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Is a Green New Deal a Good Idea?

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933, the U.S. was in the depths of the Great Depression. A quarter of Americans were unemployed, there were long lines of hungry people at soup kitchens, and people were desperate. Roosevelt immediately began enacting a series of government programs designed to help Americans and get the economy moving again. The programs were collectively known as the New Deal.

Now, some lawmakers are saying that the threat of climate change demands a similar scope of intervention and investment. They're calling their initiative a Green New Deal. But not everyone thinks this is the right thing to do. Two senators debate whether the nation should adopt a Green New Deal.


A bold plan to transform our global energy system away from fossil fuels is not only a moral imperative for a livable planet, it's an opportunity to build a more just and equitable world.

This is the thinking behind the Green New Deal, an approach to tackling climate change that invests in working people and uproots historical injustices. This vision draws on the spirit of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's successful program to end the Great Depression, curb income inequality, and create a more humane society with a strong middle class.

A Green New Deal would make massive public investments in our infrastructure: energy-efficient buildings, a modern energy grid, a green transportation system, and the rapid deployment of wind, solar, and other renewable energy technologies across the country, all manufactured right here in the United States.

A Green New Deal would create millions of family-sustaining, unionized jobs with benefits. It would also protect communities vulnerable to climate change and provide the working people in the fossil fuel industry with training and guaranteed employment opportunities in the green economy.

Many low-income Americans and people of color live in communities that have unsafe drinking water and dangerously polluted air. A Green New Deal would prioritize infrastructure repairs to fix this. It's not a radical idea to suggest that clean drinking water and clean air should be the right of all Americans regardless of their income or the color of their skin.

According to scientists, we have a little more than a decade to make these major changes to avoid irreversible climate destruction. We can't afford not to pursue a Green New Deal. The good news is that there are no technological obstacles to achieving this--only political ones.

Young people are demanding that their elected officials act urgently to tackle climate change, as the overwhelming scientific evidence tells us we must. Let's bring people together. Let's transform our economy. Let's save the planet.

--SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS, Independent of Vermont

Senator Sanders is running as a Democratic candidate for president in 2020.

NO Earth's climate is changing, and the global community has a responsibility to address it. But there are three basic reasons why the proposed Green New Deal isn't the way to do it: The plan is unrealistic, it will cost too much for average Americans, and it won't achieve its goal.

At the heart of the plan is a mandate to switch to 100 percent renewable fuels within a decade. We should continue to increase our use of renewables, but essentially outlawing fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas isn't just a mistake, it's impossible. Three out of five U.S. homes depend on these fossil fuels for their power. In 2017, wind and solar power generated just under 8 percent of America's electricity. There's no way we can go from f 8 percent to 100 percent in 10 years.

Because the fossil fuels most Americans now depend on are abundant in the U.S., they're relatively cheap. By requiring us to abandon these inexpensive fuel sources, the Green New Deal would make household energy bills jump by as much as $3,800 a year--a spike working families can't afford. The plan would also require the national construction of a massive new infrastructure to support the shift to all renewable energy. Taxpayers would end up footing the bill for this.

Even if Americans were willing to pay, the deal wouldn't achieve their climate change goals. In 2017, America generated 13 percent of global carbon emissions. China and India produced 33 percent. Until these nations make changes, global emissions will climb regardless of what the United States does.

We should focus on what is working: innovation. American scientists are making significant progress on two new clean-energy developments. The first is advanced nuclear power generation, and the second is capturing carbon emissions and finding new uses for them. We I must continue to support these technologies and deploy them around the world.

The Green New Deal isn't the answer. Let's instead make America's energy as clean as possible today, while investing in promising innovations for tomorrow.

--SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO, Republican of Wyoming

Senator Barrasso is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.


DEBATE PAGES 22-23 Lexile level available online

Is a Green New Deal a Good Idea?

YES: Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont NO: Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming

Analyze the Debate

1 Set Focus: Frame the inquiry with this essential question: How should governments address climate change?

2 Read and Discuss: Have students read the debate and then answer the following questions:

> What is the issue being debated? (The issue is whether the government should implement certain policies and make significant investments to lessen reliance on fossil fuels.)

> Evaluate why these two authors might be interested in and gualified to comment on this issue. (As members of Congress, both authors help set the budget for federal spending and write laws that guide our nation's energy policies. In addition, both authors are members of Senate committees that focus on energy, the environment, and public works.)

3 Core Skill Practice: Project or distribute Analyzing Authors' Claims, and have students use the activity to analyze and evaluate each author's arguments.

> Analyze Sanders's view. (Sanders argues that a Green New Deal is not only morally the right thing to do, but also economically. He says the plan will create millions of jobs and strengthen the middle class. He also claims that the plan will help ensure access to clean water and air for all Americans. Last, he argues that if we don't tackle climate change now, it will be too late to do so later.)

> Analyze Barrasso's view. (Barrasso argues against a Green New Deal. He says the requirement to switch to 100 percent renewable fuels within a decade is unrealistic. He also says that the plan is too costly. Last, he claims that it won't achieve its goal of reducing climate change because industries in other countries emit large amounts of carbon.)

Extend & Assess

4 Writing Prompt

In an essay, evaluate one of the debaters' arguments. Assess whether the reasoning is valid and whether it's supported with evidence. Point out biases or missing information.

5 Classroom Debate

Is a Green New Deal a good idea? Have students use the authors' ideas, as well as their own, in a debate.

6 Vote

Go online to vote in Upfront's poll--and see how students across the country voted.


Print or project:

* Analyzing Authors' Claims (online and on p. T13)

Vote: Choose a side in the debate and see instant results from across the U.S.


Analyzing Authors' Claims

Read the debate on pages 22-23 about whether a Green New Deal is a good idea, then follow the directions below to analyze each author's claims and decide who makes a stronger case.
AUTHOR: Senator Bernie Sanders         AUTHOR: Senator John Barrasso
Independent of Vermont                 Republican of Wyoming

Author's main claim or argument      Author's main claim or argument
in the debate:                       in the debate:

REASON 1: Name one reason the        REASON 1: Name one reason the
author gives for his claim.          author gives for his claim.

List evidence the author gives       List evidence the author gives
to support Reason 1.                 to support Reason 1.

REASON 2: Name another reason        REASON 2: Name another reason
the author presents.                 the author presents.

List evidence the author gives       List evidence the author gives
to support Reason 2.                 to support Reason 2.

REASON 3: Name a third reason        REASON 3: Name a third reason
the author presents.                 the author presents.

List evidence the author gives       List evidence the author gives
to support Reason 3.                 to support Reason 3.

What persuasive devices does         What persuasive devices does
the author use?                      the author use?

--Appeals to emotions                --Appeals to emotions

--Uses data or scholarly research    --Uses data or scholarly research

--Tells why the other side's         --Tells why the other side's
argument is weak                     argument is weak

--Other:--                           --Other:--

EVALUATE: Which author do you think makes a more effective case?
Do you spot any weaknesses, such as a bias or missing
information, in either argument? Explain on a separate sheet of paper.

Caption: Young people in Brooklyn, New York, demonstrate in favor of a Green New Deal.

Caption: Coal miners protest in Washington, D.C., outside the Environmental Protection Agency.
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Title Annotation:Debate
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Date:Sep 2, 2019
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