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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is the Climate Change Hardliner the Planet Needs

Ocasio-Cortez upset the NY-14 primary with a progressive agenda that included transitioning the US to renewables by 2035.
Image: Getty Images

Progressive challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th district (Bronx/Queens) on Tuesday, beating out her incumbent opponent Joe Crowley, who has been a member of Congress since 1999. The victory was a surprising upset and a key victory for progressives, who are eager to pull the Democratic Party left in spite of hand-wringing from its current moderate leadership.


“This is the start of a movement,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in response to her win. “Thank you all.”

Ocasio-Cortez, who is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and campaigned for Bernie Sanders in 2016, ran on a democratic socialist platform of Medicare-for-all, tuition-free college, and the abolition of ICE. But she also made climate change a central part of her agenda, calling the issue “the single biggest national security threat for the United States and the single biggest threat to worldwide industrialized civilization” on her campaign website.

Cleverly branding her plan to confront climate change as “a Green New Deal,” Ocasio-Cortez set an ambitious goal to fully transition the United States to renewable energy sources by 2035. Crucially, she spotlighted the economic and social justice impacts of climate change, and warned of the “worldwide refugee crisis” that will result from continuing to marginalize the issue.

“Right now, the economy is controlled by big corporations whose profits are dependent on the continuation of climate change,” her platform reads. “This arrangement benefits few, but comes at the detriment of our planet and all its inhabitants.”

Read More: Scott Pruitt Has Until July 11 to Explain His Climate Skepticism, Judge Rules

This full-throated support for real action on climate change is informed by Ocasio-Cortez’s past as a talented STEM student and advocate. In high school, she won second place at the prestigious Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which is the largest pre-college scientific event in the world. As a result, MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory named an asteroid after her (23238 Ocasio-Cortez).


Her science acumen has attracted the attention and support of leading scientists. Meteorologist and commentator Eric Holthaus described her as “the only American politician I've ever seen with a climate change plan that is in line with intergenerational justice” in a tweet posted Tuesday.

Given that the Trump administration and the GOP-led Congress indulge flagrantly inaccurate views about climate change, it would be refreshing to see a true climate hawk in the House.

Correction: A previous version of this article described Ocasio-Cortez's platform as liberal. She ran on a democratic socialist platform. Motherboard regrets the error.

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