In an hour-long MSNBC town hall in the Bronx Friday night, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined youth climate leaders and policy experts to declare that leisurely committee hearings, "half-baked" positions, and timid market-based policy tweaks are no longer tolerable in the face of the planet-wide climate crisis.
"The initial response was, 'Let the market handle it. They will do it.' Forty years and free-market solutions have not changed our position."
—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
A comprehensive Green New Deal, said the New York congresswoman, is the only solution that truly matches the scale of "our greatest existential threat."
"This is urgent, and to think that we have time is such a privileged and removed-from-reality attitude that we cannot tolerate," Ocasio-Cortez told a packed auditorium at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
"Historically speaking we have mobilized our entire economy around war. But I thought to myself: It doesn't have to be that way," she added. "And so to get us out of this situation, to revamp our economy, to create dignified jobs for working Americans, to guarantee healthcare and elevate our educational opportunity and attainment, we will have to mobilize our entire economy around saving ourselves and taking care of this planet."
In just a few months, the persistent activism of youth climate leaders with the Sunrise Movement and members of Congress like Ocasio-Cortez has catapulted the Green New Deal into the mainstream political conversation.
Previously a fringe left-wing idea, a Green New Deal resolution—introduced by Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)—now has over 90 Democratic co-sponsors in the House and 12 in the Senate.
According to one survey, 81 percent of Americans support the idea, which calls for the U.S. to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 through a mass mobilization of economic resources.
At the town hall Friday evening, Ocasio-Cortez said she was there to make the case for the Green New Deal to the U.S. public, not to her fellow lawmakers.
"This is not a partisan issue, because there are Democrats who will get in the way of us saving ourselves," said the congresswoman. "We encourage everyone here to look it up. I'm here not to convince my colleagues, but the electorate."
"If the electorate prioritizes it and overwhelmingly supports it, then we create the political room to pass it," Ocasio-Cortez added.
The New York congresswoman's urgent call for a Green New Deal comes just days after Senate Republicans rushed a vote on the resolution in a blatant effort to divide the Democratic caucus. The attempt largely failed, with nearly every Democrat voting "present" to rebuff the GOP's ploy.
Ocasio-Cortez said during Friday's town hall that the time for stunts, inaction, and market-constrained thinking is over. Amid record flooding, heat, wildfires, and air pollution throughout the nation and the world, bold action is badly needed to rescue the planet from catastrophe.
"The one thing we cannot rebuke and the one thing we cannot deny is climate change is a problem of market failures," said Ocasio-Cortez.
"Exxon Mobil knew that climate change was real and man-made starting as far back as 1970," she added. "The entire United States government knew that climate change was real and human-caused in 1989. The initial response was, 'Let the market handle it. They will do it.' Forty years and free-market solutions have not changed our position."
— All In w/Chris Hayes (@allinwithchris) March 30, 2019
Ocasio-Cortez made clear that the climate crisis is not merely an environmental problem, but one that touches all segments of society and disproportionately harms marginalized communities.
To confront such an all-encompassing crisis, she argued, ambitious solutions are necessary.
"We're looking at all of these issues: Medicare for All, a living wage, tuition-free public colleges and universities," said Ocasio-Cortez. "And there's this false idea that we need to put them all in a line and say, 'Do this, or do that. Do you care about healthcare, or do you care about the economy or jobs?' And then I started to realize that these are not different problems; these are all part of the same problem."
Watch a web-exclusive segment of the town hall, featuring Ocasio-Cortez, Varshini Prakash of the Sunrise Movement, Waleed Shahid of Justice Democrats, and Sara Nelson of the Association of Flight Attendants: