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The hearing this week before the House Reform and Oversight Committee on the national security implications of climate change was an eye-opener. The goal of the hearing was to be non-partisan, with one Republican and one Democrat witness – both former Senators and members of the National Security team. But the Republicans on the Committee blew up the hearing, desperate to change the subject and preferring to use the Green New Deal as their target, rather than the two respected war heroes who came to testify.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did not shrink from the fight – indeed she challenged her Republican colleagues on the Committee to explain how they could misconstrue a fourteen-page resolution that was written in plain English so that any member of the public could know what it proposes. She argued that her critics should read it before labeling it. Indeed, if anything, the Green New Deal is susceptible to this type of mischaracterization because it is a broad and aspirational resolution. It is an environmental Rorschach test.
Centrists are particularly worried by the Green New Deal and the fact that it is being labeled as socialist policy. But in openly agonizing about it, they are falling into the trap laid by the Republicans. To fail to push back on that characterization would be a mistake because the Republicans can’t even agree on whether climate change exists, much less how to deal with it. And as Friend of the Planet and former Republican strategist Kurt Bardella said in yesterday’s Our Daily Planet interview, the Republican Party’s position on climate change “is on the wrong side of history, and in this case the facts and the science, and that is not a tenable position to hold long-term.”
One way to move beyond this debilitating debate is to start to fill in the lines of the Green New Deal. And some Democrats have begun to try to do just that. This week, Representative Scott Peters urged Democrats to adopt a “Climate Playbook” saying that there are dozens of great legislative proposals already working their way through Congress. But his “proposal” is only a list of bills, published on the web site Medium – it does not provide a game plan or even a blueprint for which ones we should do. Others look to market mechanisms like taxing carbon or a carbon fee or want to focus merely on clean energy policy and forget the rest. This is too narrow in my view. We need to make other sectors more sustainable too, such as agriculture, transportation, manufacturing, construction, and we need to increase our capacity to adapt and mitigate climate impacts.
So how do we make the Green New Deal real, without making it incremental and just plain dull? Let’s start with five key building blocks – expanding on current programs with additional funding that have strong potential for bipartisan support.
Increase the Capacity of the National Weather Service to predict climate events and aid in adaptation efforts. The National Weather Service is one of the government’s biggest bargains and with more funding could easily scale up its services and support to businesses and the public, particularly as we seem to be dealing with more extreme weather all the time. Even conservative Members of Congress like Republican Senator James Inhofe fight to ensure they do not lose critical weather services in their states. Cost = $750 million.
While not the entire Green New Deal, these expenditures are a significant down payment, and would “prime the pump” for more. Indeed, the price tag here is only $9.75 billion dollars — an incredible bargain. It’s hardly $100 Trillion. It’s much less than the cost of a useless border wall, and no one can call them socialism — Congress already has supported them in the last year, in fact. And it would be worth every penny. The Green New Deal could be very real right away, and at less than $10 billion in cost, it would be a steal.
Environmental Justice legislation is getting lots of attention this year as numerous bills are pending in Congress on a topic that, until now, barely received attention. Yesterday, Senator Cory Booker and Representative Deb Haaland rolled out a bill that would put $100 billion dollars toward eliminating pollution that has disproportionately harmed communities of color.
Why This Matters:Lisa Friedman of The New York Times wrote last month that by putting Senator Harris on the ticket with him, Vice President Biden signaled that environmental justice will be high on their agenda.
Congratulations to Senator Ed Markey — a very early #FriendofthePlanet — for his incredible come-from-behind victory over Congressman Joe Kennedy in the Massachusetts Democratic Senate primary. Senator Markey has long been someone I (Monica) admired — ever since his days as the leader of the nuclear freeze movement back in the 80s. He has been […]
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