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What’s actually in the Green New Deal, explained with a video

What we need to do to avoid climate disaster — and how we should do it.

The release of the 14-page Green New Deal resolution was well-timed.

It was shortly after the world’s top climate scientists told us we had 12 years to limit a global catastrophe. It was amid the worldwide student strikes and during the ramp-up of 2020 presidential coverage, which has made climate change one of the top issues in the 2020 Democratic primary.

Yet still, the Green New Deal is kind of hard to understand.

Our video goes over the basics:

What is it? Right now, what we have is the resolution: a road map. It’s a document that lays out the huge things America has to do to avoid a climate disaster — and the principles we should abide by as we do this.

What do we have to do to avoid climate disaster? Our economy is built on burning coal, oil, and gas. If we want to stop doing this, we need to overhaul our buildings, our transportation, our manufacturing methods, and more.

But what about the whole “new deal” part? Overhauling an economy can hurt certain people. If your well-being depends on working for a coal company or an oil refinery, this isn’t going to be fun for you. But overhauling an economy also gives us the chance to fix some economic injustices. So the Green New Deal tries to create some protections that create a path for a more fair and just transition.

Okay, what do I read now? As someone who isn’t a climate expert but spent a lot of time researching this to make the video, I think the following steps make sense:

  • First, watch our video. We try to lay down the basics.
  • For some context, read this piece by Vox’s Umair Irfan on the United Nations climate report, where the world’s best climatologists tell us how urgent of a problem this is; and then this piece from Vox’s David Roberts, which shows that world leaders really aren’t taking this urgency seriously.
  • Finally, you should read this explainer of the Green New Deal, followed by this story (in list form) by Hannah Northey. I also enjoyed this piece, from Kate Aronoff of the Intercept, that imagines a world after the Green New Deal.
  • If you want to read about this in the lens of the 2020 election, this piece explaining Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposal is excellent. Inslee has the most ambitious climate proposals; it is, as Roberts writes, the Green New Deal translated into policy. Other candidates have also released plans — among them, Beto O’Rourke, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg.

And as always, to watch more Vox videos, follow us on YouTube. I’ll be looking to make more videos on the climate crisis, so email me if you have any stories you’d like to see covered. I’m at alvin@vox.com.