Every crisis is also an opportunity, as the saying goes, and this is especially true of historic crises like the current coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, as Kate Aranoff writes in a new piece at the New Republic, the U.S. government looks determined to squander one of the greatest opportunities presented by the economic crisis shadowing the health crisis: The chance to pass a stimulus package that moves toward the emissions goals demanded by the science of climate change.
While the subject of carbon emissions may seem unrelated to the virus, the climate crisis is so severe that it can no longer be so easily separated from other areas of policy. Any chance to reduce emissions and move the economy toward a different energy paradigm must be seized. “Whereas traditional stimulus programs aim to blindly boost fossil-fueled growth,” writes Aranoff, “any response to this looming recession needs to work toward lower emissions in the long run, with investments that both improve lives and cut carbon.”
According to a poll conducted by Data for Progress, a majority of Americans supports a massive government stimulus to build an economy along the lines of a Green New Deal.
This is not just smart climate policy, but also good politics.
“Historically, big public spending programs—particularly those advertised as such—have been an electoral boon for Democrats,” notes Aranoff. “Following Franklin Roosevelt’s election in 1932, Democrats enjoyed 12 uninterrupted years of control over the White House and Congress.”
Not surprisingly, there are signs the Trump administration will use the crisis to achieve opposite goals, such as propping up a shale oil industry that has been struggling for years. It is imperative that any such use of “stimulus” funds be called out and challenged. Pandemic or no pandemic, it is better for workers, the economy, and for the future of life on earth that fossil fuel companies be allowed to suffer fail, and a new and sustainable energy paradigm be developed with all deliberate speed.
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