Bernie Sanders recently unveiled an ambitious $16 trillion-dollar plan to combat climate change. It envisions a massive expenditure on clean energy, building new solar, wind, and geothermal power plants all across the country. Additionally, the plan commits over $200 billion dollars to help developing nations fight climate change as well. The plan far exceeds those of other 2020 candidates and is the only plan proposed which comes anywhere close to the sort of investment necessary to curb the climate crisis’s worst outcomes.
For example, Joe Biden’s plan offers up $1.7 trillion over 10 years. Elizabeth Warren’s “green manufacturing plan” costs an estimated $2 trillion. And other candidates have similarly suited plans.
Considering the United Nations have urged for a framework which reaches net zero global carbon emissions by 2050, and significant steps must be taken toward that goal in the next decade, anything that leaves money or options on the table is simply unfeasible if actually combating this problem is a priority.
To many candidates, combatting climate change isn’t a priority, but appearing to do something is a must, because increasingly Democratic voters view the issue as ever more important. According to polling data, the issue is the third most important issue for “liberal Democrats” and eighth most important for “moderate and conservative Democrats.” Amongst all voters it averages 17th on a list of 29 issues. However, in a Democratic primary where “liberal Democrats” are ever so important, a climate change plan that appears to take the issue as seriously as “liberal Democrats” do, is a must.
And Bernie Sanders’ plan does just that. This isn’t an exhaustive list as the plan is fairly comprehensive. First, a significant portion of the $16+ trillion-dollar price tag goes to generating publicly owned electricity. It also seeks to create 20 million new jobs in the process. End fossil fuel exports and imports. Bolster the social safety net, combat environmental racism by targeting the most impacted communities. Additionally, there are job protections and job retraining programs available for those most impacted, such as coal miners. There are also significant investments in decarbonization at home and abroad, over $200 billion of which is set aside for developing countries.
On top of those specifics, the plan would signal a radical shift in American politics in two senses. First, the plan seeks to explicitly name the root cause of carbon proliferation, the fossil fuel industry and other carbon intensive industries. This represents an antagonistic approach that treats those responsible for the bulk of climate change accordingly. Second, the plan itself is a government expenditure the likes of which we haven’t seen since World War II.
While there are some criticisms like a nuclear free approach to decarbonization and a leeriness toward carbon taxes, the plan is still the most comprehensive available to do. Which means if we’re going to get started on tackling this problem in a big way, Bernie’s plan is the way to go.