FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Democrats Failed Their First Big Test on Climate

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 risefrom 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.

More articles by:

Basav Sen directs the Climate Justice Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
R. G. Davis
Paul Krassner: Investigative Satirist
Negin Owliaei
Red State Rip Off: Cutting Worker Pay by $1.5 Billion
Christopher Brauchli
The Side of Trump We Rarely See
Curtis Johnson
The Unbroken Line: From Slavery to the El Paso Shooting
Jesse Jackson
End Endless War and Bring Peace to Korea
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: What About a New City Center?
Tracey L. Rogers
Candidates Need a Moral Vision
Nicky Reid
I Was a Red Flag Kid
John Kendall Hawkins
The Sixties Victory Lap in an Empty Arena
Stephen Cooper
Tony Chin’s Unstoppable, Historic Career in Music
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bruno Latour’s Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime
Elizabeth Keyes
Haiku Fighting
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail