The climate crisis was the issue under the spotlight for the 10 leading Democratic candidates during a CNN town hall on the subject.
The candidates, who have put forward individual plans to combat the climate crisis, all acknowledge the seriousness of the issue and the need to tackle it head on, however, their views primarily differ on the key issue of how to fund their plans.
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Senator Kamala Harris discussed her plan which involves achieving a carbon-neutral US economy by 2045, a full five years earlier than the date mentioned in the plans of Vice President Joe Biden, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Her plan also adds up to around $10 trillion in spending.
Harris said she looks at the climate crisis through the lens of her two baby nieces and what the world and their future will look like if the crisis isn’t addressed. She encouraged members of congress from both sides of the aisle to either act now or “get out of the way.”
“Every one of those members needs to look at the babies in their life and then look in the mirror and ask themselves why they haven’t acted,” she said. “If they fail to act, as President of the United States I am prepared to get rid of the filibuster, to pass a Green New Deal.”
When it came to Vice President Biden’s turn to speak, he was immediately asked by Anderson Cooper about whether his plan is aggressive enough given that his carbon-neutral date is later than most of his opponents’. Biden bullishly replied that his deal is indeed aggressive enough and that he would consider bringing the date forward as “science and technology changes.”
Biden was later drilled about a fundraiser he is set to attend in New York on Thursday which is co-hosted Andrew Goldman, a co-founder of natural gas production company Western LNG. One audience member pointed to Goldman’s involvement in the fundraiser and asked Biden how voters are supposed to trust him on the climate change issue. The Vice President replied that he was unaware of Goldman’s ties to the fossil fuel industry and that his office had checked SEC filings and had found that Goldman was not on listed as “one of those executives” involved in the industry.
“I was told by my staff that he was not involved in the company at all,” said Biden. “If what you said turns out to be true, I will not accept his help.”
In his plan, Senator Bernie Sanders pledged a whopping $16.3 trillion to fighting climate change. Cooper kicked off his time on stage by asking how he intends to fund that effort, and whether any of the tax burden which the Senator outlined in his plan will end up falling on the shoulders of average taxpayers.
“It’ll end up on some tax payers shoulders, if you’re in the fossil fuel industry you’ll be paying more in taxes that’s for sure,” Sanders said.
During her time on stage, Warren reiterated her plan to have zero-carbon emissions for new buildings by 2028, zero-carbon emissions for vehicles, trucks and buses by 2030, and zero-carbon emissions from generating electricity by 2035.
“This is a moment where we better dream big and fight hard because that’s how we’re going to make the changes,” Warren said. “ The alternative is unthinkable. Life on earth is at risk and if we don’t make this commitment, we not only cheat our children, we cheat their future and their children’s future.”
First up was former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, whose plan involves spending $10 trillion to address the crisis and notably focuses on how it is affecting vulnerable communities in America the most.
Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Castro described climate change as “the most existential threat to our country’s future,” referring to Hurricane Dorian, which has ravaged the Bahamas and is about to hit the East coast, as an example of the extreme storms which will multiply if the crisis isn’t dealt with. If elected, Castro said his first measure as President would be to issue an executive order to re-join the Paris climate accord.
Later on, Castro was hit with a trickier question courtesy of a high school student who will be voting for the first time in the upcoming election. The student pointed out that Castro supported the expansion of fracking in South Texas while he was mayor of San Antonio, asking why voters should trust him on this issue given his previous middle ground stance.
Castro revealed his climate plan does not call for an immediate ban on fracking, but rather seeks to invest in wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy in order to achieve a carbon-neutral economy by 2045.
The candidates are taking it in turn to be quizzed by a lineup of CNN correspondents and hosts composed of Blitzer, Erin Burnett, Cooper, Chris Cuomo, and Don Lemon.