A key emerging issue to watch in the next two years – the Green New Deal. It is emerging as a critical battle line within the Democratic Party itself and pits the establishment wing of the party led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi against the activist wing that has emerged in the Democrats take back of the house under the auspices of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Speaker Pelosi has according to a recent article in the Washington Post, revived the select committee on climate change, but without much authority to approve legislation.
As the Post notes: “The coming battle will test liberals’ clout, as tensions between the activist left and the Democratic establishment underscore the ideological and strategic rifts that will affect the party ahead of the 2020 presidential primary.”
“We should have a robust debate of ideas . . . then we figure out how to come to a consensus so that we are effective and are able in 2020 to defeat Donald Trump,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.). “The worst thing we could do is stifle a very vigorous debate because of a deference to protocol or precedent.”
Congressional Democrats are united on the issue and the need to combat man-made climate change, but “there is debate over what solutions to pursue and how aggressively in an era of divided government.” The left is pushing for “nothing less than the Green New Deal, a restructuring of the economy often compared to the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II.”
Interestingly enough, the move comes at a time when polling shows at least among rank and file Republicans, more support for climate change measures.
A New York Times column by Arlie and David Hochschild argues that new polling suggests a new emerging view of global warming by Republicans.
They write: “if we compare all Republicans with all Democrats, we see a new and encouraging overlap.”
They point to a March Poll by Yale and George Mason University which polled 1067 registered voters on climate change: “The study found that while they disagree on the cause, majorities in both parties agree that the world is experiencing global warming and call for government action to address it.”
There are still deep partisan splits but on the issues of carbon dioxide emission limits, fossil fuel, carbon taxes, and environmental protection – the survey found the majority in both parties favoring reform. Sure, the number is in the mid-80s for Democrats and a bare majority of Republicans, but this marks an important shift.
The polling shows the need for conservative leadership to take ownership of this issue. Indeed, a study out of the University of Colorado has found a “party over policy” effect, ” in which people’s views on a carbon tax depend less on the content of the proposal than on the party they believe proposed it. This is true for both Democrats and Republicans. So maybe Republicans just need to hear from messengers they trust.”
What the polling here finds, “while Americans have been focusing on the split between Democrats and Republicans, the more important gap may now be between Republican voters and the leaders they elected.”
In the meantime, the Green New Deal is becoming a liberal litmus test, particularly among Democrats with designs on the White House. Recently Senator Cory Booker joined Bernie Sanders in endorsing it.
So far nearly 40 House Democrats believe that the committee “should focus its efforts on making the Green New Deal a reality.”
Climate activists are disappointed that the Democrats are not being more aggressive on this issue.
“Without a mandate to create a plan and a requirement that its members don’t take fossil fuel money, we are deeply concerned that this committee will be just another of the many committees we’ve seen failing our generation our entire lives,” said Varshini Prakash, the Sunrise Movement’s spokeswoman.
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) will lead the House Natural Resources Committee in January while Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey will head up Energy and Commerce. He recently announced plans to investigate the Trump administration’s sweeping rollback of environmental regulations while Rep. Grijalva announced they will hold two days of climate hearings.
“I don’t want to prejudge what we are going to do other than to say that we intend to be very aggressive about it and the progressives will be very happy,” Rep. Pallone told the Post, but he has not backed the Green New Deal. “The goal of trying to reduce fossil fuels and get to a carbon-neutral economy is important and something that I agree with. The question is how long it takes to do that.”
He said, “The Green New Deal says you can do it in 10 years. I don’t know if that’s technologically feasible . . . Beyond that, it’s probably not politically feasible.”
Fueling the push by younger leaders is the latest climate report. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that “unprecedented” international efforts are needed in order to cut carbon emissions in the next dozen years to keep climate change to moderate levels.
The Trump administration is taking the opposite approach even as their own internal report is forecasting a disastrous seven degree rise in global temperatures by the end of this century.
Activists are pushing back. Varshini Prakash is critical of the limitations placed on the select committee, calling it an “insult to the thousands of young people across the country who have been calling on the Democratic Party leadership to have the courage to stand up to fossil fuel billionaires.”
This is a battle worth watching to see whether the older establishment or the younger activist wing ends up prevailing.
—David M. Greenwald reporting