Is Bernie Sanders’ Climate Change Plan Plausible?

Bernie Sanders has made a name for himself amongst the 2016 hopefuls as a candidate that doesn’t pull any punches, and that’s extended toward an ambitious climate change platform that has the Vermont Senator going after the fossil fuel industry and calling for carbon taxes. Sanders’ ambitions are big, but there is a lot that would need to be done in order to make his goals a reality, which has many wondering whether his promised platform is even plausible.


What He Wants


Sanders distinguishes himself from his opponents by taking a hard line policy against climate change, promising to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. His first order of business in that area is to mandate that emitters pay for the amount of gases released into the air. His main targets in that statement are big oil companies including Exxon, BP, and Shell.


The Senator’s 16 page plan outlines repealing fossil fuel subsidies, dedicating funding toward a 10 million job clean energy workforce, banning oil, coal, and gas lobbyists from operating in the White House, and investment in communities hardest hit by the transition to clean energy.


It’s a lofty plan, but one that’s well thought-out and that shows potential if it can be implemented fully. The issue there is that if Sanders does take the White House, he won’t be the only deciding on what is and isn’t implemented across the nation.


The Potential Problems


Not focusing on the statistical models of the potential impact of Sanders’ climate change plan, there are two big issues that support and opposition alike are reviewing, and they both boil down to the numbers.


The first issue is budget. Sanders’ climate change plan alone would cost America trillions of dollars. While planned taxes to big oil might foot the bill for the transition in the beginning, if the plan works big oil won’t be so big, and the rest of the funding will have to come from elsewhere. That’s just for this one plan. Sanders has also announced major overhauls of the healthcare and educational systems, amongst others, each of which represents more billions upon billions that need to be accounted for. While Sanders has promised practical solutions to funding each of these, he has yet to deliver a comprehensive budget plan that would work within the scope of his potential power to get matters accomplished.


That brings the voters to issue number two. Sanders’ funding plans and policy changes wouldn’t rely simply on the would-be President. The House and Senate are going to have to weigh in and approve, and the current Republican majority in each has blocked much more moderate measures in the area of climate change. Sanders will struggle getting the support he needs in Congress to see his plans through, and without that even the best-laid plans would face almost certain gridlock. The right and the wrong of that is another discussion, but for this election the situation is what it is, and regardless of how determined a candidate is to see an issue or piece of policy through, doing so without support in the current executive/legislative setup is near impossible.