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"It would be great to see all the candidates join Elizabeth Warren in taking the No Big Ag Money Pledge," said Citizens Regeneration Lobby's Alexis Baden-Mayer. Peter Blanchard / Flickr / ric (CC BY 2.0)

By Andrea Germanos

Food system justice and environmental advocates on Wednesday urged all Democratic presidential hopefuls to follow in the footsteps of Sen. Elizabeth Warren in signing a pledge rejecting campaign cash from food and agribusiness corporations.

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At least 40 percent to 90 percent of American voters stay home during elections, evidence that low voter turnout for both national and local elections is a serious problem throughout the U.S.

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Tom Steyer (L-R), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) listen as former Vice President Joe Biden (3rd L) speaks during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on Jan. 14 in Des Moines, Iowa. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Six Democratic presidential candidates squared off Tuesday night in Des Moines, Iowa for the seventh primary debate of the season and the last before voting begins with the Iowa caucuses Feb. 3. The climate crisis tied with health care for the No. 1 issue important to Iowa voters when choosing a candidate, according to the latest Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll. So how much attention did it get during the debate?

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Josh Fox, award winning filmmaker and director, speaking on stage at Collision 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana on May 2, 2017. CC BY 2.0

By Reynard Loki

Josh Fox, the Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind Gasland, the documentary that started the global anti-fracking movement, is bringing a new message to audiences across the country with The Truth Has Changed, a live theater-based project that sounds the alarm on the right-wing disinformation campaign working to secure President Trump's reelection.

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Watching the sun rise at Cosumnes River Preserve. Bob Wick / Bureau of Land Management California / Flickr / Public Domain

By John R. Platt and Tara Lohan

Let's be honest, 2019 was a rough year for the planet. Despite some environmental victories along the way, we saw the extinction crisis deepen, efforts to curtail climate change blocked at almost every turn, and the oceans continue to warm. We also heard new revelations about ways that plastics and chemicals harm our bodies, saw the political realm become even more polarized, and experienced yet another round of record-breaking temperatures.

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) gestures as democratic presidential candidates (L-R) South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Tom Steyer await the start of the Democratic presidential primary debate at Loyola Marymount University on Dec. 19 in Los Angeles. Mario Tama / Getty Images

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.

First Mentions


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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Elizabeth Warren's Blue New Deal aims to expand offshore renewable energy projects, like the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island. Luke H. Gordon / Flickr

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren expanded her vision for combating the climate crisis on Tuesday with the release of her Blue New Deal — a new component of the Green New Deal focusing on protecting and restoring the world's oceans after decades of pollution and industry-caused warming.

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Activists from Extinction Rebellion New York City engaged in nonviolent direct action to confront climate change outside City Hall on April 17, 2019. Erik McGregor / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Over 500 groups on Monday rolled out an an action plan for the next president's first days of office to address the climate emergency and set the nation on a transformative path towards zero emissions and a just transition in their first days in office.

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Mike Bloomberg joins the C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen on Oct. 10, 2019. Mike Bloomberg / Flickr

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has entered the crowded 2020 Democratic primary, the billionaire announced Sunday. But despite Bloomberg's record of fighting the climate crisis on the national and international stage, environmental activists expressed concern over his decision to enter the race, InsideClimate News reported.

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Ten Democratic primary candidates participated in the fifth Democratic debate in Atlanta Wednesday night. Alex Wong / Getty Images

The moderators of the fifth Democratic primary debate in Atlanta Wednesday night only asked one question about the climate crisis, Grist reported Thursday.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa on Nov. 8. Matt Johnson / CC BY 2.0

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Joined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Friday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders held the largest rally of any 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to date in Iowa, drawing more than 2,400 people to Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs.

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