Where Is the Green New Deal Headed in 2020?

Details are emerging for what this ‘moon shot’ federal program merging climate, jobs and economic security might look like. It’s a powerful force already.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announce legislation to transform public housing as part of their Green New Deal plan. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced legislation in November to transform public housing. It’s one part of a Green New Deal proposal that, after a year of promotion by activists, is now starting to take shape. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

To appreciate the power of the Green New Dealthe mobilization effort for clean energy and jobs that burst into the national conversation last yearlook at how forcefully the opponents of climate action moved to quash it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky arranged a byzantine floor vote aimed at killing the concept soon after the non-binding Green New Deal resolution was introduced.

Fox News anchors aired more than twice as many prime-time segments on the Green New Deal as rivals MSNBC and CNN combined last spring. And in California, the state’s most powerful blue-collar union (which has a policy alliance with the oil industry) staged anti-Green New Deal protests at the state’s Democratic Party convention last summer.

But the Green New Deal survived the battering to become an animating force in climate politics, with its advocates determined to make it the most important touchstone of the 2020 election.

For Democrats, support for the Green New Deal has become a central tenet. Nearly every major Democratic presidential candidate has endorsed it in some formeven moderates like Joe BidenPete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar who are reluctant to give a fulsome embrace to the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels. All Democratic presidential contenders now have goals aligned with the science to bring fossil fuel emissions to net zero by mid-century, far beyond the ambition of the Obama administration.

“Our top priority for [2020] is building the multiracial, cross-class youth movement that we need to elect leaders who will champion the Green New Deal,” Stephen O’Hanlon, spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement, said in an email. The youth-led advocacy group helped catapult the Green New Deal into the national discussion on climate with a sit-in outside the office of then-House Speaker-in-Waiting Nancy Pelosi right after the 2018 midterm election.

Public opinion on the Green New Deal has become politically polarized, with Democrats overwhelmingly in favor and Republicans opposed. But O’Hanlon said it is significant that polling shows it is popular among swing voters in pivotal states.

“Any candidate for office who wants to win the youth vote in 2020 should back it,” O’Hanlon said.

Easier to Get Excited About than Carbon Taxes

The Green New Deal, at its core, is a marriage of two policy goals: getting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero and creating jobs and economic security for all. In a sense, it is an extension of the idea, dating back to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, that climate action must be bound up in the drive for poverty reduction and economic justice.

But charismatic leaders like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have helped supercharge the concept for American appealcalling for a 10-year mobilization akin to the moon shot, the industrial buildup for World War II, and of course, FDR’s New Deal.

What has it meant to the climate movement? “In one word, ‘hope,'” said RL Miller, founder of Climate Hawks Vote. It has allowed the discussion to move beyond “the only solution that had been on the horizon” taxing carbonwhich Miller said has divided climate activists “into ‘Team Have To’ and ‘Team Don’t Want To.'”

“Frankly, nobody has ever been excited about waking up in the morning and thinking, ‘I’m going to be taxed for carbon!’ What the Green New Deal has done is broken through that, with something you can genuinely get excited about,” Miller said.

It’s not just changing Democratic politics at the national level. Democrats in Virginia flipped the state legislature in 2019, with the help of candidates running on Green New Deal pledges. Seattle has begun to lay out an ambitious Green New Deal plan that includes free public transit, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors has endorsed the idea. And this past November, California’s Democratic Party shook off concern about losing labor support and voted to make the Green New Deal part of its platform.

Conservatives Made the GND a Target

It’s hard to imagine now, but only a year ago, the appeal of the Green New Deal crossed party lines. Support splintered after conservatives, amplified by Fox News, took it on as a bete noire.

In December 2018, soon after the Sunrise sit-in, 81 percent of registered voters, including 64 percent of all Republicans, were in favor of a Green New Deal, according to researchers at the Yale Program on Climate Communication. But by April 2019, support among Republicans had dropped 20 percent. It fell even more among those who identified themselves as conservative.

“Fox News viewing was a significant predictor of both familiarity with the GND and opposition to it, even when controlling for alternative explanations,” the research team wrote in Nature Climate Change.

Conservative and fossil fuel industry-funded think tanks, such as the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the American Action Forum, claimed that the Green New Deal would trigger economic devastation, even though details of the plan have yet to be fleshed out.

Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) encapsulated Republicans’ critique in the competing nonbinding resolution he introduced. The Green New Deal “is simply a thinly veiled attempt to usher in policies that create a socialist society in America, and is impossible to fully implement,” his resolution said.

Details Are Starting to Surface

Green New Deal advocates have begun putting together the policy nuts and bolts to bring their vision to life.

Ocasio-Cortez and her political mentor, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), unveiled a bill in November that would invest $180 billion over 10 years to retrofit the U.S. public housing stock with renewable energy and efficiency upgrades. The Green New Deal is also central to Sanders’ presidential platform, which calls for investing $16.3 trillionmore than any other candidate has proposedin a 10-year program that he says “factors climate change into virtually every area of policy.”

Sanders is just one of the longtime U.S. climate advocates who have shifted from talking about carbon taxes to talking Green New Deal as the path to addressing the climate crisis. That’s not to say that a carbon tax is off the tableindeed, it would be an obvious source of revenue to fund the massive government spending that the Green New Deal envisions, and at the same time send a price signal to consumers and investors to propel the clean energy transition. But Sanders has also talked about wealth taxes to help fund his program, while Ocasio-Cortez has argued against the idea that a dedicated revenue source should be required for a government investment that will pay back dividends.

Charles Komanoff, co-founder of the Carbon Tax Center, who also is making the shift in his advocacy to the Green New Deal, says there’s another reason to do so: a carbon tax is no longer enough. “Now, the situation, in my view, is so exigent, that more than just a carbon taxeven a robustly rising oneis needed.”

Komanoff still thinks that the price signal of a carbon tax would be helpful, but that it should be a secondary goal.

“You can count me and the Carbon Tax Center in as adhering to the Green New Deal paradigmthat we need a massive federally guided shift in investment and infrastructure that will jump-start the project of eliminating fossil fuels,” he said. “And I am quite ready, not with teeth clenched, but in a welcoming way, to have the carbon tax be a subsidiary to the larger project of the Green New Deal.” SOURCE

Naomi Klein Knows a Green New Deal Is Our Only Hope Against Climate Catastrophe

In her new book, Klein argues that our current crisis cannot be separated from a long history and brutal present of human exploitation.

KLEIN-COVER SPLIT
Naomi Klein. (Photo by Kourosh Keshiri)

When I spoke with Naomi Klein in August, it was day 13 of Greta Thunberg’s transatlantic crossing on the Malizia II, a zero-emissions racing sailboat. Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who doesn’t fly because of the carbon impact, was making her way to Manhattan for the UN Climate Action summit. Klein’s new book, On Fire: The Burning Case for the Green New Deal, opens with a portrait of Thunberg and a discussion of the youth climate movement. For decades, Klein writes, children have been used as mere rhetorical devices in the discourse of climate change. We have been implored to act on climate change for the sake of “our children.” But, as Klein told me, it is “obvious that this has not worked to inspire decision-makers to do what was necessary.” Now, young people are no longer content to be treated as tropes. “They are speaking and striking and marching for themselves, and they are issuing the verdicts about the entire political class that has failed them.”

The essays collected in On Fire also come together around a central verdict: that the climate crisis cannot be separated from centuries of human exploitation. Colonialism, indigenous genocide, slavery, and climate disruption all share a history. Not only did these historical processes establish the extractive industries that have led to climate change, but they established an extractive mindset, “a way of viewing both the natural world and the majority of its inhabitants as resources to use up and then discard,” Klein writes. Climate activism must fight both. We need a “shift in worldview at every level.”

For Klein, the Green New Deal represents precisely this. Formulated by climate activists and proposed by representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey, the Green New Deal offers a way to transform our infrastructure at the scale and speed required by climate change while simultaneously transforming the economic model and underlying worldview that has caused it. Detractors may call it a random laundry list of progressive initiatives, but for Klein the brilliance of the Green New Deal lies in its supposition that its initiatives—from renewable energy to universal health care—are anything but unrelated. Ecological breakdown and economic injustice are inextricably linked. The solution must be holistic. The Green New Deal offers a way both to “get clean” and to “redress the founding crimes of our nations.”

We spoke about the politics of the climate crisis and the “almost unbearably high” stakes of the 2020 election. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

—Lynne Feeley

Lynne Feeley: Many of the essays in the book focus on what you call the “deep stories” that are interfering with people’s willingness to confront the climate crisis. Can you discuss what these stories are and how they are blocking climate action?

Naomi Klein: Some are the economic stories of neoliberalism—about how things go terribly wrong when people try to work together and how, if we just get out of the way of the market and let it do its magic, the benefits will trickle down to everyone else. I’ve written a lot over the years about how the orthodoxy of neoliberalism—privatization, deregulation, low taxes, cuts to social spending—conflicts very, very frontally with what we need to do in the face of the climate crisis. MORE

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On Fire Book Review: Naomi Klein Beckons Us to Look Behind the Burning Climate Curtain

Teen Climate Activist to Sen. Dianne Feinstein: We Need the Green New Deal to Prevent the Apocalypse

https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2019/3/1/teen_climate_activist_to_sen_dianne

“We’re the ones affected.” Those are the words of youth climate activists who confronted California Senator Dianne Feinstein last week in San Francisco, demanding she sign on to the Green New Deal.

Image result for Isha ClarkeIn a video of the interaction that has since been seen across the country, Feinstein dismissed the children—some as young as 7 years old—asking her to take bold action on climate change.

We [Democracy Now!] speak with the youth climate activists who confronted the senator: 16-year-old Isha Clarke, 12-year-old Rio and his 10-year-old sister Magdalena. MORE

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THE VIRAL CONFRONTATION WITH DIANNE FEINSTEIN HAD A POLITICAL IMPACT MOST PUNDITS MISSED

The Game-Changing Promise of a Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is not a piecemeal approach that trains a water gun on a blazing fire, but a comprehensive plan to transform society for the better.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, congresswoman-elect from New York, speaks to activists with the Sunrise Movement protesting in the offices of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Nov. 13, 2018. (Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks to activists with the Sunrise Movement protesting in the offices of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in Washington D.C., on Nov. 13, 2018. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times via Redux

The draft text calls for the committee, which would be fully funded and empowered to draft legislation, to spend the next year consulting with a range of experts — from scientists to local lawmakers to labor unions to business leaders — to map out a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” capable of making the U.S. economy “carbon neutral” while promoting “economic and environmental justice and equality.” By January 2020, the plan would be released, and two months later would come draft legislation designed to turn it into a reality. MORE