Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got 2020 Democrats talking about climate change, but their plans to address it diverge wildly
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- Most of America had never heard of a Green New Deal when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined climate activists to demand Democratic leadership adopt the plan last year.
- Since then, the Green New Deal has earned mainstream name recognition, and climate change has become a hugely talked about issue.
- Prominent Democrats - particularly those running for president - were quick to embrace Ocasio-Cortez's resolution, or some version of it.
- After the Democratic National Committee controversially refused to hold a 2020 climate change debate, ten presidential candidates participated in CNN's climate town-hall on Wednesday night in New York.
- But while Ocasio-Cortez can be credited with making climate change a major issue in the 2020 primary, Democratic candidates are at odds over key policies and how to reach their ambitious goals.
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Most of America had never heard of a Green New Deal when then-Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez infuriated members of her own party by joining young climate change protesters outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office last November.
The group, led by the grassroots Sunrise Movement, demanded that Democratic leadership pursue a Green New Deal.
Video, images, and stories about the sit-in went viral. Pelosi dismissed the proposal as "the Green Dream, or whatever."
But the protest prompted Google searches for the term "Green New Deal" to spike and tweets about the proposal took off.
In February, Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts introduced their nonbinding Green New Deal resolution - an extremely broad and very ambitious plan to decarbonize and turbo-charge the US economy.
The plan called for meeting 100% of the US's power demand through renewable energy sources and cutting greenhouse-gas emissions to net-zero by 2030. To do so, the proposal calls for a green transformation of US infrastructure, electricity grids, and transportation systems.
"This is going to be the Great Society, the moonshot, the civil rights movement of our generation," Ocasio-Cortez said during a climate change town-hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders last December. "That is the scale of the ambition that this movement is going to require."
Prominent Democrats - particularly those running for president - were quick to embrace the resolution, or some version of it.
And awareness of the Green New Deal has increased dramatically since last fall.
A Yale/George Mason poll of registered voters found that the percentage of those who'd heard at least "a little" about the proposal tripled - from 17% to 59% - between December 2018 and April 2019. Meanwhile, the percentage of those who'd heard "nothing at all" about the Green New Deal halved - from 82% to 41%.
Fox News has flooded its airwaves with talk - and much criticism - of the Green New Deal, and support for the proposal has plummeted among its Republican audience.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Ocasio-Cortez's push has also caught the president's attention. He called the Green New Deal "unthinkable" earlier this summer.
"[It will] kill millions of jobs, it will crush the dreams of the poorest Americans and disproportionately harm minority communities," President Donald Trump said of the proposal in July. "I will not stand for it."
After the Democratic National Committee controversially refused to hold a 2020 climate change debate, ten presidential candidates participated in CNN's climate town-hall on Wednesday night in New York.
2020 Democrats are talking about climate change, but they aren't close to agreeing on how to address it
While Ocasio-Cortez can be credited with making climate change a major issue in the 2020 primary, Democratic candidates are at odds over key policies and how to reach their ambitious goals.
While all the 2020 candidates agree on the broadstrokes of climate policy - rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, committing to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and investing in renewable energy - when it comes to the specifics, their plans diverge.
While Ocasio-Cortez says her plan would cost $10 trillion, 2020 candidates have put forward a range of price tags for their proposals. Former Vice President Joe Biden's plan would cost $1.7 trillion, Sanders' plan would cost $16.3 trillion, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren's requires $3 trillion.
The various proposals also range quite significantly in their substantive goals.
At this point, environmental advocates say Sanders' plan is the most aggressive in the field. He wants to eliminate all carbon emissions by 2050 - and all transportation and electricity emissions by 2030.
Warren is calling for 100% zero-carbon new buildings by 2028, all zero-carbon new vehicles by 2030, entirely zero-carbon electricity by 2035. Meanwhile, Biden and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg want the US to be carbon neutral by 2050.
There's also major disagreement over nuclear energy.
Sanders has completely sworn off nuclear, calling the carbon-neutral energy source dangerous and a "false solution." Sen. Kamala Harris won't say whether she'd get rid of it, and Warren said she'd move the US off the energy source by 2035.
"People who think that we can get there without nuclear being part of the blend just aren't looking at the facts," Booker said at Wednesday night's town-hall.
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