Climate change advocate says viral exchange with Feinstein shows 'urgency' of issue

The leader of a group of young activists who confronted Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSanders revokes congressional endorsement for Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur Sanders endorses Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur for Katie Hill's former House seat Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political' MORE (D-Calif.) about supporting the Green New Deal said Wednesday that she was “shocked” by the viral exchange and said the group “truly feels” that the battle over climate change is a matter of “life or death.”

“I have to say I was a little bit shocked when I saw the video for the first time in particular,” Varshini Prakash, the co-founder and executive director of national climate group Sunrise Movement, told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on “Rising.”

“We have so many politicians in office today that are largely out of touch with the level of urgency that are our generation feels about this crisis and we feel, truly like its a matter of life and death,” Prakash added.

Prakash’s comments come after a heated exchange between young climate change protesters and Feinstein was caught on video. A group of middle and high schoolers confronted the California senator asking her to support the Green New Deal that was recently introduced to Congress.

Feinstein appeared to dismiss the kids, saying that she has been in Congress for 30 years and knows what she’s doing but supports her own climate change legislation.

The Sunrise Movement, which now has more than 140 chapters across the country, was started in 2017 to “galvanize” young people of all ages to work on stopping climate change and address the growing frustration among many young people over climate change inaction on a federal level, Prakash said.

“Our generation does feel frustrated that we have seen for 40 years our politicians taking money from oil and gas executives and not taking the action that is commiserate with what U.N. climate scientists are telling us is necessary,” she told Hill.TV.

The United Nations last year issued a landmark study on worldwide climate change.

The federal report, which was commissioned in 2015 as part of the Paris climate agreement, issued several dire warnings about the growing impact of climate change, including the need to dramatically cut gas emissions by 2030 or face grave consequences to both the environment and the economy.

The Trump administration later distanced itself from the federal report. When questioned about the potentially devastating impact, the president told reporters “I don’t believe it.”

Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on climate change, even at one point referring to it as a “hoax.”

But Prakash emphasized that there’s growing support for more government action on climate change on both sides of the aisle.

According to a 2018 survey, more than 90 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans back the Green New Deal plan, which calls for eliminating America's net carbon emissions within a decade. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez to hold campaign rallies in Los Angeles, Las Vegas Overwhelming majority say social media companies have too much influence: poll MORE (N.Y.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyUS must act as journalists continue to be jailed in record numbers Warren proposes 'Blue New Deal' to protect oceans There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down MORE (D-Mass.) introduced the Green New Deal to Congress earlier this month. The proposal has divided Democrats, some of whom call it unrealistic. 

Prakash said that she’s not entirely sure what’s possible when it comes to addressing climate change on a federal level, but she insisted that she knows “what is necessary,” and right now she said the Green New Deal is the only legislation on the table that offers a potential solution.

“I know right now that the Green New Deal resolution is the only solution on the table that meets the scale and scope of the crisis as it exists,” she told Hill.TV.

 —Tess Bonn