U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old Democrat from the Bronx, is surely the most dangerous elected official now in office. You know she is because the conservative media has been relentless in its efforts to lampoon her. If she were to succeed in passing the Green New Deal, which she proposed as a congressional resolution on Feb. 7, she would overturn the fossil-fuel economy that the right has, for decades, protected at all costs.
The conservative media knows that the fossil-fuel industry, around which the fortunes of many on the right have been made, is fading. Coal, oil and natural gas reserves have, since the 1970s, become increasingly difficult to extract from the Earth. People are slowly but surely awakening to what is proven scientific fact — that sending untold amounts of carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor into our fragile atmosphere is altering the climate, heating it over time, with consequences beyond our control.
Sea level is steadily rising as Antarctic and Greenland ice melts and flows in to the oceans. Rising seas mean that now-dry land will eventually be underwater. We are already seeing the phenomenon in Miami. Hurricanes will become more powerful in a warmer world. It’s already happening. An unusually high number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes have made landfall in recent years — not to mention Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
We know we are altering the world’s geochemistry. We can sense it, feel it. Moreover, the scientific consensus — the majority opinion of the world’s leading climatologists, oceanographers, physicists, chemists, biologists and geologists — tells us so.
The conservative media also knows that we have the answers to solve the climate crisis. Most are contained in the resolution put forth by Ocasio and Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts. We could move away from fossil fuels and toward clean-energy sources — geothermal, solar and wind. We only need the political will.
That’s where Ocasio-Cortez comes in. She’s a millennial. There are a lot of millennials, born between 1982 and 2000 — 83.1 million, to be exact. And they’re really worried about climate change. Seventy percent of 18- to 34-year-olds who took part in a 2018 Gallup poll said they were concerned about global warming. By comparison, there are 75.4 million baby boomers. In the same poll, 56 percent of boomers said they were worried about it.
If Ocasio-Cortez can speak to her generation and mobilize young people to take on global warming as a real political issue, she’ll win. She has the numbers on her side, and as any seasoned politico will tell you, winning an issue is, at the end of the day, all about the numbers.
That’s why Ocasio-Cortez has the right all up in arms, seeking to impugn her reputation and destroy her credibility at every turn. You only need glance at the Fox News website to understand the degree to which she is feared. The network, which long ago abandoned any modicum of neutrality in favor of punditry, actually ran a story — a full-fledged news story — about an 8-year-old girl who mimics and mocks Ocasio-Cortez in a home video, claiming, incorrectly, that the congresswoman believes cows’ farts are the primary cause of climate change. Then the girl, wearing an oversized pair of glasses and a T-shirt with “Dream Big” on front, gives an erroneous mini-lesson on climate change.
“Like, in July the climate was 96 degrees,” the girl says, “and in February the climate was 36 degrees. OMG, that’s like a huge change in the climate in only … four months. Like, at this rate, the world is going to end in exactly 12 years.”
A Twitter user with the handle SickenTirade posted the video, and the Fox headline on the story read, “Ocasio-Cortez impersonator, 8, takes on Green New Deal, socialism in adorable Twitter video.”
Really? Reporting on an 8-year-old who offers only false information? You wonder what Fox will stoop to next. Yes, the strategy is brilliant from an opinion-shaping perspective. The girl is indeed adorable, and no one would dare criticize an 8-year-old.
Here’s the thing: The video, thanks in large part to Fox, has 737,000 views and counting. Presenting it as if it were credible news was a shameless and underhanded way to spread lies about climate change and Ocasio-Cortez.
Methane from livestock is one part of a complex web of global warming causes, but it is only one part. We — Ocasio-Cortez included — know the primary cause: the burning of fossil fuels.
There’s also the question of weather versus climate. The girl — again, yes, adorable — described weather, not climate. Climate is a consistent weather pattern that plays out over years and decades, even centuries, not from one season to the next.
If you’re a millennial — or a Gen-Xer, baby boomer or beyond — for goodness’ sake, read the Green New Deal resolution here. Then make up your own mind. That 8-year-old’s future, in fact, depends on your willingness to act.
Scott Brinton is the Herald Community Newspapers’ executive editor and an adjunct professor at the Hofstra University Herbert School of Communication. Comments about this column? SBrinton@liherald.com.