The rhetoric from candidates like Sanders, Warren and even Biden echoes the fervor of the climate change activists backing the Green New Deal.
Democratic presidential candidates like Washington Gov. Jay Inslee have been increasingly assertive in their rhetoric over climate change. | Paul Sancya/AP Photo
Democratic White House hopefuls are getting increasingly aggressive on climate change — and calling for oil, gas and coal producers to pay for their role in climbing temperatures, rising seas and catastrophic weather.
The sharpened tone includes former Vice President Joe Biden’s promise to “take action against fossil fuel companies,” as well as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ charge that the businesses committed “criminal activity” by knowingly producing the greenhouse gases that worsen climate change. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposes legislation that could pave the way for lawsuits against the companies, while Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has accused fossil fuel producers of “killing people” and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wants to create a fossil fuel “excise tax.”
The rhetoric echoes the fervor of climate change activists who have pushed Democrats to embrace an ambitious “Green New Deal” that would wean the U.S. off fossil fuels in a decade or more, and comes amid lawsuits from states, cities and citizens accusing the companies of hiding evidence that their products are harming the planet.
But Republicans say they welcome the trend, too, accusing Democrats of pushing a radical attack on an industry that has provided one of the brightest spots in the economy and has reduced U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
“The deeper and the longer the Democrats talk about this, the happier the Trump campaign is,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who speaks regularly with the White House and President Donald Trump’s reelection effort. “They see fodder not so much in the issue but in the solutions being proposed by the Democrats.” MORE
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigns in New York on June 26, 2018. Handout photo by Corey Torpie
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on Tuesday delivered an impassioned defence of the Green New Deal, the ambitious Democratic proposal aimed at fighting climate change, after a Republican congressman attacked the resolution as an elitist plan he claimed had been created by out-of-touch “rich liberals from New York of California.”
“I think we should not focus on the rich, wealthy elites who will look at this and go ‘I love it, cause I’ve got big money in the bank. Everyone should do this!’” Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wisc.) said.
“It’s kind of like saying ‘I’ll sign onto the Green New Deal but I’ll take a private jet from DC to California—a private jet—or I’ll take my Uber SUV, I won’t take the train, or I’ll go to Davos and fly my private jet,’” he continued. “The hypocrisy!”
Ocasio-Cortez swiftly rejected the characterization. She also denounced the overall Republican strategy to portray climate change concerns as an issue of privilege.
“This is not an elitist issue, this is a quality of life issue,” Ocasio-Cortez responded, her voice rising in exasperation. “You want to tell people that their concern and their desire for clean air and clean water is elitist? Tell that to the kids in the south Bronx which are suffering from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. Tell that to the families in Flint.” MORE
Republicans’ estimates that the climate plan would cost $93 trillion are based on a think tank study that doesn’t endorse that total.
Republicans have said that the Green New Deal would cost $93 trillion — more than enough money to “buy every American a Ferrari,” according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. | Somodevilla/Getty Images
Republicans claim the Green New Deal would cost $93 trillion — a number that would dwarf the economic output of every nation on Earth.
The figure is bogus. But that isn’t stopping the eye-popping total from turning up on the Senate floor, the Conservative Political Action Conference and even “Saturday Night Live” as the progressive Democrats’ sweeping-yet-vague vision statement amps up the political conversation around climate change.
The number originated with a report by a conservative think tank, American Action Forum, that made huge assumptions about how exactly Democrats would go about implementing their plan. But the $93 trillion figure does not appear anywhere in the think tank’s report — and AAF President Douglas Holtz-Eakin confessed he has no idea how much exactly the Green New Deal would cost.
The Green New Deal isn’t even a plan yet — at the moment it’s a non-binding resolution that calls for major action to stop greenhouse gas pollution while reducing income inequality and creating “millions of good, high-wage jobs.” But top Republicans have embraced the $93 trillion price tag, using it to argue that the climate plan would bankrupt the United States.
“Is it billions or trillions?” asked Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office. “Any precision past that is illusory.” MORE