AOC's Green New Deal at the center of most recent 'Uncomfortable Conversations' panel

Category:  News
Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 at 11:41 PM
AOC's Green New Deal at the center of most recent 'Uncomfortable Conversations' panel by Amber Chisholm
Photo: Amber Chisholm

The last Uncomfortable Conversations event for the 2018-2019 school year combined politics and the environment in a discussion focusing on the Green New Deal.

Four Edinboro University faculty members shared facts, answered questions and offered their final thoughts in Baron-Forness Library on Thursday, April 18.

The talk was based on the work of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and senator Ed Markey, involving the release of a 14-page resolution addressing climate change with ideas including “public works projects, high-quality health care, access to clean water and air and affordable food.”

Speakers included Dr. Jerra Jenrette, from the history, politics, languages and cultures department, Dr. Karen Eisenhart, an associate professor in the geosciences department, Dr. Jingze Jiang, an associate professor in the business and economics department, and Dr. Gerry Gendlin, also from the history, politics, languages and cultures department.

Jenrette addressed the historical aspects by saying that “the Green New Deal is not the first new deal that we’ve had in American history,” sharing several examples, from the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and onward.

Eisenhart then mentioned the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which publishes assessment reports “about every five years” based on the research of thousands of scientists, with the most recent from 2013 and the next expected in 2021. She also read some information from the most recent National Climate Assessment, saying that it is “extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” This was based on extensive evidence such as rising sea levels, melting glaciers, coastal flooding and more.

It has also been concluded that global temperatures have increased by 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to Eisenhart.

“That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is responsible for all of these changes that we’re seeing,” she said, sharing that it could be 5 degrees by the end of the century.

Stressing that “the longer we wait to take action, the more extreme the action needed will become,” Eisenhart shared some strategies. These included carbon taxes and working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while agreeing with a resolution statement saying that “it is the duty of the federal government to spur action on climate change.”

She said that climate change is not a Democratic or Republican issue, but everyone’s issue.

Jiang next addressed the economic aspects of this, touching on the importance of factors such as clean air and water for future generations.

She then shared details from a April 2018 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), stating that “the fastest employment growth from 2016-2026 is a solar panel installer,” with a projected increase of 105 percent. Her second example applied to wind turbine service technicians, with an expected 96 percent increase.

She also shared information regarding worldwide energy consumption, based on the U.S. Energy Information Administration, with one example covering wind energy.

For 2008, this amount was tracked at over 65 trillion British thermal units (BTU), and increased to around 229 trillion by 2018 — an increase of 250 percent.

Gendlin then formally greeted the crowd before addressing several political aspects of the Green New Deal, one of which in that it appeals to left-progressive ideals.

“73 percent of Americans believe that climate change is happening,” he said, sharing that this has increased “10 percentage points over the past four years.” Meanwhile, 14 percent believe otherwise.

Gendlin declared that the problem with climate change is obvious and believes that the best approach to reducing it is to work from the bottom-up, or starting locally and moving outward, an approach Eisenhart agreed with.

A Q&A session followed as the speakers both answered questions and engaged in commentary on topics including goals related to the Green New Deal, plus areas such as Edinboro and Erie.

Jenrette feels that we need to have a serious political discussion about this.

“I think much of the country gets it, too bad Washington doesn’t,” she said.

“Am I wrong to be pessimistic?,” asked one audience member after commenting on the nation’s politics.

One panelist described the need to maintain hope in positive changes happening, especially though the younger generation. Gendlin thinks that neither political party has been able to make these problems real and personal enough for people to start making progress, which could occur for the rest of the world if the U.S. became more involved.

“You need to get involved. We need to get involved,” said Jenrette near conclusion.

Future topic ideas for the Uncomfortable Conversations series should be directed to Edinboro University interim provost Dr. James Fisher at jdfisher@edinboro.edu.

Amber Chisholm | edinboro.spectator@gmail.com

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