Elizabeth Warren Gets a C- For Her Climate Plan

Craig Lassig/ZUMA

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As long as I’m looking at climate plans, let’s look at a few others. Elizabeth Warren doesn’t really have a climate plan, but she does have three pieces of a climate plan buried in the 34-point “Latest Announcements” section of her website:

  • Invest a total of $2 trillion over the next ten years.
  • Require all public companies to disclose climate-related risks.
  • Direct the Pentagon to achieve net zero carbon emissions for all its non-combat bases and infrastructure by 2030.
  • Create a ten-year, multi-billion dollar R&D program at the Defense Department focused on microgrids and advanced energy storage.
  • Spend $400 billion over ten years on clean energy R&D.
  • Create a $1.5 trillion program to “purchase American-made clean, renewable, and emission-free energy products for federal, state, and local use, and for export.”
  • Designate $100 billion to encourage other countries to purchase and deploy American-made clean energy technology.

This is a hard plan to judge because it’s really only a skeleton. On the downside, nearly all the money goes to subsidies (I assume) for American-made clean energy products. If this were 15 percent of a $10 trillion plan, I might buy it. But three-quarters of a $2 trillion plan? Not so much.

On the bright side, Warren wants to spend $400 billion on R&D. That’s woefully insufficient, but it does represent 20 percent of her entire progam and perhaps demonstrates that she gets the importance of this. Compare this to the Sanders plan for R&D, which allocates more in absolute dollars but represents only 5 percent of his plan—much of it preallocated to specific hobbyhorses.

Finally there’s $100 billion to encourage other countries to use our technology. That’s fine, but the real answer is to fund an R&D program so aggressive that it will produce products other countries want without having to be pushed. They’ll want it solely because it’s cheaper and better than anything they can get elsewhere.

Warren’s plan is too timid by half and it lacks much detail. On the other hand, she allocates 20 percent of her dollars to R&D and doesn’t pretend that she knows in more detail where to direct it. She also wisely avoids gratuitously hitting hot buttons that would feel good but probably reduce support for her plan. Another plus is that her climate change plan is a climate change plan, not a kitchen sink in which to throw every conceivable lefty fetish. Overall I’d give Warren’s plan an Incomplete, but since we’re judging on what’s here right now, I’ll give her a C-.

BY THE WAY: In case you’re wondering, my baseline for seriousness on R&D is about $5 trillion over ten years. This should be the backbone of any climate change plan.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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