The climate change program that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez helped push to the front of a national progressive agenda was finally introduced on Thursday. It’s an important, ambitious plan, and we’re kind of fucked without it.
NPR reports that Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey introduced a framework that outlined the goals of the Green New Deal, which is a non-binding resolution that includes a 10-year plan to meet a series of goals, notably “100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.”
The Green New Deal not only targets the industries that are the primary greenhouse gas producers, but also helps protect people and communities that are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of climate change—like low income people of color and indigenous groups.
Here are some other goals that the Green New Deal outlines, from NPR:
• “upgrading all existing buildings” in the country for energy efficiency;
• working with farmers “to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions... as much as is technologically feasible” (while supporting family farms and promoting “universal access to healthy food”);
• “Overhauling transportation systems” to reduce emissions — including expanding electric car manufacturing, building “charging stations everywhere,” and expanding high-speed rail to “a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary”;
• A guaranteed job “with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations and retirement security” for every American;
• “High-quality health care” for all Americans.
There’s also language in the Green New Deal that would ensure that any infrastructure bill passed by Congress addresses climate change. President Trump and the Republican Party’s continued skepticism of the science behind climate change, on top of the fact that the the Green New Deal also functions as a progressive wish list around jobs and healthcare, on top of the fact that centrist Democratic leadership is already trying to undermine the program’s ambitions signals that its passage would be nothing short of a miracle. Still, its introduction is an important milestone in a shifting political conversation around the urgency of climate action.
Despite five presidential contenders in the Senate—Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren—supporting the bill, there isn’t consensus among the Democratic Party as a whole.
Yes, there’s some energy for it on the left — some House Democrats have already said they will support the bill. However, there are indications House leadership isn’t prioritizing the idea as much as those more liberal Democrats would like — Speaker Nancy Pelosi frustrated Green New Deal proponents by not giving them the kind of committee they wanted to put the policies together.
In addition, it’s easy to see how the bill could be dangerous for moderate House Democrats, many of whom come from swing districts and may be loath to touch such a progressive proposal.
There’s also perennial (and often bad faith) questions over cost and how realistic it would be to attain these goals in a 10-year time span. But the costs of our natural disasters aren’t peachy either, so? From the Washington Post:
Last year’s disastrous series of hurricanes, wildfires and extreme weather events killed at least 247 people and cost the nation about $91 billion. Of the 14 separate events noted in the data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, $73 billion of the damage was attributed to Hurricanes Michael and Florence and the spate of wildfires in the West, The Post’s Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney report. While 2018 did not eclipse the $306 billion in damage caused by devastating natural catastrophes in 2017, “the most recent numbers continue what some experts call an alarming trend toward an increasing number of billion-dollar disasters, fueled, at least in part, by the warming climate.”
Let’s see where this goes next.