Pro­gres­sive law­mak­ers call for cli­mate change rev­o­lu­tion

The Guardian Australia - - Environment - Emily Holden in Wash­ing­ton

A star-stud­ded pro­gres­sive town hall on cli­mate change drew thou­sands of view­ers on­line and hun­dreds in per­son – but of­fered lit­tle in­sight into how the US left might over­come Re­pub­li­can op­po­si­tion and lay the ground­work to limit ris­ing tem­per­a­tures.

The Ver­mont se­na­tor Bernie San­ders, a po­ten­tial 2020 pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, and Demo­cratic so­cial­ist con­gress­woman-elect Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, who cam­paigned on a “Green New Deal”, elicited cheers with prom­ises of an eco­nomic boom from mas­sive in­vest­ment in re­new­able power.

“What we are try­ing to do tonight is be part of the rev­o­lu­tion in terms of the need to trans­form our en­ergy sys­tem away from fos­sil fu­els and to not only save the planet but cre­ate mil­lions of good-pay­ing jobs in the process,” San­ders said.

Oca­sio-Cortez said the cli­mate move­ment was “go­ing to be the Great So­ci­ety, the moon­shot, the civil rights move­ment of our gen­er­a­tion”.

Speak­ing at the US Capi­tol, San­ders and Oca­sio-Cortez blamed cor­po­ra­tions for tak­ing ad­van­tage of peo­ple and oil and gas com­pa­nies for rav­aging the en­vi­ron­ment. Oca­sio-Cortez said the me­dia should cover the poor more.

Van Jones, a ca­ble news com­men­ta­tor, and Bill McKibben, founder of the en­vi­ron­men­tal group, sat in on panel dis­cus­sions. One young ac­tivist rapped about the en­vi­ron­ment. A woman in the au­di­ence draped her­self in a monarch but­ter­fly cape.

“It is clear that it is the young peo­ple who are at the fore­front of the move­ment,” San­ders said.

Some of the young peo­ple came look­ing for spe­cific so­lu­tions to push

law­mak­ers to sup­port. Two Texas col­lege stu­dents ma­jor­ing in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence said be­fore the event be­gan that they showed up to hear more about Oca­sio-Cortez’s Green New Deal.

In the event, nei­ther law­maker dis­cussed de­tails or how to pur­sue them when Don­ald Trump has de­nied man­made cli­mate change, planned to exit an in­ter­na­tional cli­mate pact and slashed en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions.

Speak­ers framed the con­ver­sa­tion around work that could be­gin in 2020, if Democrats take back the Se­nate and the White House. But sci­en­tists say the world must have plans in place soon to avoid the worst of a heat­ing Earth.

Demo­cratic lead­ers – even those who will soon be in charge in the House – do not have a strat­egy to ratchet down cli­mate pol­lu­tion. Oca­sio-Cortez par­tic­i­pated in a sit-in at the of­fice of the House mi­nor­ity leader, Nancy Pelosi, to urge her to come up with a plan. Pelosi has said she will pur­sue restart­ing a select com­mit­tee on cli­mate change.

“It’s kind of a philo­soph­i­cal kind of goal ap­proach. It’s not nec­es­sar­ily a spe­cific pol­icy,” said James Jack­son, a stu­dent at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas in Tyler who wanted to learn about Oca­sio-Cortez’s pro­posal.

“I want to see what spe­cific poli­cies can make the el­e­ments of the Green New Deal come into fruition. We can say let’s have a jobs guar­an­tee for green jobs but where are those green jobs go­ing to be, who’s pay­ing for them. I want to find those prac­ti­cal ways to en­act the Green New Deal poli­cies.”

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