A Blue-Green Coalition for a Green New Deal
Creating a labor-first climate solution
Too often, our national rhetoric about climate change focuses on coastal cities, ignoring states like Wisconsin. But even without an ocean coast line, we’re greatly impacted by the climate crisis, with ever-present threats of wildfires, flooding, and rising temperatures threatening our Great Lakes and forests and rivers. The climate crisis is already adversely affecting our industries in significant ways. From tourism to agriculture, our economy is in trouble if we can’t find a path towards swift and bold action. Wisconsin needs a Green New Deal.
In order for a Green New Deal to succeed, there must be a strong partnership with organized labor. Tradecraft unions will rebuild our nation’s infrastructure and accomplish the objectives of a Green New Deal. I call this the Blue-Green coalition. Blue for labor; green for conservation and environmentalism. A compact with our nation’s unions ensuring good paying jobs and benefits, workplace safety, job security and collective bargaining will solidify this partnership.
Over 60 percent of Americans support a Green New Deal to deal with the threat of catastrophic climate change. It’s time we recognize the urgency of climate change and lead the nation with swift action to address this crisis.
1 | Rising temperatures are already changing Wisconsin’s climate, threatening lives and industries across the state.
Wisconsin’s average temperature has risen by 2 degrees since the 1950s. Experts say within a few decades, cities like Madison could have a climate similar to that of St. Louis, Missouri, today.
Extremely hot days can be incredibly dangerous and deadly, especially for the elderly, those with health conditions, low-income communities, and communities of color.
Wildfires, which intensify in extreme heat, also threaten Wisconsin’s people and property; we’re just a few months into 2021, and Wisconsin has already lost more acres to wildfires than it did through all of last year.
2 | Wisconsin has seen a massive increase in annual precipitation, threatening infrastructure and communities statewide.
Wisconsin has seen an annual increase of 4.5 inches of precipitation since 1950.
This additional precipitation leads to dangerous flooding, which threatens our infrastructure, including bridges, sewer systems, homes, and can even threaten our lives. Flooding often contaminates our water sources, further putting Wisconsinites at risk. It also affects our vast fishing industry, leading to extinctions and other changes in our fishing ecosystems.
Lower-income and rural communities will have a harder time dealing with flooding damage and access to clean water. Communities near the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes are especially at risk. A recent report found that flooding of the Mississippi caused $10 billion in damages throughout the Midwest in 2019 alone.
3 | Wisconsin’s agriculture and tourism industries, two of the state’s largest, are uniquely at risk.
Increased heat and rain changes how and what crops a farmer can grow. Flooding and stronger storms can wipe out an entire season of crops. Under our current system, the cost of preventative measures and clean up will fall onto the farmers themselves, placing a large financial burden on Wisconsin’s farmers who are already struggling trying to compete with global corporations and Big Ag.
The continued increases in temperature will lead to shorter, warmer winters with less snow and freezing than in the past. While that might sound nice at first glance, this massively threatens the state’s winter outdoor recreation industry, which brings in over $650 million every year through snowmobiling, skiing, skating, ice fishing, and other winter pastimes.
4 | Climate change poses serious health risks to Wisconsinites.
Increased heat and rainfall elevate Wisconsinites’ risks for heat-related illnesses, worsening chronic illnesses, injuries, and deaths from dangerous weather events, infectious diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks, illnesses from contaminated food and water, and mental health problems. In particular, the climate crisis has a disproportionate effect on rural and low-income communities, as well as communities of color.
The Path Forward
We know that reversing the effects of climate change will require a deeper understanding and commitment to climate science, a broader, institutional recognition of human-made climate change, and a bold, thorough, and urgent Green New Deal.
For Wisconsin, the path forward must prioritize clean energy, green infrastructure, a commitment to worker rights, and a partnership with local racial and climate justice activists. This means a Blue-Green Coalition for a Green New Deal.
1 | Clean Energy
Today, this campaign is proudly taking the No Fossil Fuel Pledge, where we won’t take money from corporate fossil fuel interests.
We’re also dedicated to passing a Green New Deal, one committed to clean energy through broad and rapid investment in clean energy including wind, solar, energy efficiency, distributed generation, geothermal, combined heat and power, and other alternative and renewable energy sources.
2 | Green Infrastructure
Wisconsin ranks among the lowest states in the nation in highway quality and broadband access. New reports confirm Wisconsin is in dire need of an infrastructure overhaul.
We need to invest in green infrastructure systems for our highways, and expand, repair, and incentivize public transit systems. (Imagine if Scott Walker hadn’t vetoed the Milwaukee to Madison high speed rail line!) We need to fund and rely on climate-centered initiatives that are finding new and creative solutions to promote green infrastructure for public and private transportation.
Farmers have an essential role to play, as well. Our current industrial food system that favors industrial livestock and chemical-intensive monocultures should move toward local food systems that have more diversified farming and can help sequester carbon.
3 | Racial Justice and Local-Led Solutions
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions requires bold and aggressive action, and we must do so in partnership with local climate justice activists. Protecting the environment is urgent for our state’s indigenous communities — like the Ojibwe people who are losing wild rice crops — and communities of color who are more vulnerable to the immediate effects of climate change. Local climate activists understand this more than anyone, and we must rely on their insight and ideas to protect our most vulnerable communities.
4 | Economic Justice and a Blue-Green Coalition
A majority of union workers support a Green New Deal. The climate crisis is a crisis, but it’s solution is also a tremendous opportunity to create a labor-centered workforce that will move Wisconsin forward, economically. It’s an opportunity we cannot afford to pass up.
A Green New Deal will create millions of jobs, and we have the opportunity to set the precedent for using local, unionized labor. For all of our green infrastructure plans, we must invest in local labor and coordinate with local unions. We must create opportunities for Wisconsin’s labor union contractors, tradespeople, and skilled laborers.
We can’t have racial justice, economic justice, or social justice without climate justice. Climate activists and indigenous organizers have made clear the ever present threat that climate change poses to all of us, and it’s time we took action.
With President Biden’s new infrastructure goals, it’s imperative that we have a Congress ready to fight for energy efficient infrastructure, unionized labor, and a path toward a blue-green future.
For Wisconsin, that means a Senator committed to a Green New Deal.