Report: Green New Deal Would Have 'No Effect' on Climate

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez / Getty Images
April 24, 2019

The Green New Deal would have essentially no effect on global warming, a new report argues, while imposing enormous economic and social costs.

The report, authored by the American Enterprise Institute's Benjamin Zycher, analyzes the likely impacts of the Green New Deal (GND) as outlined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) in her proposed resolution calling for such a program. In Zeicher's account, the GND is a set of proposals (some more or less vague than others) designed to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. Doing so, proponents argue, would actually boost the economy through the jobs created.

This second goal of economic acceleration, Zycher writes, is a "'broken windows' argument" depending as it does on the idea that destroying existing carbon-intensive capital goods would add to (rather than subtract from) the wealth in the economy.

"It is not to be taken seriously," he writes.

The first goal—net zero emissions by 2050—also suffers from serious flaws. In large part because the United States only accounts for a fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions today, achieving zero emissions would have only a limited impact on the growth of global temperature over the next 80 years. Specifically, Zycher estimates that it would cut future temperatures by 0.083 to 0.173 degrees Celsius by 2100, a decrease "barely distinguishable from zero."

"This conclusion is not controversial and suggests strongly that the GND's real goal is wealth redistribution to favored political interests under the GND social-policy agenda and a dramatic increase in government control of resource allocation more generally," the report reads.

Such an increase in government control would come at substantial cost, Zycher estimates. Specifically, the overall cost of getting to "net zero" would be about $490 billion per year. It would also require, in the name of "completely renewable" energy, the seizure of some 115 million acres of land—more than the land area of California.

What is more, even with an entire state's worth of solar panels, the country would still need to rely on conventional energy generation to fill in "brown out" periods, when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. Zycher estimates that this back up would require 1.4 million gigawatt-hours of energy per year, resulting in about 35% of 2017 emissions—hardly zero.

Added on top of this is the GND's bevy of social programs, including Medicare-for-All and a Universal Basic Income. With these features, the GND would top out at roughly $9 trillion per year, or slightly less than half of U.S. GDP.

"The GND at its core is the substitution of central planning in place of market forces for resource allocation in the U.S. energy and transportation sectors narrowly and in the broad industrial, commercial, and residential sectors writ large. Given the tragic and predictable record of central planning outcomes worldwide over the past century, the GND should be rejected," Zyher concludes.