The resolution also suggests that a Green New Deal is now a centerpiece climate policy for the Democratic Party. Because Markey led the last push to pass emissions-cutting legislation, his endorsement of this resolution signaled “a passing of the torch,” says Greg Carlock, a policy adviser to the leftist group Data for Progress and an early supporter of the Green New Deal.
“Millennials have been hearing for 20 years” that climate change would be an issue for their generation to deal with, he told me. “And I would say, thanks, we’re here now. This is us taking over the issue that, decades ago, people said would be ours to deal with. This is what the next generation of the issue looks like.”
“The world right now is watching what a bunch of American Millennials do in Congress,” he added.
The Green New Deal approach is already notably different from paths taken by other countries. For years, economists have advocated for a carbon tax, a type of tax meant to factor the dangerous costs of heat-trapping emissions into the price of goods. While eventual Green New Deal legislation could involve a small carbon price, Ocasio-Cortez seemed to reject the wholesale approach in remarks. She instead cast climate policy as a sort of mega-infrastructure bill.
“This is an investment,” she said. “For every dollar we spend on infrastructure, we get more than a dollar back for that investment. For every dollar we collect in taxes, we get less than a dollar back.”
This resolution also marks the first step in fights over the Green New Deal to come. Its main text does not weigh in on divisive questions about the use of nuclear energy, a power-generation technology that does not emit carbon dioxide, or carbon capture and storage, a still-fledgling technology that could suck CO2 out of smokestack fumes or the atmosphere. “We are open to whatever works,” Markey said Thursday.
Read: The new politics of climate change
The left might not be as amenable. Many environmental-justice groups worry that carbon-capture technology will allow fossil-fuel plants to keep polluting their neighborhoods. Yet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that the world can keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius only by deploying carbon capture.
This can make for difficult politics. On Thursday morning, Ocasio-Cortez’s office published an FAQ about a Green New Deal that seemed to oppose carbon capture specifically. “We believe the right way to capture carbon is to plant trees and restore our natural ecosystems,” it read. By late afternoon, the FAQ had vanished from the congresswoman’s website.
Many progressives would consider themselves lucky if they ever get to talk seriously about carbon-capture policy. For now, they have the same goal: making its mix of climate and labor policy as much a part of the mainstream Democratic agenda as health care is.
“The Green New Deal is kind of like the Cardi B of American politics right now,” Julian NoiseCat, an activist at the climate group 350.org, told me. “It’s fresh. It knows its roots in hardworking communities. And it’s really tapped into the culture in a different way from old approaches.”
“And like Cardi B,” he added, “I personally hope it sticks around for a while.”