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Mark Dunlea: Green New Deal can slow destruction

How do you respond if you believe that the likely outcome of climate change is the collapse of civilization as we know it?

This is the existential question that many climate activists and scientists increasingly face. How do you speak the truth without paralyzing people with a sense of hopelessness?

Times Union
By Mark Dunlea
December 20, 2019

Last year the International Panel on Climate Change warned that we have 12 years left to take worldwide dramatic action. A year later, the consensus is that climate efforts still fall far short of what is needed. Indeed, global greenhouse emissions increased last year.

Many believe that we have less than 11 years left for action. The IPCC by nature is a conservative body, with its pronouncements needing agreement from countries that include the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia and Brazil. Every one of IPCC’s previous predictions has underestimated the speed and severity of climate change.

One recent Harvard-based study estimated that the deadline may be five years. A number of prominent European climate researchers recently raised the fear that we have already passed the tipping point for runaway climate change, as feedback loops such as the melting of polar ice accelerate.

Civilization is a complex web of social and economic interactions that takes centuries to reach its peak, but once it begins to unravel, collapse can occur swiftly. Prior collapses have often been due to environmental factors. Some scientists contend that in many cases, solutions to the problems existed, but they threatened the power and wealth of the ruling elite. The elite chose the status quo.

Scientists increasingly raise the possibility of human extinction. We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction of species, which continues to accelerate. Insects and pollinators are rapidly disappearing. Other species on which humans are dependent for survival — such as phytoplankton, which produce half or more of the world’s oxygen — are rapidly dying off.

While other countries are also failing to take the necessary actions, the United States remains by far the principal climate denier, especially under the administration of denier-in-chief Donald Trump. But even under Democrats like Bill Clinton/Al Gore and Barack Obama, the U.S. has been a climate evader, dominated by campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Obama pursued an all-of-the-above energy strategy, with minimal efforts to promote renewables while pushing the U.S. to become the leading fossil fuel producer on the planet, driven by the fracking of gas (even though methane is 82 times more potent than carbon in the short term as a greenhouse gas). New York’s recent “best in the country” climate legislation, with its goal of an 85 percent reduction in emissions by 2050, is too slow to avoid climate chaos.

Society faces stark choices in how we respond to the climate crisis and try to preserve some prospects for a decent quality of life for future generations. The most likely response is to further accelerate wealth polarization, with the well-off seeking to survive in protected biosphere communities while the rest of us fight over dwindling access to food, water, land and oxygen.

Or, we can decide that we are in this together, agree that no one has the right to survive more than any other human (we should also protect other species), and adopt a cooperative approach based on the common good.

We must immediately slash greenhouse emissions, starting with halting new fossil fuel uses and phasing out existing ones. We need to build a renewable sustainable economy that provides for the well-being for all, including funding climate adaptation initiatives across the planet. While climate change has been driven by the wealthy industrial nations, the initial victims will be the poor and developing countries that have done little to contribute to the climate disaster.

Resistance to the radical changes needed likely will be significant, especially if people feel that they will be left behind while the privileged benefit. That is why a Green New Deal is critical, combining economic justice with climate justice. As Pope Francis has stated, we have to end the dominant role of capitalism, where the wealth of the few overshadows the needs of the many.

I still have hope amid the grief. The IPCC warning struck a chord with many. Extinction Rebellion arose in the last year to demand that we act to avoid extinction. The youth are demanding action, saying that the so-called adults failed to take action for three decades even when the science was clear, and that they want a future.


Mark Dunlea is the chair of the Green Education and Legal Fund and a former Green Party of New York candidate for state comptroller.

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David Doonan


  1. Don J Grundmann Don J Grundmann December 23, 2019

    The answer to the ” existential question ” beginning this article is that anyone who believes that ” the likely outcome of climate change is the collapse of civilization as we know it ” is a complete moronic nitwit fool.

    I have a standing $1,000 bet to debate anyone supporting the ” Climate Change/DOOM ” fraud/lie/hoax. Fair warning : you will be annihilated and completely exposed as the fraud/fool/nitwit/moron that you are.

    Don J. Grundmann, D.C.
    Chairman, Constitution Party of California : the last political party ( excepting President Trumps division of the Republican Party ) that stands for REAL science and will debate anyone as compared to their incredibly ( and ALWAYS ) cowardly opponents.

  2. Jared Jared December 23, 2019

    “I have a standing $1,000 bet…” – Don J. Grundmann, Chair of California CP

    “Gambling increases crimes, destroys families, grows governmental bureaucracies, exploits those who are addicted and leaches the economic prosperity out of our communities.” – Constitution Party national platform

    “[Y]ou will be annihilated and completely exposed as the fraud/fool/nitwit/moron that you are.” – Don

    “Our party leaders and public officials must display exemplary qualities of honesty, integrity, reliability, moral uprightness, fidelity, prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude, self-restraint, courage, kindness, and compassion. If they cannot be trusted in private life, neither can they be trusted in public life.” – CP platform

    But that’s none of my business.

  3. paulie paulie December 24, 2019

    People who are typically so far out on the fringe that practically no one wants to give them credence, and diminish their own in the process, often resort to this “I’ll pay you if you prove me wrong” ploy to make themselves feel smug and superior. The flaw here is that they are the ones in charge of determining whether they won a debate, so they never have to pay up. They either sucker someone into debating them driven by greed – although this rarely ever happens, because most people realize the obvious flaw I am pointing out – or fail to, and use this to convince themselves that everyone is afraid to or unable to debate them, which is of course not the case. It’s more like there’s no point, it’s embarrassing to be on the same stage, their ramblings don’t deserve the time of day, and the money never leaves their pocket because they are both a litigant and the judge, both a player and the ref.

    Newsflash: your ploy is transparent and no one is falling for it. LOL

  4. dL dL December 25, 2019

    straight pride!!!

  5. Don J Grundmann Don J Grundmann December 25, 2019

    Paulie – Why are you such a coward and delete my responses?

    You are such a defender of the 1st Amendment – eliminating any opinion which exposes you or your beliefs as frauds.

  6. paulie paulie December 25, 2019

    WTF are you talking about? I have not deleted anything. Adjust your meds please.

  7. paulie paulie December 26, 2019

    Just to clear up confusion if there is any:

    1) IPR is not the government, it’s private property. There is no absolute free speech standard here. It’s just like someone’s private home. Guests are invited, but may be asked to leave if they don’t behave. Comments may be deleted due to the author being someone who is not welcome here, due to repeated past behavior; for being spam, or using slurs, or any number of other reasons, at the discretion of our volunteer moderator/editor/writer team. There is nothing hypocritical about enforcing speech standards on private property. We can, have, do, and will continue to, with no apology whatsoever. If you don’t like it, take your comments somewhere else. This is not called censorship, which can only be an action of the government. It’s commonly known as property rights, forum moderation, or any number of other things. Anyone can set up an internet forum; you are not entitled to break the rules of anyone else’s.

    2) There are a lot of people on that team, any one of whom can delete inappropriate comments. While there was a time when I took the most active role in doing so, that was years ago. I have not taken a lead role in policing IPR comments in years and have rarely pulled anything whatsoever. I think dL is the lead person on that these days, but you should also not assume it’s him (although it’s much more likely than that it’s me in recent years) if your comment is pulled. It could be any number of people.

    3) I do sometimes mark comments from trolls we have long since banned, who know they are banned and keep trying to sneak in, as spam. I’m not the only who does this, and probably not the main person who does this either in recent years. I then add whatever name or email address they use to autobanned comments so it gets automatically deleted without appearing the next time they use that same pseudonym or email.

    4) It may not be anyone. Sometimes our automated spam system catches legitimate comments by mistake. Many years ago we had people who took the time to look thru spam comments for those mistakes. But not anytime recently.

  8. paulie paulie December 26, 2019

    Also, we have cache issues with IPR, so a comment you make may not be visible to you immediately, or it may be in “pending” in the spam filter, which means it may be approved later. There’s also supposed to be a plugin which lets you edit your own comment for a few minutes after you submit it, even if you are not an IPR editor. I’m not sure whether that is working right now.

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