Warning: Ignore Youth Climate Leaders at Your Own Risk

Recently, Dianne Feinstein, the 85-year-old California Senator, went viral in a video clip that showed her speaking down to a group of young climate activists who stopped by her office to ask for her support for the Green New Deal. “I know what I’m doing,” she told the children, some of who were as young as eight years old. “Been doing this for 30 years.”

For the sake of full transparency, the clip that went viral omits the portion of the video where Feinstein offers one of the students an internship in her office. Still, As journalist Kate Aranoff wrote in a recent Medium post, when it comes to climate, the way we’ve “been doing” it for 30 years is exactly what got us into this mess.

“There’s an inspiring new slogan gaining traction among venerated pundits and politicians of a certain age that claim steadfast commitment to the cause of curbing catastrophic climate change,” Aranoff writes in the Medium post. “Get off my lawn.”

She goes on to name a slew of other seasoned policymakers and writers who have made dismissive or condescending statements towards the ambitious Green New Deal program, recently introduced as legislation by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to the bill as the “green dream or whatever.”

Former Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen said it was simply “too expensive”

New York Times columnist Gail Collins suggested the young advocates dampen their ambitions and focus on “one really important climate-control thought.”

“None of these figures deny climate change in the conventional sense of spouting junk science from rightwing thinktanks,” Aranoff notes. “But none have proposed a workable alternative to the economy-wide mobilization the Green New Deal sets out to accomplish, to rapidly electrify the American economy and reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.”

The deal being promoted by young climate activists, in other words, “remains the only idea on the table even remotely approaching the “wartime footing” climate scientists are increasingly insistent is necessary to avert catastrophe.”

For this reason, who better to listen to than the people who will be forced to live with the consequences of our inaction for the past 30 years? What is now “realistic” or “feasible” with respect to climate, Aranoff notes, is different than what it was even a decade ago, when a carbon tax, alone, may have avoided the worst of what’s to come.

“Thankfully, Sunrise, Ocasio-Cortez and other Green New Deal advocates are updating our shared definition of what being realistic in a climate-changed 21st century looks like. The adults in the room would do well to listen.”

Read Aranoff’s full piece here.