Government

Sanders & Ocasio-Cortez: Cost of inaction on climate exceeds policy costs

Bernie Sanders addresses supporters Saturday night at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Bernie Sanders addresses supporters Saturday night at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — The consequences of inaction are far more severe than the costs of prevention with climate change, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Saturday in Iowa.

Sanders’ Democratic presidential campaign hosted a “climate summit” with the New York Congresswoman on the Drake University campus. More than 2,000 people attended the event, one day after a similar event drew more than 2,400 in Council Bluffs, the campaign said.

Alluding to questions faced by proponents of climate change policies about their cost, both Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez said the costs of inaction are far greater.

“They say a ‘Green New Deal’ is expensive. And they’re right. It is: $16 trillion over a 10-year period,” Sanders said. “But I want you to tell me: What is the alternative in terms of saving the planet?”

Scientists say Earth’s temperatures are rising in large part because of human activity, especially related to fossil fuels and the release of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Sanders’ policy proposals for addressing climate change include reaching 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030 and a carbon-free economy by 2050, guaranteeing salary and other assistance for fossil fuel industry workers displaced by the shift, creating 20 million climate-related new jobs, and investing in ecologically regenerative and sustainable agriculture, among other elements, according to the campaign.

The Sanders campaign says the plan would pay for itself over time on several fronts: taxes, fees and litigation on the fossil fuel industry, new tax revenue from new jobs created, taxes on wealthy individuals and large corporations, and reduced military spending because of a reduced need for foreign oil.

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“When it comes to a ‘Green New Deal,’ people say, always, always, always with this question of how are you going to pay for it. As though we’re not paying for it now,” said Ocasio-Cortez, who has endorsed Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary. “As though the Midwest wasn’t under water this year. As though 3,000 Americans didn’t die in Puerto Rico in Hurricane Maria. As though Hurricane Katrina didn’t happen. As though sea levels aren’t rising. As though California isn’t on fire. How do we pay for that?”

Sanders criticized Republican president Donald Trump for repeatedly denying the scientific consensus of climate change and for withdrawing the U.S. from global leadership on the issue.

“We have an unprecedented global crisis, and the leadership of the United States of America should not be denying that reality. It should be bringing the entire world together to address it,” Sanders said.

Sanders also said the U.S. should lead a global effort to reduce military spending and invest in climate policies.

“We need global leadership coming from the United States of America that says to Russia and China and Pakistan and India and Brazil and countries all over the world that instead of spending fortunes trying to kill each other, we need to pool our resources to fight our common enemy, which is climate change,” Sanders said.

A spokeswoman for the national Republican Party suggested Sanders’ climate policies will not resonate in Iowa, where agriculture is a major industry.

“We could talk about how Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will drive caucusgoers away with their plans to decimate Iowa’s economy, destroy the jobs of the Iowan worker, and derail the state’s ag industry as we know it. But we’ll let them share their socialist pipe dream as it further solidifies Iowa’s support for President Trump and Republicans across the state,” national Republican party spokeswoman Preya Samundar said in a statement.

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