Green New Deal making legislators ease left

26th Apr 2019

Most issues in the US are polarising these days, and climate change is no exception. The latest controversy is over the Green New Deal (GND) , an all-encompassing progressive policy proposal to drastically curb carbon emissions, offer healthcare for all, and distribute wealth more equitably among Americans.

First-term representative and Democratic progressive darling drafted the proposal, along with Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts. The goal is to get the US to be carbon-neutral by the year 2030.

The original New Deal was laid forth by President Franklin D Roosevelt in the 1930s in response to the Great Depression to stabilise the economy and get people back to work. By comparison, the Green New Deal is akin to a progressive manifesto, proposing an infrastructure overhaul, green job creation, justice for indigenous communities, healthcare and housing for all, and a zero-emissions electric grid.

The 14-point, 10-year plan that would radically reduce the US’s carbon footprint was laughed off by Republicans; in fact, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, pushed a vote on the proposal almost immediately after it was launched in order to put centrist Democrats in a bind on whether to support it or not.

According to Vox, “The move was aimed at putting Democrats from more moderate states in a tough position, forcing them to choose between backing a popular liberal idea and potentially turning off some of their constituents.” Markey criticised McConnell’s rush vote as a “sham…a political ploy to protect vulnerable

Republicans from having to defend their climate science denial.” The vote resulted in a 0-57 outcome, with most Democrats voting ‘present’ to avoid having to cast an up/down vote.
Though Republicans have scoffed at the proposal as impossibly idealistic, its publicity has started the conversation around cutting carbon emissions in a real way. No other proposal comes close to what scientists say is needed to stave off climate doomsday.

Some of the prominent 2020 Democratic presidential contenders signed on as co-sponsors, signalling to supporters their willingness to act boldly on the dire issue of climate change, of which young people are particularly concerned.

In response to Republicans’ use of the dirty word “socialism” to describe Ocasio-Cortez and the GND, the New York Congresswoman responded, “It is not responsible to complain about anything we dislike as ‘socialism,’ particularly when many of our colleagues across the aisle are more than happy to support millions and potentially billions of dollars in government subsidies and carve-outs for the oil and gas and fossil fuel industry.”

Socialism is a term that can shut down a conversation in Middle America, where people fear any semblance of the communism they were taught to hate during the Cold War.

While Republicans mocked the very idea of the radical GND, some environmental advocates who examined the language did not think that the proposal went far enough.

Grist reported that “net-zero emissions” would allow major polluters to continue to operate, while simply offsetting their emissions with green energy projects and carbon scrubbing technologies, and that, “zero-emission is code for nuclear power or fossil fuels with carbon capture.” Nuclear power may be emissions-free during power generation, but mining for uranium is not a carbon-free endeavour.

It is clear that Ocasio-Cortez and Markey did not expect their fellow legislators to embrace the bill with open arms, but young people in America are growing weary of economic excuses when it comes to action on climate change when they are sure that they will be trapped with the consequences of inaction.

Proposing such a bold plan as candidates gear up for the next presidential election pushes everyone slightly to the left. It ensures that the conversation will be had on the national stage.

Presidential hopefuls can no longer get away with avoiding the topic of climate change. No longer can media outlets avoid covering the climate-related issues because ratings suffer. If anybody knows how to bring attention to an issue, it’s the twenty-something former bartender in Congress no one can stop talking about. Let’s hope she keeps using her voice to push the needle on climate action.

Sarah Sakeena Marshall
English Language Teacher & Environmental Columnist

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