Sanders Says Climate Disaster Is Much More Expensive Than a Green New Deal

Sen. Bernie Sanders used a virtual town hall on Saturday to call out his fellow members of Congress who — in the midst of record-shattering heat waves, massively destructive storms, and unprecedented wildfires — continue to insist that a Green New Deal aimed at combating the climate emergency and creating millions of good-paying jobs in the process would be too costly.

“Turn on the TV and you see the West Coast of the United States, some of the most beautiful land in our country, burning,” said the Vermont senator. “Hundreds of thousands of acres are burning because of unprecedented climate change and the warming of the planet. Now, there are people out there in Washington, my colleagues in the Senate, they say the Green New Deal is too expensive. We can’t afford it.”

“Well,” Sanders continued, “you tell me the alternative. Tell me the alternative if we’re going to be looking at a planet which is burning up, if we’re looking at more and more drought and the decline of food production, if you’re looking at more and more extreme weather disturbances, hurricanes, and tornadoes, if you’re looking at more and more disease… The Green New Deal is not too expensive because the alternative is far, far more dreadful, more destructive, and much more expensive.”

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Sanders’ remarks echoed arguments that climate activists have voiced in recent days as wildfires — fueled, according to experts, by the human-caused climate crisis — continue to ravage the western U.S. and another major storm barrels toward the northern Gulf Coast just weeks after Hurricane Laura battered the region.

In a petition urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to back the Green New Deal — which she dismissed last year as “the green dream or whatever they call it” — progressive advocacy group Justice Democrats and the youth-led Sunrise Movement declare that “we are already experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis and we need policies and solutions that match the scale of this crisis.”

“Nancy Pelosi is the only member of Congress in the Bay Area who doesn’t support the Green New Deal,” the groups note. “California is engulfed in forest fires and the skies are orange because of smoke.”

Last August, as Common Dreams reported, Sanders unveiled a sweeping $16 trillion Green New Deal proposal that would transition the U.S. to 100% renewable energy in electricity and transportation by 2030 at the latest and create 20 million jobs by investing heavily in sustainable infrastructure. The plan also calls for prosecuting fossil fuel companies for their role in driving the climate emergency.

“The climate crisis is the greatest challenge facing humanity,” Sanders said at the time. “It’s also our single greatest opportunity to build a just and equitable future.”