Former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday pushed back against criticism from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez following a report that he planned to seek a "middle ground" solution to climate change.
"No middle ground," Ocasio-Cortez, 29, said at an event promoting the Green New Deal in Washington on Monday. The freshman Democrat from New York was addressing "conservatives on both sides of the aisle" who say her climate change proposal is too extreme or radical. And the youngest woman ever elected to Congress bemoaned the inaction of lawmakers who were warned 30 years ago about the potential impacts of global warming.
"I will be damned if the same politicians who refused to act then are going to try to come back today and say, 'We need a middle-of-the-road approach to save our lives," she said.
On Friday, Reuters published a report that said Biden was working on a plan to address climate change that "will appeal to both environmentalists and the blue-collar voters who elected Donald Trump."
Heather Zichal, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, is part of Biden's team counseling him on climate change, according to Reuters. She told the news agency Biden's approach will include re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement as well as strengthening regulations on emissions and fuel-efficiency standards.
"What we learned from the Obama administration is unless we find middle ground on these issues, we risk not having any policies," Zichal told Reuters.
Ocasio-Cortez called a "middle ground" approach to climate change a "dealbreaker" in a tweet on Friday. She has previously confessed that the idea of Biden, who is nearly five decades her senior, winning the nomination "does not particularly animate me."
Bill Nye warns: 'The planet's on (expletive) fire'
This is a dealbreaker.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 10, 2019
There is no “middle ground” w/ climate denial & delay.
Blaming “blue collar” Americans as the main opponents to bold climate policy is gas lobbyist 101.
We’re not going to solve the climate crisis w/ this lack of leadership. Our kids’ lives are at stake. https://t.co/KvrBmaJd75
On Tuesday, a reporter in New Hampshire asked Biden if he thought Ocasio-Cortez was taking "a swipe" at him with her comments.
"You never heard me say 'middle of the road.' I’ve never been middle of the road on the environment," Biden said. "Tell her to check the statements that I made and look at my record. She'll find that nobody has been more consistent about taking on the environment and the green revolution than I have."
"I don't think she was talking about me," he added.
Biden pointed out that he called climate change an "existential threat" as far back as January 1987. And he referenced a PolitiFact analysis that supported his claim to being one of the first lawmakers to introduce legislation aimed at combating the problem.
The 2020 candidates: Who is running for president? An interactive guide
Zichal said that in crafting Biden's approach she has consulted with former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Moniz has called the Green New Deal's goal of reaching zero carbon emissions within 10 years "impractical" and has advocated for a "Green Real Deal" that is "based on practicality, not ideology."
Many of Biden's opponents in the 2020 primary have endorsed the Green New Deal.
Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, as well as Reps. Seth Moulton and Eric Swalwell, have all co-sponsored the resolution. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has expressed support for the plan. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has put forth a similar climate change proposal that aims for the U.S. to be carbon-neutral by 2030. Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke has proposed a plan that would eliminate carbon emissions by 2050.
Sanders and Inslee both joined Ocasio-Cortez in criticizing Biden's reportedly more moderate approach.
"Moderation is not a solution to climate change," Inslee said last week in an MSNBC interview. "Our house is on fire. We need a nominee of the Democratic Party who will stand up to Donald Trump's idiocy."
There can't be "middle ground" on climate change, when folks in Davenport are seeking high ground. pic.twitter.com/Fzxo9EAC9r— Jay Inslee (@JayInslee) May 11, 2019
"There is no 'middle ground' when it comes to climate policy. If we don't commit to fully transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels, we will doom future generations," Sanders said in a tweet on Friday.
There is no “middle ground” when it comes to climate policy. If we don't commit to fully transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels, we will doom future generations. Fighting climate change must be our priority, whether fossil fuel billionaires like it or not.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 10, 2019
Biden spokesman TJ Ducklo said "Reuters got it wrong" about Biden's position on climate change. He said the campaign will be "discussing his plan to address it in a meaningful and lasting way in the coming weeks."
Biden said Tuesday that the public would hear "very shorty the totality of what I plan on doing" to address climate change. And he told reporters he thought his plan would satisfy activists who back ambitious strategies like the Green New Deal.
"This is a long campaign and everybody should calm down a little bit," Biden said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tell her to 'look at my record': Biden responds to Ocasio-Cortez's criticism on climate