Climate Research and Green New Deal Resources for 2020

David Moore
8 min readJan 5, 2020
People’s Climate March 2014 NYC, photo by Flirck user: South Bend Voice

Last night, in response to our latest Sludge report on millions of dollars in fossil fuel industry investments held by members of Congress while lawmakers delay on climate policy, a middle-aged tax professional in New Jersey posted the following public comment on our Facebook page:

The US has reduced its carbon footprint by more than 50 percent in the past decade by converting coal fired power plants to NATURAL GAS. Emissions from Cars and trucks that run on gas and diesel fuel account for 50% of carbon emissions. Due the complexity of our power grid solar and wind can not provide a sustainable answer. China, India and Europe have more coal fired plants than than US and they need to meet the same standards as we have. They are the main contributors to carbon pollution. The green new deal will cost 50 trillion dollars that we do not have and can not afford. Government does not supply energy, the private sector does….

I wanted to share ways for more people to rebut these common conservative arguments, which seek to minimize the scientific consensus and deflect responsibility for strong climate action this critical decade. In fact, his just-in response to my reply was simply, “What about China and India?” (Stay tuned.)

Initial research, studies, news links, and responses below, with more coverage forthcoming:

  1. The Fall 2018 IPCC report from the United Nations established the many catastrophic risks of of the world’s current warming scenario. (Guardian, Oct. 8, 2018)
  2. The risks at 2 degrees celsius warming compared to 1.5 are significantly worse. (Vox, Jan. 19, 2018)
  3. Without strong climate action, the planet is currently on pace for 3 degrees warming by end of the century. (Vox, Apr. 30, 2018)
  4. Methane gas released from thawing tundra, currently being observed by Arctic experts, could double warming and push the planet past the “tipping point” to a “worst-case scenario”. (Guardian, Apr. 23, 2019; Guardian, June 18, 2019; Guardian, Aug. 5, 2013; Wired, Nov. 27, 2018; The Atlantic, Jan. 15, 2019)
  5. Warming above 4 degrees could jeopardize global food production. (Vox, Oct. 22, 2014)
  6. Hundreds of millions of climate-change refugees are predicted by 2050. (Brookings Institute report, July 25, 2019)
  7. The U.S. is the number one historic carbon emitter. (NYT, June 1, 2017)
  8. In 2018, U.S. carbon emissions per capita stands third among larger economies, 2.3x China’s. (Union of Concerned Scientists, updated Oct. 10, 2019)
  9. The Green New Deal is currently a framework for future legislation and policy. (House Resolution 109 text on; NPR, Feb. 7, 2019; NYT explainer Feb. 21, 2019; Sunrise Movement intro page)
  10. Car and truck emissions are a huge problem to address towards meeting targets. (Vox, Jan. 11, 2018)
  11. Current fossil fuel production is out of line with climate safety goals: “production of oil and gas is on track to exceed carbon budgets, with continued investment and planned infrastructure ‘locking in’ use of these fuels.” (UN Environment Programme report in Price Of Oil, Nov. 20, 2019)
  12. Policy supporting electric vehicles (EV’s) can address this goal and shift investment to economically-productive public transit and renewable-energy mass transit. (Fast Company, June 25, 2019)
  13. The Green New Deal would decarbonize the economy through large-scale public investment. (Vox “What is the Green New Deal” explainer, Dec. 21, 2018)
  14. The strong climate policy “action” scenario would cost at least $2 trillion less ($190.2 trillion out to 2040) than “inaction” scenario (economic costs of $192 trillion in that time, with immense further costs and harms) while mitigating catastrophic risks and investing in productive infrastructure. (2015 report by Citi GPS, research arm of Citi financial institution, in The New Republic, May 3, 2019)
  15. Coal energy is more expensive, and wind & solar is becoming competitive with natural gas. (USA Today, June 5, 2019; Guardian, Mar. 25, 2019)
  16. By 2030, wind & solar will be cheaper than natural gas almost everywhere. (Bloomberg New Energy Finance, reported in Think Progress, June 18, 2019)
  17. With the U.S. pulling out of Paris Agreement, the outlook for meeting emissions reduction goals is bleak; hence, global warming is unlikely to successfully be kept under 1.5 degrees celsius. (NYT, Nov. 26, 2019; Vox, Jan. 3, 2020)
  18. Three degrees celsius warming would cost $551 trillion in damage (Bill McKibben, The New Yorker, Sept. 17, 2019)
  19. Governments provide up to $1 trillion annually in fossil fuel subsidies. The unpaid costs including externalities are upward of $5.3 trillion annually. (2015 study by the IMF, in Price Of Oil; Vox, May 17, 2019; Vox, May 20, 2015)
  20. G20 governments provide $440 billion in subsidies per year on oil, gas, and coal production. (Price Of Oil report, Nov. 11, 2015). G20 government subsidies for coal are at least $63.9 billion per year. (Price Of Oil report, June 24, 2019)
  21. The five largest oil & gas companies alone spend $200 million a year in lobbying to delay strong climate policy. (InfluenceMap report, in Guardian, Mar. 21, 2019). Congress contains an anti-Green New Deal bipartisan coalition (The Intercept article on a report by LittleSis, Feb. 28, 2019)
  22. U.S. leadership on strong climate policy can implement agreed-upon global rules from the Dec. 2015 Paris Agreement. (Washington Post op-ed, Dec. 18, 2018; Paris Agreement Q&A.)
  23. Global financial markets are beginning to recognize the costs of global warming, with a Bank of England official foreseeing “a mix of public investment and change driven by financial markets.” (Financial Post, Dec. 30, 2019)
  24. Just 20 fossil fuel companies account for one-third of all modern emissions. (Guardian, Oct. 9, 2019). Interactive graphs of carbon via the 2 Degrees Institute.
  25. Multilateral banks such as the World Bank continued funding fossil fuel exploration as well after the Paris climate accord (Price Of Oil report, Oct. 12, 2017).
  26. In May 2018, institutional investors worth $2.5 trillion sent a letter to 30 leading banks asking them not to invest in oil drilling or exploration. (Banking On Climate Change report, 2019). Funds committed to divestment totaled over $6 trillion in 2018. (Guardian, Sept. 10, 2018). By 2019, warnings came from fund managers controlling over $10 trillion. (Price Of Oil, April 19, 2019)
  27. Governments legislate and regulate energy markets, with a number of tax subsidies to the fossil fuel industry as a means of encouraging domestic energy production. (Environmental and Energy Study Institute fact sheet, July 29, 2019)
  28. Financial institutions (33, including Chase, Citi, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and the world’s largest investment banks) have provided an estimated total of $1.9 trillion in financing to the fossil fuel sector from 2016 to 2018, after the Paris Agreement, including $700 billion for expansion of extraction. (Price Of Oil report, March 20, 2019; Guardian, Oct. 13, 2019; Mother Jones, Mar. 28, 2019; Guardian, June 21, 2017; Banking On Climate Change 2019)
  29. Financing from Bank of America in just one deal out of $107 billion the past four years — Occidental’s proposed takeover of Anadarko Petroleum — would more than double oil production from the world’s busiest site, the Texas Permian Basin, by 2030 (LittleSis, May 1, 2019)
  30. Natural gas energy breaks the planet’s fossil fuel budget by locking in emissions infrastructure and failing to decarbonize by midcentury to avoid catastrophic climate degradation. (Price Of Oil report, May 30, 2019)
  31. In 2018, the burning of petroleum products led energy-related carbon dioxide emissions (45% of energy-related carbon emissions), followed by natural gas (31%) and coal (24%). Natural gas extraction releases large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that is about 30 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide. (Sludge + LittleSis, Sept. 24, 2019)
  32. The Green New Deal framework is popular in opinion public polls (The Atlantic, Oct. 7, 2019) and a more productive investment than other unpopular expenditures, “including $4.6 billion per year for fossil fuel subsidies, $1.5 trillion for the 2017 Trump Tax cuts, and $1.6 trillion between 2001 and 2014 for the Iraq and Afghan wars.” (Data For Progress, Green New Deal report, Sept. 2018. Data For Progress poll, May 10, 2019.)
  33. Polls show that 70% of Americans support aggressive climate action, but Congressional staff meet more often with fossil fuel industry groups. (On The Media with Asst. Prof. Leah Stokes, Sept. 20, 2019)
  34. “In 2016, global clean-energy investment was about $300 billion, or 0.4 per cent of global GDP. Thus, the increase in investments will need to be in the range of 1–1.5 per cent of global GDP — about $1 trillion at the current global GDP of $80 trillion, then rising in step with global growth thereafter — to achieve a 40 per cent emissions reduction within twenty years. The consumption of oil, coal and natural gas will also need to fall by about 35 per cent over this same twenty-year period — an average rate of decline of 2.2 per cent per year. Pursuing this same basic investment pattern beyond the initial 20-year programme, along with the continued contraction of fossil-fuel consumption, could realistically achieve a zero-emissions standard within roughly the next fifty years…. These are large but realistic investment goals which could be embraced by economies at all levels of development, in every region of the globe. One reason why this is a realistic project is that it would support rising average living standards and expanding job opportunities, in low-income countries in particular.” (Economist Robert Pollin, New Left Review, July 2018)
  35. Starting at the ballpark of spending 5% of GDP on decarbonization, or about $970 billion over the next five years, The Green New Deal’s estimated cost of $194 billion annually could be paid for by a carbon tax ($96 billion), removal of fossil fuel subsidies ($9 billion per year), and for the remaining $89 billion, either a higher carbon tax or progressive income taxes. (Economist Edward Barbier, The Conversation. Context on federal budget size, process, and priorities, Sludge, Oct. 25, 2019.)
  36. More news coverage of the nascent Green New Deal (GND): Fast Company on GND transforming eight economic sectors, June 24, 2019. Bloomberg News on halting warming for $300 billion and stabilizing losses for 15–20 years through land programs, Oct. 23, 2019. The American Prospect on Green New Deal, Dec. 5, 2019. NY Mag on the political status quo, on Aug. 23, 2019. The Intercept on potential social impacts of the GND. (Dec. 5, 2018)
  37. An international group of experts has identified the 36 most viable solutions to halve greenhouse gas emissions globally by 2030 — all possible to achieve. (Exponential Roadmap report, covered in Guardian, Sept. 19, 2019; for more details, see Guardian on UK policies, June 12, 2019). “Electric vehicle growth has the potential to reach a 90% market share by 2030 if sustained, but only if strong policies support this direction.” Almost half of all new passenger car sales in Norway in 2018 were electric or hybrid vehicles. (World Economic Forum, Mar. 21, 2019)
  38. Light-duty vehicles and new buildings will be relatively easier to decarbonize with renewable electricity. Harder sectors will include “other transport modes — long-distance trucking, ocean shipping, and aviation — are “hard sectors” in that electrification is much less straightforward…Other solutions, such as synthetic green fuels or biofuels for aviation, hydrogen fuel cells for ocean shipping, and catenary lines for electric trucks along major highway routes, will be necessary…. Older buildings that currently rely on fossil fuel heating will have to be retrofitted for electric heat pumps. Retrofitting will require a long national effort and will be moderately expensive. Major challenges remain in decarbonizing certain industrial sectors…” (The American Prospect, Dec. 5, 2019)
  39. As of last month, 134 members of Congress and their spouses own as much as $92.7 million worth of stock in fossil fuel companies and mutual funds.” (Sludge, Jan. 3, 2020, part of the Sludge Climate Desk)
  40. The Green New Deal aims to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing the historic oppression of frontline and vulnerable communities. (New Consensus FAQ and Press). The Madrid climate talks to follow-up on Paris Agreement will be held Dec. 2–13, 2020. (Guardian, Nov. 1, 2019; Reuters, Dec. 16, 2019)

Feedback, suggestions, and questions welcome. Email: david at readsludge {dot} com, @ppolitics on Twitter. About our independent newsroom, Sludge.



David Moore

Co-founder, investigative journalism on money in politics. Previously: OpenCongress, AskThem, Councilmatic.