When attendees packed into a ballroom at the Austin Convention Center during SXSW to see a featured speaker event with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Intercept’s Senior Politics Editor Briahna Gray, surely they could not have anticipated that one of the night’s standout moments would come courtesy of Bill Nye (the Science Guy).
In a question and answer session during the Saturday event, Nye addressed Ocasio-Cortez with a question about political polarization and “fear,” specifically as it relates to climate change.
“I think the problem on both sides is fear,” Nye said. “People of my ancestry are afraid of having to pay for everything as immigrants come into this country. The people who work for the diner in Alabama are afraid to try to ask for what is reasonable. So do you have a plan to work with people in Congress that are afraid? I think that’s what’s going on with many of the conservatives, especially when it comes to climate change. People are afraid of what will happen if we try to make these big changes.”
Ocasio-Cortez, who introduced a Green New Deal resolution last month, called Nye’s appearance at the event “amazing” before dropping the knowledge on the importance of nixing what she called a “zero-sum mentality,” or the idea that gain for one person comes at a loss for another.
“We can give without a take,” she said. “The difference between a cost and an investment is that an investment yields returns. When we choose to invest in our systems, we are choosing to create wealth.”
Her resolution for a Green New Deal—which cites the congressionally mandated fourth National Climate Assessment as well as last year’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—states that our planet’s warming to 2 degrees Celsius or more beyond preindustrial levels will have catastrophic effects, including hundreds of billions of dollars in lost economic output every year by 2100, dire conditions created by increased temperatures, and wildfire frequency of unimaginable scale. That’s all aside from the national security and infrastructure crises presented by climate change.
The resolution hopes to overhaul our current systems to instead invest in renewable energy sources, create millions of high-paying jobs, and reach the ultimate goal of net-zero emissions within a decade. These are goals not only intended to protect our planet but also frontline and vulnerable communities who will be most impacted by the effects of a warming planet.
“Courage begets courage,” the congresswoman said. “The first person who stands up has to encounter the most amount of fear and discomfort. But once that person stands up, it becomes immensely easier for the second person and the third and the fourth.”
Nye tweeted Saturday that “AOC gets it,” and shared a picture with the democratic socialist. He added that matters related to income inequality and climate change can be addressed “if we get together and get to work.”