Democratic Leaders Failed Their First Big Test On Climate

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Above Photo: Sunrise Movement activists confront Democratic leaders in Congress. (Shutterstock)

Kicking the can down the road appears to be a bipartisan sport in Washington.

The science on climate change is clear: All countries desperately need to restructure fossil fuels out of their economies.

Naturally, the Trump administration has recklessly ignored this evidence. In every way, it’s tried to make it easier to extract and burn fossil fuels — and harder to hold polluters of all stripes accountable.

But what about the other side in Washington? Unfortunately, Democratic leaders are also acting like they don’t understand the urgency of the problem.

After the election, youth activists occupied the offices of Democratic leaders to demand a special congressional committee to plan for a Green New Deal.

A Green New Deal means addressing climate change through a mobilization on the scale of the original New Deal, which helped end the Great Depression. It means tackling climate change alongside other social and economic inequalities — in part by creating jobs in solar and wind energy, efficient buildings, public transportation, clean water, and public health.

Climate change exacerbates our society’s inequalities. For instance, black Americans are 52 percent likelier than white Americans to be exposed to deadly heat waves caused by climate change. When the oceans rise from melting polar ice, everyone is eventually affected — but Native Alaskan communities are losing their homelands today.

Hurricanes intensified by warming oceans hurt everyone in their path, but are particularly devastating in places like Puerto Rico, with its 44 percent poverty rate.

A Green New Deal strategy tackles these inequalities directly, instead of treating climate as an isolated problem.

It’s also smart politics, because bringing down utility bills — and creating lots of good jobs — widens support for bold climate action. Energy efficiency and clean energy jobs already outnumber fossil fuel jobs by a wide margin. Imagine what could happen with a real movement.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to address these demands. But she hasn’t kept her promise. Instead of a real Green New Deal committee, she formed a toothless advisory body with no real power.

First, Pelosi’s committee doesn’t have a mandate to come up with a plan that matches the required scale and speed. That’s like easing off the gas but not hitting the brakes on a car speeding off a cliff.

Second, it doesn’t have language on race, income, gender, or other inequalities. When even wonky scientists address the unequal impacts of climate change, it’s galling that our elected representatives don’t see fit to acknowledge this reality.

Third, the committee doesn’t have the power to issue subpoenas. It can merely “recommend subpoenas and depositions” to other committees.

This is a serious omission. Powerful fossil fuel corporations have stymied climate action for decades by lobbying to weaken commonsense measures, funding disinformation campaigns, and bribing politicians to the tune of $78 million in spending on the last election alone — in spite of knowing the dangers of their own business model for decades.

It’s about time Congress conducted an investigation of this predatory industry, and how better to do it than through a committee dedicated to the climate crisis?

Finally, there’s no requirement that members of the committee don’t take fossil fuel money. So some of the recipients of that $78 million can sit on the committee and undermine it from within. What a great way to sabotage the committee before it even gets going!

This is a spectacular failure on the part of Pelosi and the Democratic leadership. Knowing what we know now about the urgency of climate action — the world’s top scientists tell us there’s only 11 years left to take preventative action — their proposal is nothing short of criminal negligence.

Kicking the can down the road appears to be a bipartisan sport in Washington. That’s why we need a powerful grassroots movement to compel our political leadership to address climate change with urgency, speed, and justice.

  • herbdavis

    Start planning for a hot new world and realize that we are most likely past many tipping points. Life in major metro areas will be intolerable even if we start doing major avoidance right now. ( Do you see anything that makes you think people are ready to get off factory farms and out of autos and jets?)
    p.s. you can keep trying and prepare at the same time

  • mwildfire

    I don’t see that a Green new deal committee needs to spend its time investigating oil companies–others are doing that. What they should do is craft a serious plan–which isn’t going to go anywhere before 2020 anyway. The one serious flaw is appointing compromised people–that alone likely makes this committee worthless. If AOC is serious, it seems to me her best bet is to ignore Pelosi’s committee and form an informal committee with like-minded people–including plenty of experts who are not Members of Congress–and get to work crafting that plan.

  • chetdude

    Darn, forgot about the hold on URLS…

  • chetdude

    I’d suggest STARTING with a serious plan and expand on it.

    The REAL GREEN Green New Deal:

    Economic Bill of Rights (part of FDR’s 2nd Bill of Rights)
    Our country cannot truly move forward until the roots of inequality are pulled up, and the seeds of a new, healthier economy are planted.

    A Green Transition
    The second priority of the Green New Deal is a Green Transition Program that will convert the old, gray economy into a new, sustainable economy that is environmentally sound, economically viable and socially responsible.

    Real Financial Reform
    The takeover of our economy by big banks and well-connected financiers has destabilized both our democracy and our economy. It’s time to take Wall Street out of the driver’s seat and to free the truly productive segments of working America to make this economy work for all of us.

    A Functioning Democracy
    We won’t get these vital reforms without a fourth and final set of reforms to give us a real, functioning democracy. Just as we are replacing the old economy with a new one, we need a new politics to restore the promise of American democracy.

    Search “Green New Deal gp org”

  • mcsandberg

    Recently dropping global temperatures demonstrate IPCC claims are impossible https://wattsupwiththat.Com/2018/12/29/recently-dropping-global-temperatures-demonstrate-ipcc-claims-are-impossible/ .

    Fortunately, the Yellow Vests showed that the green agenda is at an end https://www.dailysignal.Com/2018/12/04/the-green-agenda-burns-to-ashes-in-paris/ and the fight against it has now gone world wide https://www.dailycaller.Com/2018/12/31/climate-change-policy-protests/ .

  • mcsandberg

    All of these sites allow a non-clickable URL thru. The disqus URL parser is told to make one non-clickable by capitalizing the 1st character of the top level domain: