Freshmen in Congress push for Green New Deal to combat climate change

Photo (c) aydinmutlu - Getty Images

A new wing of the Democratic party will likely push for a federal jobs program aimed at ditching fossil fuels

A group of newly-elected Democrats in the House of Representatives are pushing the party to take more progressive action to combat climate change.  

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the U.S. Representative-elect for New York's 14th district, on Tuesday joined 200 young climate protesters who were camped outside House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office.

The youth protesters were there to demand a “Green New Deal,” a message that earned them support from the Representative-elect.

“We need a Green New Deal and we need to get to 100 percent renewables because our lives depend on it,” Ocasio-Cortez told Politico and other reporters at the scene.

Pelosi praised the young activists for “leading the way on the climate crisis” and asked  police "to allow them to continue to organize and participate in our democracy,” though capitol police arrested 51 organizers later that day anyway.

Pelosi also responded that she had asked her colleagues create “a select committee to address the climate crisis,” but she did not say whether that would include drafting a Green New Deal program.

New Deal with a twist

The so-called “Green New Deal Wing” is also populated by Ilhan Omar in Minnesota’s 5th District, Rashida Tlaib in Michigan’s 13th District, and Antonio Delgado in New York’s 19th District.

The idea of creating a federally-funded jobs program modeled after the Depression-era New Deal, but with an environmental twist, has been proposed by environmentalists and policy wonks outside of Congress for years.

But Congresspeople, even Democrats, have traditionally been more conservative about their plans to address the climate crisis. Rather than eliminating fossil fuels altogether, the Obama administration and other Democrats instead have promoted hydraulic fracturing as an important tool to fight global warming.

“U.S. natural gas production alone rose by 21% under Obama,” brags Paul Bledsloe, a former advisor to President Clinton.

Such statistics aren’t impressive to environmentalists or politicians embracing a greener message. In fact, recent research has shown that methane leaks from natural gas production are underestimated by the federal government. And researchers and some lawmakers over the years have also raised concerns about water contamination and other immediate environmental byproducts of fracking for natural gas.

The gas and oil industry, meanwhile, has been aggressively promoting the idea that they can save society from environmental catastrophe through fracking and more responsible drilling practices. But environmental researchers say that the only real way to combat climate change is to halt oil and gas production altogether -- which would require a dramatic switch over to renewables.

Research form the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that society only has twelve years to address the climate crisis to avoid more catastrophic ecological changes.

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