Biden, Democrats push Civilian Climate Corps
Inspiration taken from New Deal-era program
WASHINGTON – Inspired by the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps, President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats are pushing for a modern counterpart: a Civilian Climate Corps that would create hundreds of thousands of jobs building trails, restoring streams and helping prevent catastrophic wildfires.
Building on Biden's oft-repeated comment that when he thinks of climate change, he thinks of jobs, the White House says the $10 billion program would address both priorities as young adults find work installing solar panels, planting trees, digging irrigation ditches and boosting outdoor recreation.
“We must seize this opportunity to build a big, bold pathway to critical careers, for a diverse generation of Americans ready to take on this existential crisis that we face,” said Ali Zaidi, deputy White House climate adviser. “It's national service meets familysupporting careers meets the moment.”
The effort comes as the White House and many Democrats are intensifying their focus on climate change after a series of devastating storms recently battered parts of the nation. Touring neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey that were devastated by flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida, Biden said climate change has become “everybody's crisis.”
“The threat is here. It is not getting any better,” Biden said. “The question is, can it get worse?”
The proposed climate corps was not included in a bipartisan infrastructure bill approved by the Senate, but it is a key part of an emerging $3.5 trillion package backed by Democrats to help families and address climate change. A vote in the House on both bills could come by the end of the month.
Rep. Joe Neguse, a Colorado Democrat who has co-sponsored a climate corps bill, said it's important to train the next generation of U.S. land managers, park rangers and other stewards of our natural resources.
“This bold investment is a necessary response to the climate crisis and prioritizes the maintenance and upkeep of public lands,” he said.
While the jobs should pay at least $15 an hour, those likely to join the climate corps “are not doing it for the compensation,” Neguse said. “They know it's important to connect to nature and do important work for their state and the nation.”
Neguse and other Democrats say the program should pay “a living wage” while offering health care coverage and support for child care, housing, transportation and education.
David Popp, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University, said a key distinction between the original Civilian Conservation Corps and the new climate contingent is that the U.S. economy is not in a depression – great or otherwise – as it was during Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency.
While U.S. employers added just 235,000 jobs in August, the unemployment rate decreased slightly to 5.2% as the economy continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
From left, Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., confer on Aug. 24. J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AP