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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Tuesday that Beto O’Rourke’s new climate change plan isn’t aggressive enough, especially when compared with the Green New Deal — but in fact neither are tethered to economic reality or precedent.

Driving the news: Backers of the GND, including the New York Democrat, are pushing a goal of net zero U.S. greenhouse gas emissions as soon as 2030. The new plan by O’Rourke, one of numerous Democratic presidential hopefuls, calls for that by 2050.

Reality check: Those plans would require a revolutionary level of political, economic and technological change to occur in an amount of time that's unprecedented in American history.

The big picture: Oil, natural gas and coal make up a little more than 80% of America’s energy consumption. These fossil fuels emit the lion's share of GHG emissions, so they either need to be eliminated or their emissions need to be captured to reach the progressives' goals.

  • AOC and other backers of aggressive climate change action say unprecedented, transformative change is exactly what’s needed and that it’s political stonewalling, led by Republicans and industry, that’s stopping America from such a big transformation.

One metric to gauge reducing carbon dioxide emissions is the rate of decarbonization of the U.S. economy. That’s a reduction in the ratio of CO2 emissions to GDP.

  • Roger Pielke Jr., a University of Colorado environmental studies professor, did some quick math to assess what emission reduction targets would be required for O’Rourke’s plan and the GND, pushed by the Sunrise Movement group.

By the numbers, per Pielke:

  • The GND (targeting 2030) would need an annual 27% decarbonization rate while O'Rourke's plan (aiming for 2050) would need an annual 11% decarbonization rate, he tells Axios.
  • Yes, but: The annual average rate of decarbonization in the U.S. from 1992 to 2018 was only 2.4% — and the estimated rate of decarbonization in 2018 is 0%.
  • Of note: Pielke's analysis is based off data and projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and Congressional Budget Office.

Where it stands: O’Rourke’s plan is arguably more detailed than the Green New Deal, whose backers say a more detailed plan is set for early next year.

  • Several major elements of O’Rourke’s plan would require new legislation on Capitol Hill, including its call for a "legally enforceable" standard for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, Ben wrote Monday.
  • The reliance on Capitol Hill for key elements heavily clouds its prospects due to widespread GOP resistance to aggressive emissions policies.

What we’re watching: To what extent other Democratic candidates, especially Joe Biden, seek to chase these lofty targets (or not, as Ben suggested Tuesday).

Go deeper: Democrats’ left turn on climate change

Go deeper

N.Y. Times faces culture clashes as business booms

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New York Times columnist David Brooks' resignation from a paid gig at a think tank on Saturday is the latest in a flurry of scandals that America's biggest and most successful newspaper company has endured in the past year.

Driving the news: Brooks resigned from the Aspen Institute following a BuzzFeed News investigation that uncovered conflicts of interest between his reporting and money he accepted from corporate donors for a project called "Weave" that he worked on at the nonprofit.

America rebalances its post-Trump news diet

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Nearly halfway through President Biden's first 100 days, data shows that Americans are learning to wean themselves off of news — and especially politics.

Why it matters: The departure of former President Trump's once-ubiquitous presence in the news cycle has reoriented the country's attention.

2021 sees a record number of bills targeting trans youth

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Republicans in at least 25 states have introduced over 60 bills targeting transgender children — a legislative boom since January that has beaten 2020's total number of anti-trans bills.

Why it matters: LGBTQ advocates say the unprecedented push was catalyzed by backlash to Biden's election and the Supreme Court ruling that workers cannot be fired for being gay or transgender.