But climate change is not “extremely out of the mainstream.” Concern about climate change in the United States is the highest it has ever been. On the heels of a deadly wildfire season supercharged by climate change and a report by 13 federal agencies finding global warming poses a serious threat to the economy, Americans are more convinced than ever that emissions from tailpipes and smokestacks are having an impact on the planet.
In many ways the Green New Deal, with its call to power the country entirely on wind, solar and other zero-carbon energy and ensuring the United States eliminates as much carbon pollution as it creates by about 2030, has injected a new enthusiasm for tackling the problem: Every Democratic presidential candidate has been pressed on his or her support of the plan, and it has helped propel climate change into a top-tier issue for 2020.
But it also has created awkward moments for moderate Democrats. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, for example, was excoriated and mocked on “Saturday Night Live” after she told a group of visiting school children that she opposed the Green New Deal because it wasn’t practical and “there’s no way to pay for it.” Ms. Feinstein has a 90 percent lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters, which rates lawmakers on their environmental votes and policies, and has sponsored major climate change legislation for more than 20 years.