Reflecting Critically on the Green New Deal

Matthew Nisbet's picture

The Green New Deal has done damage to the Democratic party’s chances heading into the 2020 elections, while hurting efforts to build momentum on behalf of climate and energy policy options capable of passing during an era of enduring divided government, I argue in a new “Sciences, Politics, Publics” column at Issues in Science and Technology magazine.

Green New Deal advocates have framed the choice for Americans and their more moderate Democratic colleagues in starkly binary terms: Either join us in a utopian quest to transform the U.S. into a social democracy or face the catastrophic consequences of a dystopian climate future. There are no other choices. In fact, their battle is as much against moderates and pragmatists as it is against conservatives.

Yet what might be good for progressives in wresting control of the Democratic party from moderates is not likely to help combat climate change or be good for the country. People who are made conscious of their group membership are driven to participate on behalf of their groups, not the greater good.

The tactics that progressives are employing, defining climate change as an “us versus them” battle between an intersectional Left and everyone else, only increases already intense political prejudice and animosity, stoking a righteousness that caricatures conservatives and the fossil fuel industry as “deniers” incapable of reason, and moderates as enablers of their evil.

Still, it is not enough for moderates and conservatives to poke holes in the reasoning of progressives, or to dismiss the Green New Deal out of hand. Ideas that empower a vital center of elected officials and decision-makers will be essential, helping to forge coalitions on behalf of politically viable and effective policy approaches that begin to make decisive progress toward a resilient, net-zero carbon economy.

Among the major investments needed will be the fostering of a new solutions-focused conversation that critically evaluates conventional narratives about climate change as a social problem, exposes faulty thinking, holds those in power accountable, promotes cross-cutting dialogue, cultivates optimism and cooperation rather than anger and polarization, and encourages better decisions and more inclusive politics by widening the scope of available technological and policy options rather than narrowing them as part of a self-defeating strategy to distinguish “us” from “them.”

 Read the full column at Issues in Science and Technology magazine:

As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments, and disagreements,



About the Author: 

Matthew Nisbet is Professor of Communication, Public Policy, & Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Communication, and also writes regularly at Scientific American and his blog