Originally posted here –
Tag Archives: politics
View the original here:
This article is from:
See the article here –
Bernie Sander’s $16 trillion climate plan, which he calls the Green New Deal, would transition the electricity and transportation sectors to renewable energy by 2030, allegedly create 240,000 jobs a year, and essentially nationalize the nation’s power sector. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and legions of climate activists have thrown their support behind the proposal, arguing the Vermont Senator is the only candidate in the primary whose climate ambitions are commensurate with the scale of the crisis. What’s not to love?
A lot, according to a bunch of climate scientists and energy economists interviewed by New York Times reporter Lisa Friedman. In a nutshell, those experts say the plan is “technically impractical, politically unfeasible, and possibly ineffective.” Friedman’s sources argue that Sanders’ resolute stance against building new nuclear projects would kneecap his ability to make the leap from fossil fuels to wind and solar. Then there’s the fact that many of the exciting projects he has planned for the American people, like high-speed rail and mass transit, require CO2-intensive resources to build.
The paper of record isn’t the first to question Sanders’ climate plan. “I find it very difficult to imagine that we can reach a completely decarbonized electricity and transport system by 2030, especially if we’re limiting our options exclusively to wind and solar, as well as geothermal,” Nader Sobhani, a climate policy associate at the think tank Niskanen Center, told InsideClimate News. In the Washington Post, columnist David Drehle wrote, “The wall is child’s play compared with the risible fantasy that Sanders has rolled out in lieu of an actual climate change strategy.”
Obviously, experts and pundits can and should criticize a policy proposal on its merits. But what Sanders’ critics miss is that even if it’s impractical or unfeasible, his Green New Deal still serves a political purpose. The plan moves the Overton window, the range of political ideas that the public considers acceptable or mainstream, several notches to the left.
In fact, Sanders has already moved the Overton window on climate. In 2016, Sander’s climate strategy centered around a carbon tax, an idea that his rival, Hilary Clinton, couldn’t even get behind. In 2019, a carbon tax is barely on the menu, not because it’s too ambitious, but because it’s not ambitious enough. The extraordinary evolution of our climate discourse over the past couple of years is, in part, thanks to the groundwork Sanders laid in 2016. (It’s also thanks to Green New Deal champion Ocasio-Cortez, who credits Sanders for inspiring her to run for Congress.)
Sanders has long been adept at shifting the Overton Window. In 2016, Clinton called talk of a single-payer system “a theoretical debate about some better idea that will never, ever come to pass.” Now, more than half of the crowded Democratic field supports some version of it. That’s in large part because Sanders started beating the Medicare-for-All drum on a national stage during his 2016 presidential run. Sanders has also influenced the national conversation around immigration, publicly funded higher education, and, yes, capitalism itself.
His $16 trillion climate plan may not be entirely feasible, but pulling his most serious competitors further left has always been well within Sanders’ grasp. At the end of the day, that may be the most indelible mark Sanders leaves on the 2020 race.
Several Democratic 2020 candidates appeared on Friday in Orangeburg, South Carolina, to attend a historic event: the first-ever Presidential Forum on Environmental Justice. Moderated by former Environmental Protection Agency official and current National Wildlife Federation Vice President Mustafa Santiago Ali, as well as Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, the forum addressed an issue that’s new to the presidential primary circuit but has for decades been a chief concern for people of color and frontline and low-income communities across the United States.
What is environmental justice? Ali defined the term for the audience gathered at an auditorium on the campus of the historically black college South Carolina State University by flipping it on its head. Environmental injustice and environmental racism, he said, are caused by regulations and policies that negatively affect the nation’s minorities and poor — in this case putting them more at risk from pollution or the impacts of climate change. To achieve environmental justice would be to craft policy with the explicit intent of protecting those communities.
Many of the Democratic candidates have said they intend to do just that, if they take over for Donald Trump as president. But only six of them showed up on Friday to tell voters how they aim to make good on that promise: Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, John Delaney, Joe Sestak, and Marianne Williamson. Of those six, Booker and Steyer were the most nimble on their feet when discussing the topic of the day — a testament to the fact that they both have long histories of working with either climate groups or grassroots environmental activists (or both).
Notably absent from the stage was Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who was preparing for a climate change-themed summit with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Iowa on Saturday. In the wake of Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s departure from the primary race, Sanders, wielding a multi-trillion dollar climate plan he’s calling the “Green New Deal,” has positioned himself as the field’s climate hawk. And according to Vox, the Sanders campaign is making climate action a central component of its strategy in Iowa in the lead up to the state’s caucuses early next year. It’s a big bet on recent polls that show primary state Democrats consider climate change a top issue.
The environmental justice forum in South Carolina was hosted by the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. (Editor’s note: Grist was one of the forum’s media sponsors.) And it was notable, not only for the being the first-of-its-kind event. In addition, it also showed that if Bernie Sanders may be the race’s new climate candidate, Cory Booker is its environmental justice candidate.
Booker took the stage following the evening’s undisputed headliner, Elizabeth Warren — the only frontrunner to make the trip to Orangeburg. The New Jersey senator, who has discussed these issues going back to his time as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, had no trouble distinguishing himself from his Massachusetts colleague. While Warren pledged a trillion dollars, as part of a $3-trillion climate plan, toward picking up the communities who find themselves facing the brunt of environmental injustice, the candidate with a plan for seemingly everything offered few specifics.
Booker, in contrast, spoke at length about pollution from pig farms in Duplin County, North Carolina, toxic coal ash in Uniontown, Alabama, and cancer clusters between Baton Rouge and New Orleans in Louisiana. Environmental racism, he said, is a “shameful reality in America.” He discussed his proposal to replace all lead service lines in the country, in order to help avoid the water crises that have gripped Flint, Michigan, and his hometown, Newark. When Goodman asked the Jersey senator to defend his support of nuclear energy, he did so along environmental justice lines, saying, “The damage done to poor and vulnerable communities is significantly worse from climate change than from nuclear waste.”
Does Booker think environmental justice could be a winning issue in Iowa? “Yes,” he told Grist after the forum. “Every state has Superfund sites, every state is struggling with environmental justice issues, so absolutely.”
Unfortunately, the 2020 contenders may not get another opportunity to discuss the topic this election cycle. After all, environmental justice has only been discussed, briefly, at one presidential debate, thanks to prodding from, Marianne Williamson, who has failed to qualify for the past two debates. And despite multiple requests from candidates, the Democratic National Committee said it will not host a debate on climate change.
Williamson told Grist she was impressed by what her fellow presidential hopefuls said at the forum. “When it comes to actual policies,” she said, “none of us are all that different from each other. We all get it.” At the very least, she added, the policies discussed at Friday’s forum would be a “complete reversal of the level of entrenched environmental injustice that is endemic to the agenda of the current administration.”