The debate around climate change is increasingly falling into two lines of argument — one around the Green New Deal and the economy and another around climate change as an existential threat to our national security. Senator Ed Markey argued in a Boston Globe editorial on Monday (Patriot Day which commemorates the beginning of the American Revolution) that the Green New Deal is more than a resolution — it is a “revolution” that “has the power to reshape our energy system, our economy, and our democracy.” Markey wrote further that the resolution has elevated climate change as a top issue saying that there “has been more debate about climate change in the few weeks since we introduced the Green New Deal than in the last decade. This resolution has struck a powerful chord with the American people, and the demand for immediate action will not stop.”
Beto O’Roarke campaigning in Virginia fully backed the Green New Deal yesterday, remarking that climate change is an existential crisis like the Great Depression or World War II. Newsweek Magazine reported that O’Roarke said, “In the midst of the Great Depression, this country was willing to sacrifice men and women all over the United States to make sure that we defeated Germany, and we won that war. And for the following 75 years that we made this world safe for democracy. The Green New Deal calls that sacrifice and service in scale, scale of commitment when it talks about the challenges that we face today.”
Interestingly, when Senator Bernie Sanders appeared on a Fox News Town Hall on Monday night, he chose to frame climate change first as a national security issue. Grist reported that “in the mere two minutes he spent discussing the environment, Sanders chose to mention migration, the Middle East, and job creation — hot-button topics for conservatives — rather than other issues like hurricanes Harvey and Maria, wildfires, or the Green New Deal. And the audience seemed to respond. Sanders drew cheers when he said transitioning to renewable energy would create millions of new jobs.” Another Presidential contender, Senator Elizabeth Warren, also made news by pressing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on how the military is addressing the threat of climate change. According to The Hill, in a letter to the nation’s top military commander, she demanded answers to several questions about the military’s lack of preparedness at its installations both in the U.S. and abroad and criticizing prior DoD reports to Congress on its climate vulnerabilities. The newest Presidential contender, Mayor Pete Buttigieg also characterized climate change as a security threat saying in his announcement speech, “Our economy is on the line, our future is on the line, lives are on the line. So let’s call this what it is: climate security, a life-and-death issue for our generation.”
Why This Matters: Climate change continues to resonate with the public and the media — and the economic and security aspects of the issue are intertwined in ways that can appeal to both the liberals and conservatives. Whether it is the Green New Deal as a policy response to climate change or the national security threat posed by climate change, it remains in the forefront of public debate in the Presidential campaign, in Congress, and on Fox News. Perhaps Buttigieg (whose star is rising fast) framed the issue best when in one sentence he managed to position climate change as both an existential threat to our lives and our prosperity — and made it generational to boot. And it is most definitely a generational issue — as evidenced by the lastest mini-film by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez imagining looking back on this time when the mobilization to meet the climate change challenge began. You can watch it below.