge, if we really can face it.
Of course, the first problem we have to face is political. North American and European societies are not the same now as in the thirties. Nobody would think then of voting a denialist politician nor those who live turning their backs to empirical science. Today, however, we can find a dominant political class that denies reality. We have the example right now in the US or in Italy, but also knocking at the door of governments in many other places, such as Spain itself (remember the Popular Party and Rajoy’s cousin).
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not by far Roosevelt, not because of her capabilities, which she has yet to prove, but because Roosevelt ruled the US during three legislatures with electoral comfort, although with almost all business apparatus and economists of the Austrian School of the 30’s against him.
Friedrich Hayek and part of the Austrian School strongly criticized the New Deal, curiously in regard to their concept of freedom, which they considered misleading. However, the Nobel laureate supported without any prejudice the Chilean, Portuguese and Argentine dictatorships, and the South African Apartheid, stating that: “My personal preference is inclined to a liberal dictatorship and not to a democratic government, where all liberalism is absent.” Curiously, the liberalism defended by these dictatorships was not real, but just as false as Hayek’s and part of the new Austrian School (we cannot confuse Hayek with Ludwig Von Mises), since their economic laws were designed to defend a small group of people , expelling the rest of the supposed liberal benefits.
The Green New Deal tries to create a lot of quality employment, encouraging a reindustrialization with green features. The name becomes due to its great resemblance to the policy of President Roosevelt. That is, to have a part of the budget, in this case North American and European, addressed to the creation of a large network of new infrastructures. Stern magazine estimates that fighting Climate Change can cost us 1% of annual GDP, while not fighting it could represent 7%, and up to 20% if we add the loss of health and biodiversity. The Re-Define Studies Center values the need, only in Europe of 2% of GDP, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30%.
Unfortunately, human beings face an unknown problem. There is no experience of a rise in greenhouse gases of the present magnitude, but what we do know is that their effects are not immediate but will appear during the next 30 years. That is, that the effects of what is currently in the atmosphere, approximately 430 Ppm of CO2, has caused a rise of 0.5º Celsius; but the total effect will be appreciated in 30 years, with an approximate increase of 2.75º. And the 550Ppm of CO2 planned for 2050 will represent a rise of almost 4º. The rise in sea level is equally inevitable and could be between one and two meters, that will cause the disappearance of the great deltas that feed billions of human beings. The disappearance of glaciers will mean a drop in the availability of fresh water in many places on the planet. Cold winters will no longer hold water in the high mountains, so it will slide in a torrential way in case the amount of rain is not reduced.
These forecasts, along with some more, are the most studied and reliable. What we cannot do is to predict how many species will disappear, in which places it will rain more or less or at which point the ice of Greenland and Antarctica will collapse.
Now, let’s not forget that the forecast of 550 Ppm of CO2 by 2050 seems or is inevitable. The changes necessary to stop the increase to this figure are not possible, at least in the short term.
The challenge does not end, therefore, in deciding how to invest, which policies we have to follow and from where we have to extract the amount of money required to develop the Green New Deal, but also how we must manage , if we can do so, the disappearance of million hectares of cultivation due to the rise in sea level, the increase in desertification, the extinction of numerous species essential for ecological balance and the migration of hundreds of millions of people.
That said, we cannot understand or share the results of those studies which speak of the need to invest 1 or 2% of GDP. Nor the foreseeable fall of 7% in case of not facing the changes. No one can assess the necessary percentage with a base index that depends on such diverse factors, such as the increase in the price of food, land, speculation and sometimes crisis (there is the paradox that the Bank of Spain has to raise its expectations of growth thanks to the current economic downturn); it just only be based on the “well-being budget” of its society.
The change of economic paradigm is as inevitable as climate change itself, and it will be a consequence of this. We may call it Green New Deal or otherwise, but we cannot predict the exact direction it will take, which will depend on governments and lobbyists on the one hand, and citizen awareness and mobilization on the other. A change of economic paradigm of this magnitude can only occur with a political and social agreement in all countries around the planet, and from a cultured and socially advanced majority. It will not or course in a world ruled by deniers of any sign.