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Democrats’ Left Turn on Climate Change

Do you support the Democrats' climate change agenda?

by Axios | 12.24.18

Democrats are increasingly embracing a sweeping progressive plan to tackle climate change that includes a massive increase in government programs on everything from job guarantees to health care.

Why it matters: While it's unlikely to become law any time soon, if ever, expect the plan — called the Green New Deal and championed by Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — to permeate the next Congress and 2020 presidential campaign. They don't have a fully detailed plan yet — but their main goal, at least for now, is to change the debate.

The big picture: The trend to embrace more progressive energy and climate policies is part of the Democratic Party’s broader leftward shift over the last decade on various issues, like embracing "Medicare for All" as the next step in health care beyond the Affordable Care Act. Republicans, meanwhile, have moved further to the right and largely rejected climate change as an issue.

Driving the news: Some three dozen Democratic lawmakers, including potential presidential candidates Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and billionaire activist Tom Steyer, back the plan and the creation of a special congressional committee in the next Congress to flush out details.

Virtually all of this support has come since Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive and self-described democratic socialist, participated in a mid-November rally in the office of incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The event was organized by the youth-led Sunrise Movement, which backed Ocasio-Cortez in her surprise primary victory over Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley.

“It definitely shows there is an appetite among Democrats for progressive policies that are bold and visionary, which is a departure from a lot of what Democrats have been running on for the last several years.”

— Stephen O'Hanlon, spokesman for Sunrise Movement

The details: Ahead of any actual legislating, the Green New Deal is mostly a catchy slogan, largely unknown by the public, which represents broad progressive policies. What details are available are outlined on Ocaso-Cortez’s election website:

  • An eventual goal of 100% of electricity coming from renewable energy, a controversial proposition. Right now, such sources make up just 17% of the nation’s power mix, with nearly half of that coming from hydropower.
  • A guarantee of federal jobs for those working in the transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources.
  • Federal programs guaranteeing basic income and universal health care. While health care has little to do with energy and climate, the outline says it would help "promote economic security, labor market flexibility and entrepreneurism."
  • There’s no price tag on the plan yet, but the outline says it would be paid for by a combination of the Federal Reserve and a collection of even more unprecedented funding sources, including a new public bank. A tax on carbon emissions could be one way to raise revenue, says Ocasio-Cortez spokesman Corbin Trent.

Between the lines: The Green New Deal represents one of the largest proposed expansions of government in decades, on the level of President Franklin Roosevelt’s original New Deal during the Great Depression, World War II and the interstate highway system — three models cited by backers of the policy.

  • The policy’s various parts, as articulated on Ocasio-Cortez’s website, must be advanced altogether, her spokesman says.
  • “This is not a piecemeal solution. This is economic mobilization we’re driving for,” Trent said. “One of the things I fear, is that if we didn’t already have an interstate highway, our current government would be unable to deliver on such a big problem."

The backstory: 2019 marks a decade since Democrats last tried big climate policy on Capitol Hill. Back then, with control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, Democrats pursued a market-based policy where companies could trade permits of carbon dioxide to comply with an overall cap on emissions in a system called cap-and-trade.

That policy is far more flexible — and less ambitious — than what the Green New Deal would likely be.

  • Some big oil companies and utilities backed the cap-and-trade bill, which narrowly passed the House.
  • Democrats couldn’t get enough support for it — even among some in its own party — in the Senate, and the effort died the next year.

The other side: Progressive support for the Green New Deal is growing significantly while other, more bipartisan, efforts on carbon taxes move along more slowly and with less rhetorical firepower.

A Green New Deal is unlikely to get any Republican support, and probably won't get even a majority support in the Democratic caucus. It’s also dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate.

  • Tom Pyle, who runs a conservative advocacy group American Energy Alliance, says the plan is more a shift in messaging than actual policy in response to what he describes as the left's failure to advance climate change policy through other efforts, such as carbon taxes and fossil-fuel infrastructure protests.

The bottom line: For now this isn’t about passing legislation in the upcoming Congress. It’s largely about changing the narrative to make climate change a 2020 issue as Democrats attempt to wrestle back the White House from Trump.

Amy Harder

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Axios

Written by Axios

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(81)
  • Andy1
    Voted Support
    12/24/2018
    ···

    Science is real folks, whether or not you choose to believe it.

    Like (17)
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  • JTJ
    Voted Oppose
    12/24/2018
    ···

    The democrats don’t care about the climate. They care about control and power using their socialist agenda.

    Like (15)
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  • MICKEY
    12/26/2018
    ···

    I love the idea of setting a national goal of fulfilling all our electrical needs from renewable sources by say 2030. I’m also an advocate for a single payer universal healthcare system such as this deal eludes to. But I can not support legislation that creates a federal bank and guarantees federal jobs exacerbating what is already an over dependence on the federal government. Now expanding the current program of government funded retraining of coal workers for green jobs in the private sector and coordinate with private industry to connect the two is something I could definitely support as we transition to the green energy infrastructure.

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  • Chickie
    Voted Support
    12/25/2018
    ···

    Ocasión-Cortez is a breath of fresh air in our legislature. She is proof that young American citizens are focused and organized with their progressive ideals and platforms. We should definitely support the plan of the the Green New Deal.

    Like (13)
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  • Doug
    Voted Oppose
    12/24/2018
    ···

    It sounds like so much socialist propaganda, instead we should return to the founding principles of freedom that made our country unique in all the world, that’s why people want to come to this country, if they want socialism they could stay home in their own failed countries.

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  • Lionman
    Voted Support
    12/24/2018
    ···

    When businessmen and women aren’t upholding their moral and ethical obligations, it becomes necessary to mandate them by law. If Big Oil, Big Pharma and other Big Business were upholding moral obligations to help others, give a hand up to those in need, then it would be wholly unnecessary for government programs to do that.

    Like (13)
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  • Vanessa
    Voted Support
    12/24/2018
    ···

    Climate Change, Infrastructure and Healthcare should all be championed by the Democratic Party.

    Like (10)
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  • Ken
    Voted Support
    12/24/2018
    ···

    We maintain our vehiles so they run smoother, longer. We have health checkups to maintain good health. We are good to one another to maintain healthy relationships. Shouldn't we also maintain good health of our human life source, our planet. Most of the affects of climate change are clear some are not so clear but one clear fact is that we can't live without our planet. We should all do our part.

    Like (9)
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  • Glowurm
    Voted Support
    12/24/2018
    ···

    Can’t happen soon enough!

    Like (8)
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  • TrulyTexan
    Voted Support
    12/24/2018
    ···

    Real science and real progress. Send the fossil fuel dinosaurs into the background where they belong. They still have their place, but not controlling the economic and political power in the world.

    Like (8)
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  • Delmar
    Voted Support
    12/24/2018
    ···

    We better do something soon before we are all going to regret not doing something much sooner and the faster we can force 45’s hand into doing something the better off we’ll all be

    Like (7)
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  • Steve
    Voted Support
    12/24/2018
    ···

    GOP environmntal policy will destroy our planet. Resistance is mandatory.

    Like (7)
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  • Richard
    Voted Support
    12/24/2018
    ···

    Unregulated capitalism will inevitably consume its consumers. The empirical evidence is in. Regulations are what protect Americans from graft and corruption inherent in an economic model called capitalism.

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  • Thomas
    Voted Support
    12/24/2018
    ···

    Environmental concerns used to be a bipartisan issue champion by Republicans! President Nixon created the EPA. Representative Pete Mccloskey wrote the endangered species act. This is entirely two serious and issue to be managed by cynical the denialism by ignorant, self interested congress persons and particularly the worst president in American history. As your constituent, I am must insist that you take a stand in favor of us, our children, and our children’s children, who will suffer from continued failure to address this critically important problem.

    Like (6)
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  • Karla
    Voted Support
    12/24/2018
    ···

    Of course we should support all programs that will help the climate. Republicans and Democrats must work together on this.

    Like (6)
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  • CombatVeteran
    Voted Oppose
    12/25/2018
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    Climates change naturally. The human impact on them is immeasurable. Please stop supporting this nonsense.

    Like (6)
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  • Brian
    Voted Support
    12/24/2018
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    The extreme efforts on the right to deny climate change and increase the risk to our planet have made this necessary. Dire situations demand progressive changes. We know Congress won't be able to swallow some of these efforts, but by aiming high hopefully we can have some movement.

    Like (5)
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  • 1958FRO
    Voted Support
    12/24/2018
    ···

    About time.

    Like (4)
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  • Caleb
    Voted Support
    12/24/2018
    ···

    Nearly everything that comes up on this site is split between 70/30 to 80/20 in favor of democrats which likely represents the split of users on this platform. This has 96% support so far. We need universal healthcare. Fewer troops abroad and no war. A basic universal income to lift people out of poverty. Renewable energy and other government programs that fight climate change. And historically the economy does better under democratic presidents anyway. So as we hurtle towards recession under one of the worst presidents to ever take office, please conservatives look at what helps people, helps you, and don’t arbitrarily make your decisions based on the little letter by a persons name. It’s time to vote objectively.

    Like (4)
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  • Riley
    Voted Oppose
    12/25/2018
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    No it's just another reason for the government to steal my money and burn it on useless crap

    Like (4)
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  • David
    Voted Support
    12/24/2018
    ···

    Those crying “socialism” are clearly lacking even the most rudimentary understanding of the idea. Socialism involves the forced nationalization of all property and decision making power. It is NOT socialism, to require PRIVATE citizens to use PRIVATE property is a reasonable fashion.

    Like (4)
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