It’s not easy being green, but it is certainly gaining momentum.
While President Trump attributes his climate change skepticism to his “very high levels of intelligence,” a growing legion of lawmakers and young activists are taking heed of dire warnings being issued by experts and scientists about the catastrophic consequences of inaction.
Progressives, led by New York City’s own Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are joining forces behind an ambitious plan to wean the U.S. off fossil fuels, boost renewable energy jobs and build a “smart” power grid.
The major push to make climate change a priority when Congress convenes in January got off to a high-profile start weeks ago when Ocasio-Cortez applauded young activists from the environmental advocacy group Sunrise Movement protesting at soon-to-be-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office on Capitol Hill.
A damning federal government report about the economic and societal impacts of climate change released last week, which Trump openly dismissed, has only emboldened believers steeling for a showdown with mainline Democrats and added weight to their calls for a so-called “Green New Deal.”
“People are going to die,” Ocasio-Cortez said Friday during a news conference with Sunrise activists and other lawmakers in Washington. “So we are here to set the crooked path straight. We are going to fight like hell. We need to save this country and we need to save this planet.”
The upstart Dem believes the best way forward is for the House to create a Select Committee for a Green New Deal. Seventeen other representatives are already onboard.
“We are growing our ranks every single day,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “We are going to get this done, but we can not let up.”
Joining the Bronx-born congresswoman’s call to arms on climate change are not only fellow freshmen Reps.-elect IIhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), but longtime Washington lawmakers, including Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.).
“It’s for my children, for my grandchildren. I want to give them a better world than what I got,” Serrano said Friday. “It’s a life-and-death issue for us and for our planet.”
The group announced their support for a plan to create a panel that can craft legislation and promote their ambitious call for the U.S to fully transition away from fossil-fuel energy by 2030.
The select committee would have the authority to create a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” allowing the United States to become carbon-neutral, according to a draft proposal by Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement.
Taking more than just its name from the social programs President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted in the wake of the Great Depression, the plan also calls for universal health care, basic income programs and labor union involvement. It would also include building a national “smart” grid, making “green” technology a major export for the U.S. and decarbonizing the manufacturing and agricultural industries.
It would also be tasked with drafting a 10-year green jobs and infrastructure plan to radically reduce carbon emissions and expand living-wage jobs. Advocates want legislation ready to go by 2020, with the hope that Democrats retake the White House.
“We have a choice right now, we are at a tipping point where the U.S. can become a leader on climate change and it starts right now with the select committee; anything else is a death sentence,” Aracely Jimenez-Hudis, the Sunrise Movement’s digital media coordinator, told the Daily News.
Sunrise is planning another day of action Dec. 10 to encourage Democrats to join the movement.
While Pelosi has warmed to the idea, some Dems are not so hot on the need for a powerful new committee.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the incoming chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Paul Tonko of New York, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s environment subcommittee, have expressed doubt about the need for such a panel.
Jimenez-Hudis said time is of the essence and Democratic leaders will have to either get onboard or face growing backlash from millennial voters.
“We don’t have time for lame excuses,” the 21-year-old from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, said.
The ambitious goal of the group gained credence following the Thanksgiving weekend release of an alarming climate change report compiled by more than 300 scientists at 13 federal agencies.
Experts predict uncontrollable wildfires, deadly storms and devastating floods will wreak havoc on the globe — and the U.S. economy.
“Climate change threatens the health and well-being of the American people by causing increasing extreme weather, changes to air quality, the spread of new diseases by insects and pests, and changes to the availability of food and water,” the report states. “Human health and safety, our quality of life, and the rate of economic growth in communities across the U.S. are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.”
Maloney cited the report as a reason for joining Ocasio-Cortez’s calls for immediate action.
“We need to act, and we need to act now, which is why I am proud to support the Green New Deal,” she told The News.
Other countries and even Wall Street investment firms, including Goldman Sachs, have embraced green technologies.
The European Union proposed Wednesday that the bloc attempt to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050, a measure scientists say is necessary and should be adopted worldwide in order to avoid irreversible global warming.
The federal report, which concludes not only that the world’s temperature is rising but also that evidence suggests human actions have played a role in it, was roundly dismissed by Trump.
“You look at our air and our water and it’s right now at a record clean,” he said, despite evidence to the contrary. “As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects that you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it — not nearly like it is.”
“The message in the report in not new,” Bob Kopp, a climate scientist and the director of the Institute of Earth, Ocean & Atmospheric Sciences at Rutgers University, told The News. “The body of evidence keeps growing that climate change is real and the impacts are going to get worse.”