Low-income communities and people of color tend to be especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change because of historic inequities. In recognition of that fact, legislation introduced by Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, both Democrats, would require that at least half the members of a climate corps come from “under-resourced communities of need.” In addition, at least half the investment would support projects in underserved communities, with at least 10 percent spent in Native American lands.
Their bill, which has support from major environmental groups like the Sunrise Movement, would create the climate corps as part of AmeriCorps.
“Tens of thousands of young people are going to be working to future-proof our country,” Mr. Markey said. Within five years, he added, a Civilian Climate Corps “will become part of the personality of the country in terms of how a whole new generation views climate change.”
That has some Republicans worried.
“What exactly does that mean?” Representative Tom McClintock of California asked at a recent hearing. “Does it mean a taxpayer funded community organizing effort? Young climate pioneers in every neighborhood to report on who is watering their lawn, whose fireplace is smoking, who is spreading forbidden climate disinformation?”
Others noted that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s conservation corps was created when the United States was suffering from 20 percent unemployment. That’s not the current situation, where the national unemployment rate was 5.2 percent in August and many companies are having difficulty finding workers.
Representative Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, the top Republican on the House Committee on Natural Resources, called the Civilian Climate Corps a “make-work program” that will “compete against American businesses at a time when ‘help wanted’ signs remain in the windows.”
Ultimately, however, Republicans are not in a position to influence the package since the party has already signaled members will unanimously oppose the broader $3.5 trillion budget bill. The fate of the program is up to Democrats and whether they can reach agreement, supporters of the climate corps said.