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What Is the Green New Deal? We Should Know Soon

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markley (D-MA) are set to unveil a bill as soon as next week

Alexandra Ocasio Cortez and Ed Markey

Andrew Harnik/AP/REX/Shutterstock; Alex Brandon/AP/REX/Shutterstock

The president may not believe in climate change, but that isn’t stopping Democrats from pressing forward with efforts to pass meaningful legislation to fight the existential threat of our time. On Thursday Axios reported Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) are preparing to unveil a bill for a Green New Deal as early as next week.

The idea for a Green New Deal gained traction most recently through the advocacy of Ocasio-Cortez, who placed it near the top of her platform while campaigning for Congress. She also worked with activist groups like the Sunrise Movement to convince Democrats to support the idea of a landmark initiative overhaul to America’s approach to climate change and income inequality. After the new Congress was sworn in earlier this month, Ocasio-Cortez took the proposal mainstream during an appearance on 60 Minutes, explaining that a Green New Deal would be funded through a 70 percent marginal tax rate.

A growing number of Democrats have since endorsed the idea of a Green New Deal, including 2020 candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA). The latter announced her support during a CNN town hall event on Monday. “Climate change is an existential threat and we have got to deal with the reality of it,” Harris said. “We have got to deal with the reality of the fact that there are people trying to peddle some ideas that we should deny it. They are peddling science fiction instead of what we should do, which is rely on science fact.”

The need is growing for an ambitious package of legislation to combat climate change. In October, the United Nations released a report detailing a grim future unles urgent action is taken — at a scale to which there is “no documented historic precedent.” The report explains that the world will be plagued by food shortages, poverty, receding coastlines, wildfires and a host of other maladies as soon as 2040. The report sets the tipping point at an atmospheric temperature that is 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial level. To prevent the temperature rising by 2.7 degrees, the report calls for a 45-percent reduction of greenhouse pollution by 2030 (from 2010 levels), and a 100 percent reduction by 2050 among other changes like eliminating the use of coal. If this seems like a big ask, it’s because it is. The UN writes that there is “no documented historic precedent” for the scale at which the world economy would need to be altered to prevent severe effects of climate change from taking hold in the next few decades.

A month later, the Trump administration released a similarly dire prognosis. Climate change “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us,” noted the report, which was compiled by 13 federal agencies and 300 climate scientists. Though it did not offer a specific prescription for what needs to be done, the report explained that significant action must be taken “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”

“I don’t believe it,” said Trump of the report.

Despite the momentum it has generated, the proposal for a Green New Deal is lacking in specifics. As outlined by the Sunrise Movement, the deal would focus on a transition to renewable energy within 10 years, investment in communities “on the frontlines of poverty and pollution” and a job guarantee that would ensure any American who wanted to could work for government implementing the new green economy. “At its core, it’s a program designed to stop the climate crisis and fight poverty at the same time,” Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash told Rolling Stone earlier this month. “We see it as a socio-economic project, big enough to rival some of the biggest, greatest socio-economic projects we’ve seen before,” she added.

Meanwhile, Republicans continue to opt for ignorance.

President Trump has also made a habit of citing cold temperature as a way to convince people that climate change is a hoax. “In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded,” he tweeted on Monday. “In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you!

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