Warren’s second climate policy pillar focuses on the US military, the single-largest greenhouse gas-emitting institution
in the world. Its massive footprint with bases spread out across more than 70 countries
devours huge amounts of fuel and electricity to move personnel and equipment. US tanks, aircraft, ships, and power generators together emitted 59 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2017. If it were a country, the US military would rank 55th in greenhouse gas emissions.
But climate change also threatens the armed forces. Extreme weather
has already damaged major military installations and many more are at risk from rising sea levels
. The massive population movements expected in the wake of looming droughts, severe heat, and storms exacerbated by climate change create could lay the groundwork for future conflict. That’s why military planners have described climate change as a “threat multiplier
To address these concerns, Warren introduced the Defense Climate Resiliency and Readiness Act
in Congress. “It starts with an ambitious goal: consistent with the objectives of the Green New Deal, the Pentagon should achieve net zero carbon emissions for all its non-combat bases and infrastructure by 2030,” Warren wrote.
Warren also said that military contractors should also be held to these climate targets and that the Department of Defense should prioritize threats from climate change. The proposal also calls for more clean energy research, infrastructure upgrades, and an audit of climate vulnerability for all military bases.
Her latest climate policy released earlier this month centers on “economic patriotism
.” This uses climate change to motivate a new economic development push. It puts meat on the bones of the “just transition” idea outlined in the Green New Deal
and it’s the longest of Warren’s climate proposals (Vox’s Matt Yglesias
explained the proposal in more detail).
The idea is that a sharp turn away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy demands coordination across the economy. The transition requires not just cushioning the blow for fossil fuel workers who would lose their jobs, but also creating a massive surge in demand for clean energy jobs.
In Warren’s proposal, there’s a Green Industrial Mobilization mandating $1.5 trillion in federal procurement for US-made low-carbon technology, a Green Marshall Plan to help foreign countries buy US clean energy technologies, and a Green Apollo Program to invest $400 billion in energy research and development over a decade. So her proposal doesn’t just zero out emissions in the United States; it aims to drive down emissions around the world.
“According to an independent economic analysis
from Moody’s, my plan will meaningfully increase economic growth and create more than a million new jobs,” Warren wrote. “It will help reverse the massive
manufacturing job losses of the last two decades that have hurt middle-class families
and hit Black workers and communities hardest
— all while allowing America to lead the global effort to address climate change.”
One place where Warren’s climate policies stand out from those of other Democratic presidential hopefuls is her frankness in how she intends to pay for them. Rather than just tax credits and working to “mobilize” private investment (as some other candidates have suggested), Warren is going back to the old-fashioned tactic of taxing wealth and corporate profits. “Her Green Manufacturing plan — just one part of her strategy to tackle climate change — is paid for by Elizabeth’s Real Corporate Profits Tax , ending federal oil and gas subsidies, and closing corporate tax loopholes that promote moving good jobs overseas,” Hayden said.
So Warren has a more tangible and snappier answer to the inevitable pay-for question that follows just about any climate proposal.
Environmentalists give Warren’s policies points for their depth, but want to push her further
Taken together, Warren’s climate policies to date are still not as far-reaching as those put out by Inslee, who has released three big proposals and says more are coming. His climate change agenda to date encompasses agriculture, financing, foreign policy, transportation, energy efficiency, and education.
But some environmental groups are nonetheless impressed with Warren. “There’s no question that the climate crisis can and will affect so many aspects of our economy, our society, and our lives,” said Sierra Club national political director Ariel Hayes in an email. “Senator Warren’s ambitious and strong plans recognize that reality thoroughly and propose solutions accordingly.”
Greenpeace upgraded its rating of Warren in its climate scorecard
this week for presidential contenders in light of her green manufacturing proposal. It has her tied with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and behind Inslee and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.
“We think that if she could put out a more comprehensive plan, she’d be able to touch on a lot of areas really in her wheelhouse,” said Tim Donaghy, a senior researcher with Greenpeace USA. “In particular one of the things we’re focusing on is trying to push the candidates to do more on fossil fuel supply
Donaghy pointed out that whileWarren’s public lands plan stops new fossil fuel development, limiting planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius
this century, the more ambitious goal under the Paris climate agreement
, requires aggressively clamping down on existing fossil fuel production. Without restricting the current output of fossil fuels, a clean energy program in the United States could simply end up leading to more fossil fuel exports, according to Donaghy.
Andrew Light, a former state department climate adviser under President Obama who contributed to the foreign policy portion of Inslee’s latest climate proposal, said that Warren’s approach to climate policy is compelling.
“I think what’s really good here is that climate change is not siloed into one bucket,“ Light said. Given that the impacts of climate change reach far-reaching impacts on health, the economy, social justice, and national security, it makes sense to bring it up those contexts. “I think that it’s important enough that you would have to bake it into how you’re thinking about public lands, a jobs strategy, or security,” Light said.
There’s also plenty of time between now and the first primary ballots, and Warren is still coming out with more proposals, so she could continue to fill in some of the gaps between her and Inslee.