Dec 24, 2018

Democrats’ left turn on climate change

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats are increasingly embracing a sweeping progressive plan to tackle climate change that includes a massive increase in government programs on everything from job guarantees to health care.

Why it matters: While it's unlikely to become law any time soon, if ever, expect the plan — called the Green New Deal and championed by Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — to permeate the next Congress and 2020 presidential campaign. They don't have a fully detailed plan yet — but their main goal, at least for now, is to change the debate.

The big picture: The trend to embrace more progressive energy and climate policies is part of the Democratic Party’s broader leftward shift over the last decade on various issues, like embracing "Medicare for All" as the next step in health care beyond the Affordable Care Act. Republicans, meanwhile, have moved further to the right and largely rejected climate change as an issue.

Driving the news: Some three dozen Democratic lawmakers, including potential presidential candidates Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and billionaire activist Tom Steyer, back the plan and the creation of a special congressional committee in the next Congress to flesh out details.

Virtually all of this support has come since Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive and self-described democratic socialist, participated in a mid-November rally in the office of incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The event was organized by the youth-led Sunrise Movement, which backed Ocasio-Cortez in her surprise primary victory over Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley.

“It definitely shows there is an appetite among Democrats for progressive policies that are bold and visionary, which is a departure from a lot of what Democrats have been running on for the last several years.”
— Stephen O'Hanlon, spokesman for Sunrise Movement

The details: Ahead of any actual legislating, the Green New Deal is mostly a catchy slogan, largely unknown by the public, which represents broad progressive policies. What details are available are outlined on Ocasio-Cortez’s election website:

  • An eventual goal of 100% of electricity coming from renewable energy, a controversial proposition. Right now, such sources make up just 17% of the nation’s power mix, with nearly half of that coming from hydropower.
  • A guarantee of federal jobs for those working in the transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources.
  • Federal programs guaranteeing basic income and universal health care. While health care has little to do with energy and climate, the outline says it would help "promote economic security, labor market flexibility and entrepreneurism."
  • There’s no price tag on the plan yet, but the outline says it would be paid for by a combination of the Federal Reserve and a collection of even more unprecedented funding sources, including a new public bank. A tax on carbon emissions could be one way to raise revenue, says Ocasio-Cortez spokesman Corbin Trent.

Between the lines: The Green New Deal represents one of the largest proposed expansions of government in decades, on the level of President Franklin Roosevelt’s original New Deal during the Great Depression, World War II and the interstate highway system — three models cited by backers of the policy.

  • The policy’s various parts, as articulated on Ocasio-Cortez’s website, must be advanced altogether, her spokesman says.
  • “This is not a piecemeal solution. This is economic mobilization we’re driving for,” Trent said. “One of the things I fear, is that if we didn’t already have an interstate highway, our current government would be unable to deliver on such a big problem."

The backstory: 2019 marks a decade since Democrats last tried big climate policy on Capitol Hill. Back then, with control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, Democrats pursued a market-based policy where companies could trade permits of carbon dioxide to comply with an overall cap on emissions in a system called cap-and-trade.

That policy is far more flexible — and less ambitious — than what the Green New Deal would likely be.

  • Some big oil companies and utilities backed the cap-and-trade bill, which narrowly passed the House.
  • Democrats couldn’t get enough support for it — even among some in its own party — in the Senate, and the effort died the next year.

The other side: Progressive support for the Green New Deal is growing significantly while other, more bipartisan, efforts on carbon taxes move along more slowly and with less rhetorical firepower.

A Green New Deal is unlikely to get any Republican support, and probably won't get even a majority support in the Democratic caucus. It’s also dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate.

  • Tom Pyle, who runs a conservative advocacy group American Energy Alliance, says the plan is more a shift in messaging than actual policy in response to what he describes as the left's failure to advance climate change policy through other efforts, such as carbon taxes and fossil-fuel infrastructure protests.

The bottom line: For now this isn’t about passing legislation in the upcoming Congress. It’s largely about changing the narrative to make climate change a 2020 issue as Democrats attempt to wrestle back the White House from Trump.

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U.S. coronavirus updates: Infections number tops 140,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The novel coronavirus has now infected over 142,000 people in the U.S. — more than any other country in the world, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: COVID-19 had killed over 2,400 people in the U.S. by Sunday night. That's far fewer than in Italy, where over 10,000 people have died — accounting for a third of the global death toll. The number of people who've recovered from the virus in the U.S. exceeded 2,600 Sunday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 16 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 721,584 — Total deaths: 33,958 — Total recoveries: 149,122.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 142,106 — Total deaths: 2,479 — Total recoveries: 2,686.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump says his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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World coronavirus updates: Cases surge past 720,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now more than 720,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 33,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Health