During an event honoring Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) cautioned the audience that climate change would "destroy the planet" by the year 2031 if people fail to address a generational challenge she likened to "Word War II."
"Millennials and people, you know, Gen Z and all these folks that will come after us are looking up and we're like: 'The world is gonna end in 12 years if we don't address climate change and your biggest issue is how are we gonna pay for it?'" Ocasio-Cortez told interviewer Tanehisi Coates at an "MLK Now" event in New York.
The timeline Ocasio-Cortez referenced was likely based on a U.N. backed report, released last year, that predicted the consequences of man-made climate change would become irreversible in twelve years if global carbon emissions are not immediately and dramatically reduced.
The 29-year-old self-described democratic socialist went on to attack the Democratic establishment for failing to act in a sufficiently aggressive manner to combat what she believes is an immediate, existential threat.
"Right now, with the current administration, with the current circumstances, with the abdication of responsibility that we've seen from so many powerful people, even people who abdicate that responsibility by calling themselves liberal or a Democrat, or whatever it is, I feel a need for all of us to breathe fire," she said.
Since upsetting six-term incumbent Representative Joe Crowley (D., N.Y.) in November, Ocasio-Cortez has frequently utilized her massive social media following to publicly challenge the more centrist members of her party, drawing condemnations from senior lawmakers.
Much of the intra-party dissension centers around Ocasio-Cortez's focus on developing a so-called green new deal to address climate change by transitioning the U.S. to purely renewable energy within the decade. She was rebuffed by party leadership after publicly demanding, just days after arriving on Capitol Hill, the creation of a specific committee to address the issue.