Progressives say dire climate reports point to need for ‘Green New Deal’

Progressive House lawmakers are pointing to last week’s damning climate report as proof that Democrats next year must create a new special committee focused solely on finding a solution to warming temperatures.

Supporters of the Green New Deal — an idea to create a committee that would aim to get the country to 100 percent renewable energy within 10 years — are hoping the dire report issued by the Trump administration will ease party infighting and get skeptical Democratic members on board.

“If anything these reports signify how much this special committee is needed,” said Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezThe Memo: Dangers loom for Trump on immigration Students retreating from politics as campuses become progressive playgrounds Former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota MORE (D-N.Y.).

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Ocasio-Cortez timed the proposal for the committee with a sit-in earlier this month at the office of House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Is there internet life after thirty? Pelosi says Dems 'have to be ready to throw a punch — for the children' in 2020 MORE (D-Calif.), the likely Speaker next year. She argued that the reinstitution of the old House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming that ran from 2007 to 2011 — suggested earlier this month by Pelosi — needed to have a stronger focus.

Fifteen lawmakers currently support establishing the special committee, which would work outside the House Energy and Commerce and Science and Natural Resources committees and have its own authority to write and pass legislation.

Ocasio-Cortez’s allies think the Fourth National Climate Assessment, released by the Trump administration the day after Thanksgiving, could push the Democratic party into their corner.

“I think it will catalyze political action nationally and in Congress,” said Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinHouse panel investigating decision to resume federal executions Pelosi, allies seek to keep gun debate focused on McConnell Pelosi backers feel vindicated after tumultuous stretch MORE (D-Md.).

When asked if the report would help his colleagues back the Green New Deal, Rep.-elect Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NeguseBig Tech has big credibility gap Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing Democrats mark World Refugee Day MORE (D-Colo.) said, “I hope it does.”

“I hope it pushes every American to recognize just how much of an existential threat climate change really is and the need for a comprehensive set of policy solutions that I think ultimately are large enough in scale to deal with this planetary crisis that is outlined in the report.”

The congressionally-mandated report forecast grave impacts from climate change across the nation and on the U.S. economy. It estimated that by 2100, climate could cause billions of dollars of lost economic activity and thousands of lives each year.

Democrats who want to convene a Green New Deal committee say it’s exactly what’s needed to confront such an urgent and daunting threat.

“The Green New Deal is compelling because it is bold in dealing with climate change and it would also create jobs, and it helps link pro-environmental policies with job creation in rural America and places left behind,” said Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaKing incites furor with abortion, rape and incest remarks San Jose mayor proposes mandatory liability insurance for gun owners Democrats give cold shoulder to Warren wealth tax MORE (D-Calif.).

Members supporting the special committee hope the dire report will make clear the need to tackle climate change on a number of fronts — and by a number of committees.

They say they are looking to the 2006 committee led by former Rep. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMoulton drops out of presidential race after struggling to gain traction Joseph Kennedy mulling primary challenge to Markey in Massachusetts Overnight Energy: Trump sparks new fight over endangered species protections | States sue over repeal of Obama power plant rules | Interior changes rules for ethics watchdogs MORE (D-Mass.) — now one of his state’s two senators — for inspiration.

“What you had there was a new select committee that had the urgency and the ability to message and get testimony and get the attention of the American public but it was done with great respect to the jurisdiction of the other committees,” said Khanna.

But top Democrats set to take control of key House committees next year remain unmoved.

Those lawmakers agree urgent action must be done on climate, but think their panels can handle the workload.

“I support moving aggressively towards trying to reduce greenhouse gases. I’m just concerned that a select committee becomes a delaying tactic and that it just becomes another layer of bureaucracy that we don’t need,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who is slated to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee, whose responsibilities include overseeing the EPA.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), likely future chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, backs a select committee but doesn’t want it to have legislative power.

“The urgency is there. It shouldn’t take a select committee to point that out. And major legislation is going to be required regardless,” Grijalva said. “Regardless of the select committee or not, we’re going to do what we need to do.”

Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoLawmakers criticize EPA draft rule for curbing rights to challenge pollution permits House Democrats push automakers to rebuff Trump, join California's fuel efficiency deal Overnight Energy: Democrats seek help in appealing to conservatives on climate | Whistleblowers say Interior sidelined scientists | Automakers strike fuel efficiency deal with California in rebuff to Trump MORE (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s environment subcommittee, said he remains worried that another climate panel would interfere with the work members are already eager to get to on their already existing committees.

“The span of climate change reaches across several committees and subcommittees, they should be allowed to do their work and to hold hearings,” Tonko said.

“Many of us have been doing alternative activities like roundtable discussions and various outreach efforts, such as drafting legislation and talking to groups, so that when the appropriate time comes, when we have majority status — which is going to be the case — we can move without delay.”

But environmental groups think the more the merrier when it comes to groups focused on global warming. Many also are skeptical that the existing committees will address the dire reports with as much urgency as necessary.

“I think it’s really a signal the Democrats and anyone in House leadership that this is an issue that needs to be taken seriously, which means proposing solutions that match the scale of the problem. I really see this as a clarion call,” said Janet Redman, climate director at Greenpeace.