WASHINGTON — Rep. Raúl Grijalva is on board with young House Democrats pushing for a “Green New Deal” to combat climate change.
At a hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday, the Arizona Democrat and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee defended his younger colleagues after a Republican accused them of naiveté in their demands for ambitious action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
“As an old timer, I happen to agree with what some of our colleagues are saying here today and some of our witnesses have said today,” said Grijalva, 70. “I don’t know if that puts me out of step with my age group, but I would suggest that the vast majority of Americans feel the way I do.”
Grijalva’s comments came after 64-year-old Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) suggested that younger Democrats could be excused for backing a a climate change plan that’s “simply not going to work.”
The general thrust of a Green New Deal — fighting climate change by transitioning the U.S. energy sector away from fossil fuels while boosting jobs in clean-energy technologies — has been embraced by a range of Democrats, including House freshmen and presidential candidates.
One of its most vocal supporters is 29-year-old Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who is expected to soon unveil formal legislation.
“You only have to be 25 years old to be a member of Congress, and we have young people that bring a lot of great qualities, but maybe they don’t bring a lot of life experience,” Lamborn said Wednesday. “I guess I can understand if someone has not a lot of life experience and they’re proposing something that’s extremely unrealistic — well, impossible.”
He can’t understand how “adults and grownups, who are more mature,” would also be advocating for the plan, he said.
“I see that with some of the presidential contenders who are throwing their names out there. They’re plugging for something that is literally impossible.”
Democratic presidential hopefuls including Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and others have also backed the idea.
The Natural Resources panel was one of two House committees to hold climate change hearings on Wednesday. They marked the first House hearings on the topic since Republicans took control of the chamber in 2010. Democrats have pledged to shine a spotlight on the issue after winning back the chamber in November.
Grijalva declared that, under his control, the committee will “turn the page” from “climate change denial to climate action.”
He accused the Trump administration of choosing to “mock science” and “mislead the public” on the impacts of global warming, while expanding fossil fuel production on public lands and rolling back protections for air and water.
“Climate change is an urgent problem, it demands urgent action and an urgent sense of purpose from Congress,” he said.
The committee has scheduled six climate change hearings for this month.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the committee’s ranking member, joked about Grijalva having picked February as the month of climate change action.
“I appreciate the fact that you picked the shortest month of the year to do that,” Bishop said.