Our current politics around climate change and the policies to address it are deeply screwed up. At a time when we need more ambition, the intransigent Republican Congress and the galoot in the Oval Office are doing less.
But don’t confuse elected representative’s views with Americans views. While there’s been a recent uptick in polarization on the science of climate change, interest in having good climate policy seems to be universal. New research from progressive think tank Data for Progress drives the point home, showing that what’s been coined a Green New Deal focused on clean energy jobs, rapidly wiping out the U.S. carbon footprint, and kicking fossil fuels to the curb is wildly popular with Democrats, but also has support across a representative sample of American voters. And with a number of progressives likely to surge into Congress in 2018, we could see legislation introduced that brings it a step closer to reality.
“We know what to do, we just have to do it, and progressives have taken up the mantle on ambitious climate action,” Greg Carlock, a senior advisor to Data for Progress who led the report, told Earther.
The Data for Progress report lays out a wide array of principles for how to achieve a more equitable future while transitioning to a low carbon economy. A smattering of the big ideas include getting the U.S. to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 and zero net emissions by 2050, a green jobs guarantee, guaranteeing access to affordable drinking water, replacing lead-laden pipes, and reforesting 40 million acres of public land by 2035.
If it sounds ambitious, that’s by design. A guiding principal of the Green New Deal is that half measures won’t work. We need a low carbon economy ASAP and we need the energy transition to take place in a just, inclusive manner.
And Americans seem to be down with it. Data for Progress commissioned a YouGov Blue poll of 1,515 eligible voters weighted to be nationally representative, and the results show that 55 percent of registered voters support a green jobs guarantee and 59 percent think protecting the environment is a job creator. Young people in particular are most likely to support candidates running on a Green New Deal platform, which makes sense since they’re gonna be living in this changed climate.
“More than half of individuals under 30 said they would be more supportive of a candidate running on 100% Renewable Energy or Green Jobs with only 15 percent saying 100% Renewable Energy would make them less likely and 10 percent saying the same about Green Jobs,” the report authors wrote.
Sean McElwee, the founder of Data for Progress, told Earther he wanted one of Data for Progress’ first reports to focus on climate change because it “is going to destroy my future.” He also said it’s easy to see a sea change is afoot, comparing climate to healthcare policy.
Democrats made a huge effort to appease Republicans with the Affordable Care Act and the result has been a Frankenstein policy. Fast forward to 2018 and Democrats are pushing for Medicare for all, which is wildly more ambitious and also surprisingly popular.
Climate policy has followed a similar track. Waxman-Markey, a 2009 piece of legislation that would’ve created a national carbon market, went down in flames after trying to win Republican votes and Democrats haven’t introduced real climate legislation since. The Green New Deal could be the climate version of Medicare for all, putting forward a bold vision Americans support to address the biggest intergenerational issue of our time. And it will have its proponents in Congress with the likely election of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, as well as a slew of other progressive hopefuls. Any momentum could carry even more weight if the White House swings to someone who isn’t Donald Trump.
“There’s a real chance to start unfucking the political coalitions here and unfucking the politics of this and thinking about this as a way [where] we don’t have to pit the environment against jobs,” McElwee said.
He also really insisted I should talk with Carlock since he says “fuck a lot less” so here’s more of what Carlock had to say:
“[The report data] show that this isn’t just about a ‘left agenda,’ as our polling data analysis shows that a majority of voters support a variety of Green New Deal policies, not just for the environmental goals, but for the economic and justice goals as well. If there is any conversation to be had it’s what are all politicians doing to deliver effective solutions to these challenges that Americans want action on? The Green New Deal lays out the solutions in simple terms.”