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Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal Proposal Now Backed by 15 House Democrats

Politics
Backers of a proposal for a select committee for a Green New Deal. Sunrise Movement

Calls for a Green New Deal are gaining traction in the two short weeks after the young climate activists of the Sunrise Movement and Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stormed Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi's Capitol Hill office.

Fifteen members of Congress have now backed Ocasio-Cortez's proposal to establish a "select committee" in the House of Representatives to develop a plan to—basically—reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to transition the U.S. to 100 percent renewable energy sources within 10 years of passing the Green New Deal legislation.


Supporters in the House include John Lewis, the civil rights leader and Democratic congressman from Georgia, and trailblazers Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress.

As ThinkProgress reported, Democratic congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine joined the growing list of backers on Tuesday.

"We don't need another report to tell us climate change is a threat to our health, environment and economy," she said in a statement on her website. "We must take urgent action to end our nation's reliance on fossil fuels and stop the damage greenhouse gases have done to our way of life."

Pingree, an organic farmer and member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment, said the effects of climate change have greatly impacted her state.

"Look no further than Maine's lobster industry to see the looming economic crisis facing our state due to rapidly warming waters," she said. "Meanwhile rates of asthma and tick-borne illness in Maine have dramatically spiked because of fossil fuel emissions and rising temperatures. I see the crisis of climate change every day in my state and believe a new committee dedicated exclusively to this crisis can support the long-standing work of other House committees and help to fast-track solutions."

Here are the 15 House Democrats supporting the measure:

  • Jared Huffman (CA-02)
  • Ro Khanna (CA-17)
  • Ted Lieu (CA-33)
  • John Lewis (GA-05)
  • Joe Neguse (CO-02)
  • Chellie Pingree (ME-01)
  • Jamie Raskin (MD-08)
  • Ayanna Pressley (MA-07)
  • Rashida Tlaib (MI-13)
  • Ilhan Omar (MN-05)
  • Deb Halland (NM-01)
  • Carolyn Maloney (NY-12)
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14)
  • José E. Serrano (NY-15)
  • Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)

The proposal also has the support of nearly 100 environmental, economic and social justice organizations, according to the Sunrise Movement.

To build momentum, the youth climate group is organizing another mass action at the Capitol on Dec. 10, right before Congress breaks for the holidays, "to make sure Ocasio's Select Committee on a Green New Deal makes it on the agenda for 2019," Sunrise Movement founder Varshini Prakash said in an emailed press release.

The group launched the effort only yesterday and 230 people have already signed up to participate. (You can also join the action in DC, or if you're on the West Coast, you can sign up for the action in Nancy Pelosi's office in San Francisco.)

Last week, the National Climate Assessment report—compiled by 13 federal agencies and more than 300 scientists—warned that climate change could kill thousands of Americans each year and slash the GDP by more than 10 percent by 2100.

President Donald Trump, who is fixated on fossil fuels, dismissed his own government's report by saying "I don't believe it."

"People are going to die if we don't start addressing climate change ASAP. It's not enough to think it's 'important.' We must make it urgent," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted after the report's release. "That's why we need a Select Committee on a Green New Deal, & why fossil fuel-funded officials shouldn't be writing climate change policy."

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Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

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