Last week, a group of teens affiliated with the Sunrise Movement confronted California Senator Dianne Feinstein with a simple question: Will you vote for the Green New Deal resolution?
It was clear from the tone of Feinstein’s response that the six-term senator thought the ambitious strategy — in line with what climate science says is necessary to avert 1.5 degrees C of warming — is too heavy of a political lift. In a response that went viral, Feinstein touted her own proposed climate resolution and emphasized that the kids were too young to vote for her. At one point she said: “I know what I’m doing.”
We need a name for people who don’t have a plan consistent with science, and we need the courage to hold them accountable.
In an Instagram video posted on Sunday evening, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the co-sponsor and chief advocate of the Green New Deal, proposed a term for people like Feinstein: “climate delayer.” Later, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted to say that people who accept climate science but don’t act at the scale that’s necessary to avert the crisis are nearly as bad as those who deny the problem exists in the first place. “With either one if they get their way, we’re toast,” she tweeted.
In some ways, I think “climate delayers” or “climate bystanders” or “climate obstructionists” — whatever your favorite phrase is for these folks — are worse than climate deniers: They understand the problem, yet they’re still not willing to act appropriately. Atmospheric physics doesn’t really care if you have good intentions but lack the political courage to actually address the problem.
It’s time to insist on a survivable world. It’s our job to continually challenge ourselves and each other to do better.