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Rutgers Climate Institute showcases climate disruptions, Green New Deal research

Naomi Klein spoke to the survivors of the Paradise, California, wildfires to better understand climate change. – Photo by Photo by | The Daily Targum

The Rutgers Climate Institute held its 14th annual Climate Symposium at the Livingston Student Center yesterday, where it showcased the University faculty and its colleagues’ research and reasoning to support the Green New Deal (GND). 

The GND is a legislative proposal modeled after former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal during the Great Depression, which implemented programs such as the Social Security Administration and public works. But the GND aims to eliminate carbon emissions by 2030, as well as solve economic and social inequality by implementing single-payer healthcare, a guaranteed job at a living wage and more affordable housing, according to the Green Party of the United States

“I think that why a lot of us are focused on the GND framework is (that it is) an approach to the climate crisis that is truly intersectional, that is in line with doing what the scientists are telling us, but doing it in a way that redresses multiple injustices at the same time,”  said Naomi Klein, the event’s keynote speaker and the inaugural Rutgers Gloria Steinem Chair for Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University. She has also written numerous books on climate change and advocates for the proposals under the GND. 

While on tour for her latest book, “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal,” Klein visited Paradise, California, to observe the aftermath of California’s deadliest wildfire in its history. The Paradise wildfire last year killed 86 people and destroyed almost the entire city, Klein said. 

“In a lot of cases, and I’m sure you’ve seen this, you’ll see a single fireplace,” Klein said of her experience looking at people’s former homes. 

As she and a Rutgers colleague took pictures of one of the destroyed homes, Klein said the owner came out of a car enraged at yet another person looking at his former home. After explaining who she was and what they were doing, the man went on to say that he was angry not only at disaster tourists, but also the insurance companies, the county and the state government for his situation, Klein said. 

“He was talking about, as pretty much everyone in California, PG&E, the much loathed private electricity company which actually caused the fire and has done so little to actually face its responsibility for this,” Klein said. “As I got closer to him, I had this feeling of just how volatile this situation was.”

The experience reminded Klein of how complex the challenges brought on by climate disruption are, she said. 

The complexities of climate change are something the world has to collectively deal with, said Robert M. Goodman, the executive dean of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, who delivered a welcome address to the conference. The research being done at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and Rutgers as a whole, lays the groundwork for policies such as the GND, he said. 

“Our work, your work, has been and continues to be critical in understanding how the climate system works,” Goodman said. “How it's been changing, how it is projected to change and what these profound changes mean to the terrestrial, aquatic and green systems, our food systems, our health, our infrastructure and our economics.”

“And, of course, we are educating students, as well as the broader public, to take us into a future in which we need to achieve zero-net emissions by 2050,” Goodman said. 

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