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'Are You Kidding Me?' Outrage as Democrats Push 'Incremental Steps' Over Bold Agenda Needed to Save Planet from Climate Catastrophe

"Gradualism is fundamentally incompatible with protecting civilization and the natural world. It's pathetic that the Democrats are continuing to pursue this approach."

"The first and most important things Democrats should do is stop feeding the beast that's gotten us in this climate mess," David Turnbull, strategic communications director at Oil Change International, told Common Dreams.

"The first and most important things Democrats should do is stop feeding the beast that's gotten us in this climate mess," David Turnbull, strategic communications director at Oil Change International, told Common Dreams. (Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Hundreds of mammal species have been wiped out due to human activity, planetary warming has sparked a "bugpocalypse" that is horrifying scientists, and United Nations experts are warning that the international community has just 12 years to transform global energy systems in order to avert climate catastrophe—but House Democrats are reportedly brushing aside widespread demands for urgent action in favor of "more incremental steps and hearings."

"Dems make chicken-shit (and out-dated) short-game political calculations while the worst planetary crisis humanity has ever faced accelerates."
—Alex Steffen

"Democrats are unlikely to pursue major climate change legislation if they win the House majority, despite a growing body of evidence suggesting time is running out to address the issue," The Hill reported on Wednesday, citing House members who believe a piecemeal approach to climate policy will be more "pragmatic" in the face of GOP and White House denialism.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), co-chair of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, told The Hill that if Democrats retake the House in next month's midterms, they will "focus on the practical and the opportunistic" steps available while vaguely keeping in mind "the aspirational goals."

Environmentalists were quick to make clear that such a passive approach is unacceptable—and tantamount to climate denial—given that humanity has just a dozen years to enact fundamental changes to the world economy and energy production before the climate crisis inflicts catastrophic and irreversible damage.

While The Hill titled its news story, "Dems damp down hope for climate change agenda," author and climate activist Alex Steffen argued a more appropriate and accurate headline would have been: "Dems make chicken-shit (and out-dated) short-game political calculations while the worst planetary crisis humanity has ever faced accelerates."

In an email to Common Dreams, Margaret Klein Salamon, founder and director of The Climate Mobilization, added, "Gradualism is fundamentally incompatible with protecting civilization and the natural world. It's pathetic that the Democrats are continuing to pursue this approach."

The sentiment that the Democratic Party's business-as-usual incrementalism is simply not going to cut it in the fight against the human-caused climate crisis was echoed by author and environmentalist Naomi Klein, who offered a one-line, all-caps response to House Democrats' reported plans: "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?"

But while establishment Democrats indicate that they are ill-prepared to fight for the kinds of policies that are necessary to rapidly reduce carbon emissions, environmentalists said reasons for hope can be found in the young and growing progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

"Thankfully," said Salamon of The Climate Mobilization, "there is a bright spot in Congress: [New York congressional candidate] Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and her fellow Justice Democrats."

Any climate plan that doesn't stand up to the fossil industry and address the massive fossil fuel production the Trump administration is pushing would be incomplete at best, a wasteful distraction at worst."
—David Turnbull, Oil Change International

"Ocasio Cortez acknowledges the climate crisis as an existential threat demanding a WWII scale mobilization," Salamon told Common Dreams. "She understands the need to dedicate everything we have to the mission; to spend without limit to protect as much life as possible. This is such a fundamentally different approach from the mainstream Democrats, and so much more inspiring and heroic, I think its going to send a shockwave through Congress and win tremendous popular support."

Julian NoiseCat of 350 Action expressed a similar hope in a statement to Common Dreams, noting that the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report earlier this month—which warned that humanity must cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 to avoid the worst of the climate crisis—"shows that incremental steps to climate change are not an option."

"We have a little over a decade to shift our economy to clean energy. But that's also an opportunity: an opportunity to put millions of Americans to work in good, green, union jobs supporting families and creating prosperous communities," NoiseCat noted. "We are excited to work with ambitious progressives in Congress who understand the enormity of this moment and opportunity."

In addition to being absolutely necessary for the survival of the planet, recent polls have shown an ambitious climate agenda would be electorally beneficial for Democrats, who are favored to take back the House—and a longshot to take the Senate—in next month's midterm elections.

According to a Pew Research survey released earlier this week, 72 percent of Democratic voters view climate change as a "very big" problem, and research by the progressive polling shop Data for Progress found that Democratic voters enthusiastically support an agenda of green jobs and a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

"The first and most important things Democrats should do is stop feeding the beast that's gotten us in this climate mess," David Turnbull, strategic communications director at Oil Change International, told Common Dreams. "That means ending fossil fuel subsidies and starting a managed and just decline of fossil fuel production in our country."

As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), among the lawmakers in Congress who has called for a bold and rapid transition away from oil, coal, and gas, declared earlier this month in the wake of the IPCC report:

"Any climate plan that doesn't stand up to the fossil industry and address the massive fossil fuel production the Trump administration is pushing would be incomplete at best, a wasteful distraction at worst," Turnbull concluded. "In the context of ever worsening predictions, we need bold leadership, not half measures."

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