Democratic presidential candidate Robert "Beto" O'Rourke has finally revealed his first concrete policy proposal of the 2020 primary bid, and it's a plan to address global warming with a whopping $5 trillion price tag.
The sweeping environmental plan, which was announced Monday and is hosted on O'Rourke's campaign website, calls for a four-pillar framework of cutting pollution and executive action, a massive infrastructure investment, reaching net-zero carbon emissions nationwide by 2050, and preemptive measures for communities expected to face "extreme weather."
"The greatest threat we face — which will test our country, our democracy, every single one of us — is climate change," reads a statement that accompanied the policy outline. "We have one last chance to unleash the ingenuity and political will of hundreds of millions of Americans to meet this moment before it's too late."
The first portion of the plan includes the United States re-entering the Paris climate accord, addressing methane leakage in the energy industry, increasing efficiency regulations for buildings and appliances, and increasing regulations on power plants.
The infrastructure portion would spend trillions on efforts to "accelerate the scale up of nascent technologies enabling reductions in greenhouse gas emissions," on research and development on green technology, and on public grants for things like public housing and public transportation.
Part three promises that as president, O'Rourke would work with Congress to pass a legally enforceable standard to reduce carbon emissions in his first 100 days. Part four lays out plans to increase natural disaster spending and change federal disaster responses to "to make sure that we build back stronger after every disaster."
"The costs of climate change will measure in the tens of trillions of dollars, in lives lost, and livelihoods devastated and destroyed," reads the introduction section. "We are the first generation to feel the climate crisis, and the last generation with the ability to avert its worst impacts."
The $5 trillion cost may seem a bargain compared to the estimated $93 trillion price tag on the Green New Deal proposal put out by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), but keep in mind that the GND was an aspirational resolution, not actual policy proposal legislation right now. The estimate comes from the widely mocked supporting documents for the resolution rollout.
But in real terms, the proposed cost (which is an estimated total drawn up by O'Rourke's campaign) is less than a cool trillion south of the total estimated cost of our post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — that started almost 20 years ago.
But that's still not enough for some climate activists. The Sunrise Movement, a far-left environmental group, has criticized O'Rourke's proposal for being too weak on carbon emissions and walking back more extreme promises that he already made.
"We're glad to see Beto release a climate plan as his first policy and commit to making it a day one priority for his administration," reads a statement from Sunrise Executive Director Varshini Prakash, who says that the plan is "out of line" with the emissions timeline laid out in the Green New Deal.
Sunrise Movement Statement in Response to @BetoORourke's Climate Plan: Thread: https://t.co/VzN9Uz6pz5— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅) 1556556627.0
O'Rourke touted the "historic" climate change proposal at a campaign stop in Yosemite National Park, which he chronicled on Twitter.
Heading into Yosemite National Park to talk about our historic climate action plan. Follow along throughout the day… https://t.co/poLQKPnUM2— Beto O'Rourke (@Beto O'Rourke) 1556548160.0
Big thanks to Dr. Anne Kelly and Leslie Martinez for sharing their expertise on climate science and community impac… https://t.co/jvToMauYkK— Beto O'Rourke (@Beto O'Rourke) 1556554910.0