Rep. Scott Peters pledges town hall on climate crisis following activist pressure to support Green New Deal

Activists protested outside U.S. Rep. Scott Peters office in San Diego’s University City neighborhood to persuade him to sign onto the Green New Deal on Friday, July 19, 2019. Environmental groups have been holding such events around the region since February.
(Joshua Emerson Smith/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Rep. Scott Peters of San Diego has agreed to hold a town hall meeting on climate issues following months of pressure by local activists on him and other members of Congress to support the Green New Deal.

Peters’ announcement comes after Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, cosponsored the hotly debated resolution in June, which calls on the federal government to zero out greenhouse emissions by 2030 and create jobs in renewable energy and other sectors.

After initially brushing off calls to support the Green New Deal, the congresswoman surprised constituents and local climate groups when she announced her support for the resolution during a town hall-style event last month.

On Friday, July 19, dozens of activists from SanDiego350 and the Sunrise Movement rallied outside of Peters’ office in University City, continuing a local campaign that kicked off in February.

“This is the huge problem of our time, and not many people are aware of that,” said Karl Aldinger, a 50-year-old software engineer from Fallbrook who attended Friday’s rally. “It’s time for the public to take it more seriously.

“Susan Davis was not on board with the Green New Deal,” added Aldinger, who started volunteering in November with the Sunrise Movement. “We protested her, and she changed her mind.”

Barbara Jaffe-Rose, who helped organize Friday’s event for SanDiego350, said she’s hopeful that the congressman will eventually sign onto the legislation.

“We want Peters to sign onto the Green New Deal because we need leadership at the top,” said the 68-year-old from Tierrasanta. “We are in a climate emergency.”

The Green New Deal has proved divisive for Democrats. Some have vowed support, while others have downplayed the significance of the proposal, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

First spearheaded by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., the resolution has come to symbolize a rift within the Democratic Party. While left-leaning members have continued to push for its passage, leadership has been reluctant to force those in swing districts to take hard votes.

Representatives Juan Vargas and Mike Levin, both representing parts of the San Diego region, have backed the Green New Deal.

So far, Peters has been unwilling to throw his support behind the resolution, which he has criticized as “undefined.” Rather, he has promoted a “climate playbook,” a list of dozens of pieces of yet-to-be-approved environmental legislation dating back to 2017.

“Rep. Peters has not changed his mind,” said Martha Spieker, spokeswoman for the congressman. “We appreciate the passion of everyone who is as concerned about our climate crisis, as Representative Peters is.

“The climate playbook has specific real actions we can take to save the planet, actions that will make a real difference right now,” she added.

The town hall event is scheduled for Tuesday, July 30 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Scripps Ranch High School (10410 Falcon Way).

Also scheduled to speak at the event are Carl Yaeckel with Citizens Climate Lobby and well-known climate scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan from UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

— Joshua Emerson Smith is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune