On Thursday morning, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) released their long-anticipated framework for the “Green New Deal,” a broad and ambitious federal response to the growing threat of climate change. The document is a non-binding resolution rather than legislation, but if successful, it could serve as a blueprint for future climate legislation.
The stated goal of the resolution is to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions in a just and equitable way, while preserving clean air and water and addressing growing income inequality. To achieve that, the resolution calls for a 10-year mobilization to shift the power grid away from fossil fuels and toward solar and wind energy. The resolution also calls for an overhaul of the national transportation infrastructure, shifting to electric vehicles and expanding high-speed rail to “a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary,” as described in an accompanying fact sheet.
A 10-year mobilization for solar and wind energy
At the same time, the Green New Deal pledges to fund education and job training for the communities most affected by climate change, as part of a massive investment in “community-defined projects and strategies” for resilience in the face of climate change. The resolution explicitly compares this push to US mobilization during World War II, which “created the greatest middle class that the United States has ever seen.”
The resolution is unsparing in describing the effects of climate change, predicting mass migration and 350 million people globally exposed to deadly heat stresses by 2050. In describing those impacts, the Green New Deal draws heavily on the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which predicted that rising sea levels could destroy as much as $500 billion in US oceanfront property by 2100. The resolution also draws on an October 2018 report from the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change, which said urgent action would be needed in the next 12 years if the most extreme effects of climate were to be avoided.
The resolution has already seen significant support from Democrats, with at least 60 cosponsors in the house and nine in the Senate. A number of prominent Democrats have expressed support for earlier versions of the plan, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and advocacy groups like Indivisible are already campaigning to pressure on members of Congress into supporting the plan.
Still, the resolution will face an uphill battle in Congress. Many prominent Republican senators and White House officials are publicly skeptical about humanity’s role in driving climate change and see little reason to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Others in the Democratic Party have expressed support for climate action but remain skeptical of the Green New Deal itself. Shortly before the resolution was introduced, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) referred to the proposal as “the green dream or whatever they call it.”
“Nobody knows what it is,” Pelosi told reporters, “but they’re for it right?”