The Green New Deal is a framework of objectives that redirect the nation's economy and infrastructure to prevent a climate catastrophe and reduce income inequality. New Consensus summarizes it as,
The rapid transition to a forward-looking society of broad opportunity, equal justice, productive prosperity, and environmental sustainability
This idea has been around since the 70's, but it really started gaining traction in 2007 and 2008 when journalists and scientists wrote articles and reports for the public— both nationally and internationally. However, 10 years later, the reductions of CO2 emissions in 2008 may be mainly attributed to the recession instead attempts to nationally decrease CO2 emissions while stimulating the economy— state emissions are a different story.
So, environmental movements began a journey of lobbying and civil disobedience directly demanding a Green New Deal. Then, in 2019, Senator Edward Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced the Green New Deal Resolution. This 14-page document acknowledges the expensive and unethical consequences of inaction and proposes a 10-year transition to a clean, 100% renewable energy grid, a zero-emission and sustainable economy (infrastructure, transportation, agriculture and industry) by using feasible technology and applying the Social Cost of Carbon. It then targets social inequality by requiring a just-transition, guaranteed jobs program as well as affordable health care and education.
The main critique is "How are we going to afford it?!!" However, how will we afford all the damages from the climate crisis—including valuable things which may not have a direct market value? How could we afford a war with Iran? How many Americans will die because they lack clean air and water, or healthcare, or a safe home? Many economists report that it is unlikely that this plan will increase taxes unless inflation increases. Moreover, unlike other expensive projects, this will actually yield economic returns to the investments through equity stakes, interest payments, and an increase in federal revenue by increasing the number of Americans who are currently below the tax base. Another attack on the Green New Deal is that it will make us "sacrifice" the things that we enjoy the most, but all these improvements in our infrastructure and avoiding the worst case scenario of a climate crisis will make us happier a society! Additionally, some studies show that a drastic change in the typical American's work hours and household purchasing habits (change our focus of working and buying more into for example spending more time on a hobby or with your loved ones) will also most likely make us happier.
At the beginning of the year, California introduced its own Green New Deal. Even though this document needs further discussion and modifications it is a good scope of the changes that need to be made and a good precedent for other states to take initiative. California has a history of introducing its own rigorous climate policy, as well as being one of the few states with an increasing GDP and decreasing CO2 emissions.
As the fight between activists, executives, and politicians heats up, the general public may wonder what policies are aggressive enough to combat climate change and which ones are just a way for politicians to gain clout... Interestingly most democratic 2020 presidential candidates do support the idea of a Green New Deal, but they all have different opinions on the scope, time scale, and the amount of money that must be invested. In order to get a sense how these differences are important I like to use "report cards" some organizations (Sunrise, Climate Changes Everything) have made which compare the candidate's goals and promises with the specifics on how to prevent a climate catastrophe.