Book Review Number 35

The Green New Deal – Jeremy Rifkin

The author defines the concept of the proposed Green New Deal in fairly specific terms. He makes the case that whether politicians like it or not market forces are already making it happen, though not fast enough. He calls this epoch “The Third industrial Revolution” and says it will fundamentally change humanity.

Rifkin says that while it has become a political lightning rod the business community is also already moving to implement the Green New Deal in ways that will change the very foundation of the global economy. He claims that key sectors of business and industry are rapidly decoupling from fossil fuels in favor of ever-cheaper solar and wind energies. That will lead to trillions of dollars of fossil fuel assets being stranded and the collapse of the fossil fuel civilization. He forecasts that will likely occur roughly in the 2028 timeframe.

While I am suspicious of his optimistic timetable, the author has 25 years of experience in advising both the European Union and the Republic of China on transitioning away from fossil fuels. According to Rifkin the European Union has actually been implementing an EU-wide transition away from carbon based energy for more than a decade; their initiative is called the Green Deal, and was endorsed and authorized by all 28 member nations. Similarly, the Republic of China has been implementing its own transition as a key element of the 2012 and all future 5 year plans. China’s initiative is called an “ecological civilization”. The EU and China are engaged in cooperative efforts with each other and are well ahead of the United States in transitioning to a post-carbon era.

In the latter part of the book Rifkin outlines what the character of the third industrial revolution will look like, how much it might cost, and how it can be funded. He makes the point that this transition will fundamental change communications technologies, energy, transportation, as well as how residential and commercial buildings are constructed for energy efficiency.

The author envisions transition to a post-carbon era within the coming 20 years. I understand his enthusiasm, logic, and sense of urgency. I do think though that the funding specifically will be more of a challenge than he seems to think. I recommend his book as a source for promotion of further rational discussion.

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