The Green New Deal, announced early this year, restarted the national conversation around climate change and created a lot of noise around its viability. What was lost amidst the noise was the public acknowledgement by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), after years of denial, that climate change is real and related to human activity.
Time and again, Senator McConnell has either evaded questions about climate change or suggested that it was not real while making clear that it most certainly was not a priority for him.
In a 2014 interview, the Courier Journal, the newspaper of Louisville, KY, asked McConnell what it would take to convince him that climate change was a problem. His response was clear, “I’m not a scientist, I am interested in protecting Kentucky’s economy, I’m interested in having low cost electricity.”
In a separate interview that same year, McConnell said his job as a senator from Kentucky was “to fight for coal jobs in our state.” He dismissed the threat of climate change, citing columnist George Will’s recollection that scientists in the 1970s had thought we were heading to a new ice age.Given the wave of interest in the Green New Deal in the weeks after it was announced, McConnell broke with his pattern of evasions and denials. He said “I do” when asked if he believed in climate change and human contributions to global warming.
While his primary aim was to attack the Green New Deal, McConnell went on to suggest how we should begin to address the problem: “through technology and innovation”. While that may be frustratingly too-late music to the ears of American renewable energy companies, it is significant progress that brings us a step closer to having real policy debates about how to deal with the problem at the federal level.
The American Leader does not report on just any policy proposal on Capitol Hill. Too many are proposed with no hope of passage. But passage is not the only way to have impact, as the Green New Deal has made clear. Whatever its merits as a policy solution, it has already made a difference. It is that rare initiative of thought and expression that has altered the balance in Washington on the climate issue.