Sixth Democratic Debate Yields Most Substantive Climate Discourse Yet
The climate crisis had its strongest showing to date in the sixth Democratic primary debate hosted by Politico and PBS in Los Angeles Thursday.
For the first time, a climate question was asked during the first 30 minutes of the debate, HuffPost reported. The issue got 13 minutes total of discussion time, according to Grist, and those 13 minutes "contained one of the strongest climate discussions in the primary so far," the climate-focused news site argued.
As in November, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was the first candidate to mention the climate crisis before it officially came up in the debate. That mention came when he was asked if he would vote in favor of a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S., Canada and Mexico that recently passed the House of Representatives.
Sanders said he would not support the new agreement, partly because it does not address environmental issues.
"And, by the way, the word 'climate change,' to the best of my knowledge, is not discussed in this new NAFTA agreement at all, which is an outrage," Sanders said, according to a debate transcript published by The Washington Post.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was the next candidate to raise the issue independently when answering a question about what she would say to voters who think the economy has been strong under President Donald Trump. Warren echoed other candidates' arguments that many Americans were still struggling and said this was because the government tended to work better for the wealthy than for everyone else. The climate crisis, she argued, was a case in point.
"Works great for giant oil companies that want to drill everywhere, but not for the rest of us who see climate change bearing down upon us," she said.
After these early references, the candidates were then fielded three climate-related questions that led to a robust back-and-forth.
The Question of Sacrifice
The first two climate questions revolved around issues of sacrifice. The first, directed at Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) asked if she would subsidize the relocation of families and businesses away from places vulnerable to wildfires or sea level rise. The second, directed at former Vice President Joe Biden, asked if it was worth it to sacrifice immediate growth in the oil and natural gas industries for the sake of transitioning to a greener economy.
The candidates mostly side-stepped the first question and focused on their climate policies. Klobuchar said she would rejoin the Paris agreement and reinstate Obama-era policies like the Clean Power Plan and higher auto-efficiency standards.
Billionaire Tom Steyer said he would declare a state of emergency on day one of his administration, and challenged South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg to make the climate crisis a higher priority.
Buttigieg, for his part, promoted his plan to institute a carbon tax and use the dividends to fund renewable energy research.
But the candidates also pushed back on the idea that climate action necessarily meant sacrifice.
"Not only can we clear up the air and water in the black and brown communities where our pollution is concentrated, this is also the opportunity to create literally millions of middle-class union jobs, well-paid, across the United States of America," Steyer said, according to the transcript. "Our biggest crisis is our biggest opportunity."
Biden also argued that he would sacrifice fossil fuel growth — what sacrifice moderator Tim Alberta of Politico said could cost thousands to hundreds of thousands of blue collar jobs — because "the opportunity for those workers to transition to high-paying jobs, as Tom said, is real."
Sanders came out most forcefully against the notion of sacrifice, challenging the framing of the question itself, according to HuffPost.
"It's not an issue of relocating people and towns," Sanders said, to thunderous applause. "The issue now is whether we save the planet for our children and grandchildren."
The Question of Nuclear
Alberta then focused the climate conversation on nuclear energy with a question first directed at Warren.
"Many of our Western allies rely heavily on nuclear energy because it's efficient, affordable, and virtually carbon-free. And many climate experts believe that it's impossible to realize your goal of net zero emissions by the year 2050 without utilizing nuclear energy. So can you have it both ways on this issue?" Alberta asked, according to the transcript.
Warren reiterated her commitment to keeping existing nuclear plants running while transitioning away from fossil fuels, but said she would not build any more reactors.
"We've got to get the carbon out of the air and out of the water. And that means that we need to keep some of our nuclear in place," she said.
On this issue, she differs from Sanders, who has promised to shutter existing nuclear reactors, according to HuffPost.
Businessman Andrew Yang, meanwhile, came out strongly in support of reactors that use thorium, which produces less waste than uranium.
Steyer, however, argued that nuclear was not competitive price-wise in the U.S. and raised the problems of disasters and waste storage.
"We actually have the technology that we need. It's called wind and solar and batteries. So, in fact, what we need to do, we can do," Steyer argued.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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