When former Vice President Joe Biden effectively clinched the Democratic nomination in April, one major concern for the climate movement was the fact that his plan for tackling the issue was less ambitious than that of some of his primary rivals.
But Biden signaled a willingness to boost his climate platform. And now, Green-New-Deal champion Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has agreed to serve on a panel helping him shape his plan to address the climate crisis.
"She made the decision with members of the Climate Justice community — and she will be fully accountable to them and the larger advocacy community during this process," a representative of the Congresswoman told Reuters by email Tuesday. "She believes the movement will only be successful if we continue to apply pressure both inside and outside the system."
Ocasio-Cortez has made a name for herself in Congress as an advocate for a Green New Deal to transition the U.S. away from fossil fuels while providing jobs and supporting greater equality. In the primaries, she endorsed Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, whose climate plan promised $16.3 trillion for a Green New Deal-type mobilization and earned a 94 out of 100 on Greenpeace's climate scorecard. Biden's initial plan, meanwhile, promised only $1.7 trillion and earned a 72 from Greenpeace.
But when Sanders, the last major primary contender to drop out, endorsed Biden, the campaign announced a series of task forces that would work to bring together supporters of the two candidates on issues from health care to criminal justice to the economy, CNN explained. It is the climate-centered of these task forces that Ocasio-Cortez will be serving on, as Biden himself confirmed in an interview with News8 in Las Vegas Tuesday.
"I'm working with Bernie and with his people. And so, and we've made some changes. We've listened to Bernie supporters and, you know, for example, we have Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, she is on one of the panels," Biden said.
A source with direct knowledge of the matter told CNN that Ocasio-Cortez would actually be co-chairing the panel.
Ocasio-Cortez spokeswoman Lauren Hitt told NBC News the Congresswoman would be representing Sanders on the panel.
When the panels were first announced, Sanders explained them as a way to unify the Democratic party's progressive and moderate wings.
"It's no great secret out there, Joe, that you and I have our differences, and we're not going to paper them over. That's real," Sanders said, as CNN reported. "But I hope that these task forces will come together utilizing the best minds and people in your campaign and in my campaign to work out real solutions to these very, very important problems."
Biden told News8 he was reaching out to Sanders supporters, but said their positions were not as far as voters may have believed.
"My message to all — and what they're finding out now that the nomination process is de facto over, they're finding out the positions I had on an awful lot of things were not accurately characterized and they're feeling more comfortable with it," Biden said, as NBC News reported. "But I'm listening. I'm here, I need them, and I hope they all will join us."
President Donald Trump, who Biden will be running against in November, has not taken any steps to address the climate crisis and has a Greenpeace score of zero.
"Trump denies the reality of the climate crisis and is actively promoting fossil fuels while weakening existing climate protections. His Cabinet is filled with former coal and oil lobbyists. Trump gets an 'F' for putting our most vulnerable communities — and our very futures — at risk," Greenpeace wrote.
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His announcement, made Wednesday morning during a conference call with his entire staff, means the more moderate former Vice President Joe Biden will face off against President Donald Trump in November, POLITICO reported. In a speech livestreamed to supporters, Sanders said his campaign had won the "ideological battle" on issues ranging from universal health care to climate action, but that he could see no clear way to secure the nomination.
"Together we have transformed American consciousness as to what kind of nation we can become, and have taken this country a major step forward in the never-ending struggle for economic justice, social justice, racial justice and environmental justice," he told his supporters, according to a transcript provided by The New York Times.
Today I am suspending my campaign. But while the campaign ends, the struggle for justice continues on. https://t.co/MYc7kt2b16— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)1586360720.0
When Sanders first entered the race in February of 2019, he promised to release his own version of the Green New Deal, an ambitious plan to transition the U.S. from fossil fuels to renewable energy while providing jobs and addressing inequality.
At $16.3 trillion spent over 15 years, Sanders' climate deal is by far the priciest of all the Democratic candidates left in the primary race. It's also arguably the most progressive — pushing for the US to have a carbon-free economy by 2050. The senator from Vermont also set a 2030 benchmark goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy in the country's two most carbon-intensive industries, transportation and the power sector, by investing in solar, wind, and geothermal power. Sanders' plan would also declare climate change a national emergency, bring the US back on board with the Paris climate agreement, and commit $200 billion in funding to help developing nations cut their emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.
But after early primary victories in New Hampshire and Nevada, Sanders began to falter beside the more moderate Biden, who won in South Carolina, and then in 10 out of 14 Super Tuesday states after other more moderate contenders threw their support behind him, POLITICO explained. Biden continued to do well throughout March, and now has 1,127 delegates compared to Sanders' 914, according to the most recent delegate count from The New York Times.
Biden's climate policies are more moderate than Sanders' as of now. His plan has a much lower price tag of $1.7 trillion dollars and a score of 72 out of 100 from Greenpeace. The organization applauded his commitment to achieving climate neutrality by 2050, investing in clean energy and restoring international climate leadership, but faulted him for not promising to ban all oil and gas drilling on public lands and to end all federal permits for fossil fuel infrastructure.
There is a chance Biden will ultimately run on a more ambitious plan, however. Sanders said he would keep his name on the ballot in the remaining primaries to boost his delegate count in order to have more influence over the party platform.
The Biden campaign is also working to bring in Sanders' supporters by incorporating some of his policies, The New York Times reported. In a virtual fundraiser Wednesday, Biden hinted he would add some more progressive ideas to his climate plan, and POLITICO reports he is in talks with the Sunrise Movement.
The Sunrise Movement is also one of a coalition of youth-led groups that sent a letter to Biden urging him to endorse certain policies including a Green New Deal.
"If Joe Biden is going to be the nominee on the Democratic side, we are going to champion Joe Biden and put all muscle behind" his election, Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash told The New York Times. But then she addressed Biden directly, suggesting he also had work to do. "You haven't earned our vote yet," she said.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
With their podiums placed six feet apart as a precaution against the coronavirus, the two leading Democratic presidential primary candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden faced off on public health and the climate crisis at the 11th Democratic debate.
Sunday's debate came two days after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to combat the new disease known as COVID-19, which has so far sickened nearly 165,000 people in 146 countries and led to 6,470 deaths. To help stop the spread of the virus, debate organizers CNN, Univision, the Democratic National Committee and the campaigns moved the venue from Phoenix, Arizona to CNN's studio in Washington, DC and broadcast the debate without an audience, as moderator Ilia Calderón of Univision explained in a debate transcript provided by Rev.
But the unusual set-up led to one of the most in-depth climate discussions to date, as Grist's Shannon Osaka pointed out.
"It only took 10 debates, a worldwide pandemic, and the winnowing of the Democratic field down to two men in their late 70s — but on Sunday night, for about 12 minutes, the American public finally got to hear a substantive debate about climate change," Osaka wrote.
But first the candidates were asked how they would respond to the new disease. Biden called for more testing and hospital beds to be made ready, and also spoke of the need to assist people impacted by the economic cost of the pandemic, such as providing interest-free loans to small businesses.
Sanders emphasized the need to ensure that no one would have to pay for treatment if they fell ill, called for more ventilators in hospitals and also spoke of the need for economic relief.
Sanders also criticized Trump for his misleading statements about the coronavirus, such as stating that Americans with the illness would be well enough to go to work.
"Well, first thing we have got to do, whether or not I'm president, is to shut this president up right now, because he is undermining the doctors and the scientists who are trying to help the American people," he said.
The first climate question came nearly 14 minutes into the second half of the debate. CNN's Jake Tapper asked the candidates how their climate plans would address the fact that the climate crisis is also a "health crisis" that could lead to the spread of infectious diseases, as the World Health Organization has warned.
However, neither candidate directly answered the question. Instead, both spoke in more general terms about the seriousness of the climate crisis and the need to act immediately, though Biden did mention that the crisis already had health costs.
"[T]here's an awful lot of people today who are in fact getting ill because of the changes in the environment," he said.
The debate then shifted to whose plan would tackle the crisis most effectively,
Tapper noticed the price-tag gap between Sanders' $16.3 trillion plan and Biden's $1.7 trillion plan.
"Is your plan ambitious enough to tackle this crisis?" Tapper asked.
Biden insisted it was, saying he would reinstate the environmental regulations rolled back under Trump, install 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations, rejoin the Paris agreement and work with other world leaders to provide $20 billion to Brazil to help protect the Amazon rainforest.
Sanders countered that Biden's plan was "nowhere near enough." He likened climate change to the threat posed by the coronavirus.
"[W]e started this debate talking about a warlike situation in terms of the coronavirus and we said, 'We have to act accordingly.' You said it. I think you're right. I said it. We have to act dramatically, boldly, if we're going to save lives in this country and around the world," Sanders said. "I look at climate change in exactly the same way."
Sanders emphasized the need to end subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, stop all oil and gas drilling and push for international action that goes beyond the Paris agreement.
Biden defended himself based on his experience of tackling the climate crisis, pointing to the fact that he wrote the first climate change bill introduced to the Senate in 1986.
"I've been way ahead of this curve," he said. "This idea that all of a sudden Bernie found this out is amazing to me."Voters in Illinois, Florida, Arizona and Ohio will have a chance to decide which candidate's approach they prefer when they vote in their states' primaries Tuesday. So far, Biden is leading Sanders in the delegate count 880 to 706, according to NBC News. A candidate needs 1,991 of 3,979 total delegates to secure the nomination.
By Jessica Corbett
Octogenarian actor and activist Jane Fonda declared ahead of a climate action protest in California Friday that the U.S. needs a "climate president" and she is now backing Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is leading a grassroots movement challenging the Democratic Party establishment coalescing around former Vice President Joe Biden.
"We have to get a climate president in office, and there's only one right now, and that's Bernie Sanders," Fonda told USA TODAY prior to the Los Angeles rally. "So, I'm indirectly saying I believe you have to support the climate candidate."
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is technically still in the Democratic presidential primary race, but Super Tuesday effectively made it a two-person contest between Biden and Sanders (I-Vt.). USA Today noted that Fonda previously donated to Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who have since ended their campaigns.
Sanders' Green New Deal proposal to tackle the global climate crisis and ensure a just transition to renewable energy has been hailed by climate advocates as a "game-changer." The plan, unveiled in August 2019, calls for "100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030 and complete decarbonization by at least 2050."
Fonda's comments about supporting Sanders came ahead of the second Fire Drill Friday event in California. In October 2019, Fonda launched Fire Drill Fridays as a weekly civil disobedience campaign in Washington, DC that aimed to pressure U.S. policymakers to ambitiously address the human-caused climate crisis.
After a few months and five arrests, Fonda returned to California to resume filming her Netflix show Grace and Frankie. She also partnered with Greenpeace USA to bring Fire Drill Fridays to the West Coast. The first monthly rally was held on Feb. 7 at City Hall in Los Angeles. The second event was Friday, in the Los Angeles Harbor area, and focused on environmental racism.
Oil sites in communities like Wilmington are not a coincidence. There's a reason we don't see them in wealthier, pr… https://t.co/mTosOnzBvi— Greenpeace USA (@Greenpeace USA)1583540179.0
With the Fire Drill Friday demonstrations, "we're protesting an existential threat that could determine the future of human life on the planet, basically," Fonda explained to USA Today.
Fonda's attorneys struck a deal with a DC judge that the 82-year-old won't face penalties or court dates for her arrests as long as she isn't arrested in Los Angeles for three months. Although she won't be risking arrest for a while, Fonda continues to demand climate action — specifically, cutting emissions by 50 percent over the next decade and phasing out fossil fuels by 2050.
"This is going to be very, very, very hard, and it requires millions and millions of people to do more than just be concerned, but to actually become activists and become willing to put their bodies on the line," Fonda said. "That's why we're doing Fire Drill Fridays."
Fonda was joined Friday by her Grace and Frankie co-stars Lily Tomlin and Sam Waterston as well as other celebrities and national and community organizers. After rallying at offices of Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino, a group of actors and activists visited fossil fuel impact zones in the area before blockading the entrance of a Warren E&P oil extraction site. There were no arrests.
"While we're in the midst of a massive communicable health crisis across the globe, a much quieter health crisis is worsening in communities like Wilmington, California where hundreds of residents, activists, and celebrities joined me today," Fonda said in a statement Friday. "We heard powerful stories from community members who have become seriously ill simply by living in their own homes where drilling is occurring in their backyards, without their permission."
"We will be watching California leadership, specifically Councilmember Joe Busciano, who has allowed his district to become a sacrifice zone for the fossil fuel industry, and demanding they do better," Fonda promised. "We will not quiet down until our leadership decides to protect the people and our climate."
An amazing display of action and solidarity today at #FireDrillFriday — and we're not stopping! Thank you to all th… https://t.co/Jz1jQLkewm— Greenpeace USA (@Greenpeace USA)1583541303.0
Fonda's vow to hold California leadership accountable was echoed by other climate activists. Annie Leonard of Greenpeace USA called Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to "do something for the health and and safety of communities like Wilmington, and begin a just transition away from fossil fuels for the industry's workers."
Newsom, Leonard said, "must stop issuing new permits for oil and gas projects, drop existing fossil fuel production, and roll out setback limits by creating a 2,500-foot public health and safety buffer zone between fossil fuel infrastructure like the Warren E&P sites and homes, schools, and other sensitive sites in neighborhoods like Wilmington."
As Wilmington community organizer Alicia Riveria explained:
Oil operations happen right next to our homes and schools and parks in Wilmington. People are suffering while politicians are sitting on their hands. Just last week a fire broke out at one of the refineries in our community and we had to advise residents to stay indoors and close their windows to try to mitigate toxic fumes from coming into their homes. There is environmental racism at play for frontline communities across California, and it's unacceptable.
Dr. Saba Malik of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles and the STAND-LA Coalition said, "It's public health common sense — based on a mountain of scientific evidence — that oil production does not belong anywhere near homes, schools, or other sensitive land uses."
"So why do they remain in communities like Wilmington and South Los Angeles?" Malik added. "Because these communities are comprised overwhelmingly of people of color, lower income people with less access to adequate healthcare, resulting in an even greater risk of chronic disease and increased vulnerability to the effects of these environmental insults."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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While Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been in Washington this week for the impeachment trial, he has put forth two bills to help the environment.
On Tuesday, he pushed forward a bill to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as The Hill reported. The bill, titled "A bill to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing, and for other purposes," will go to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for review.
While the text of the bill is not yet available, Sen. Jeff Merkley from Oregon is a co-sponsor of the bill. On Thursday, Sanders tweeted that he also worked on the bill with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Darren Soto (D-Fla.), as The Hill reported.
"I don't mind if @MarkRuffalo spoils his own movies. But please, don't ruin the surprise of our new legislation with Rep. @AOC, @SenJeffMerkley and @RepDarrenSoto. I don't want the dirty fracking industry CEOs to know what hit them," wrote Sanders in his tweet, which embedded a video of the actor and activist, Mark Ruffalo, touting a potential federal ban on fracking.
I don't mind if @MarkRuffalo spoils his own movies. But please, don't ruin the surprise of our new legislation with… https://t.co/NY5iOCdOzL— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)1580411387.0
The bill drew support from several environmental activist organizations.
"Senator Sanders' bill names the problem and provides the only solution," Natalie Mebane, Associate Director of Policy at 350.org, said in a statement. "In order to avoid the worst of the climate crisis, we must rapidly transition off of fossil fuels, and end fracking and the dangerous pipelines that come with it."
"In Pennsylvania, you're talking hundreds of thousands of related jobs that would be — they would be unemployed overnight," said John Fetterman, Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor, to The New York Times. "Pennsylvania is a margin play. And an outright ban on fracking isn't a margin play."
Sanders not only introduced a ban on fracking. On Wednesday, he, along with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Ma), introduced The Preventing Future American Sickness (PFAS) Act, which takes aim at 'forever chemicals' polluting waterways, as The Hill reported.
As EcoWatch reported, a recent study from the Environmental Working Group found that toxic forever chemicals, or PFAS, are far more prevalent in drinking water than previously thought.
"Our children are unwittingly poisoned" Environmental Working Group study: US #water samples have 'forever chemical… https://t.co/oePPZBRGyV— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1580068621.0
"As hundreds of communities across the country are dealing with toxic PFAS contamination in their drinking water," Sanders says in a statement put out by Food and Water Watch, "it is unconscionable that huge corporations like DuPont have, for decades, concealed evidence of how dangerous these compounds are in order to keep profiting at the expense of human health. Congress must pass this legislation to put an end to corporate stonewalling and criminal behavior and tackle this public health crisis. It is not a radical idea to demand that when people in the world's richest country turn on their taps, the water they drink is free of toxic chemicals."
The legislation would ban the chemicals from food packaging and ban the incineration of PFAS firefighting foam. It would also direct the Environmental Protection Agency to designate PFAS as hazardous under both the Clean Air and and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act — commonly called CERCLA or Superfund, as Common Dreams reported.
Labeling the chemicals as hazardous substances would force manufacturers to foot the bill for cleaning them up, according to The Hill.
"Every American—regardless of the color of their skin, their zip code, or their income—has the right to be free from exposure to a slew of carcinogens and hazardous chemicals," said Merkley, as Common Dreams reported. "But millions of people are ingesting dangerous PFAS chemicals against their will through the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the food they eat. Congress needs to come together to put the health of our communities above the wish lists of American's biggest polluters, and that means establishing and enforcing chemical standards that protect Americans from PFAS substances."
Both bills face an uncertain future in a Republican-controlled senate. Even if they did get through the Senate, Trump has said he would veto them, as Common Dreams reported.
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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?
A fair amount, Grist reported. While CNN and Des Moines Register moderators didn't bring it up until the last half hour, the candidates themselves incorporated it into their answers early and often.
"Debate moderators may take ages to get around to climate change in these debates," Zoya Teirstein wrote for Grist, "but the candidates have gotten increasingly adept at weaving the issue into their answers to other questions. This time around, Wolf Blitzer, Abby Phillip, and the Register's Brianne Pfannenstiel could barely keep a lid on the climate action in the first half of the debate."
10:39pm on the east coast, people are tuning out, parents are tucking their kids into bed... @CNN: "Alright, let's… https://t.co/nSVYhqb4Tv— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅)1579059868.0
So how did the candidates stand on various climate-related issues?
The first climate mentions came in response to the first question, about which candidate was best prepared to be commander-in-chief.
Both former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) listed the climate crisis among new national security issues they would tackle as president, according to a transcript provided by the Des Moines Register.
Philanthropist Tom Steyer brought up the wildfires in Australia when asked how he would use military force as a president, suggesting that the climate crisis might require large international mobilizations.
"[T]here's a gigantic climate issue in Australia, which also requires the same kind of value-driven coalition-building that we actually should be using in the Middle East," he said.
The next time the candidates brought up climate was during the discussion of a new trade deal struck by President Donald Trump with Mexico and Canada. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) came out strongly against it, largely because it does not mention climate change.
"[E]very major environmental organization has said no to this new trade agreement because it does not even have the phrase 'climate change' in it. And given the fact that climate change is right now the greatest threat facing this planet, I will not vote for a trade agreement that does not incorporate very, very strong principles to significantly lower fossil fuel emissions in the world," he said.
Democratic lawmakers had pushed for a commitment to the Paris agreement to be included in the deal, but that did not make it into the final draft, The New York Times pointed out.
Sanders also fought back when Pfannenstiel tried to shift his answer from climate to trade more narrowly.
"Well, they are the same in this issue," he said, according to the transcript.
Steyer joined Sanders in saying that he would not sign the deal because it failed to mention climate.
We can do much better than a Trump-led trade deal that does not even have the phrase “climate change” in it.… https://t.co/t3iNjmP5WP— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)1579056030.0
The first question directly raised by the moderators about the climate crisis brought up last spring's disastrous flooding in the Midwest and focused on what candidates would do about farms and factories that could not be relocated.
The question first went to Buttigieg, who spoke generally about the need to act on climate until the moderators repeated the question.
"We are going to have to use federal funds to make sure that we are supporting those whose lives will inevitably be impacted further by the increased severity and the increased frequency," he said.
The question then went to Steyer.
"Look, what you're talking about is what's called managed retreat," Steyer answered. "It's basically saying we're going to have to move things because this crisis is out of control. And it's unbelievably expensive. And of course we'll come to the rescue of Americans who are in trouble."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) received some pushback from climate activists when she defended her decision not to call for an all-out ban on fracking.
"When it comes to the issue of fracking, I actually see natural gas as a transition fuel. It's a transition fuel to where we get to carbon neutral," Klobuchar said.
Her remarks come less than a week after a study found that new oil and gas emissions projected for the next five years could nearly cancel out the decline in coal emissions, partly enabled by the fracking boom and the falling price of natural gas.
"I cannot believe I am listening to @amyklobuchar talking about fracked gas as a bridge fuel in 2020," Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash tweeted in response.
I cannot believe I am listening to @amyklobuchar talking about fracked gas as a bridge fuel in 2020. #DemDebate— Varshini Prakash 🌅 (@Varshini Prakash 🌅)1579059997.0
Over the course of the debate, the candidates attempted to position themselves as the best person to take on the climate crisis in office.
Steyer emphasized that climate was his top priority.
"And I'm still shocked that I'm the only person on this stage who will say this. I would declare a state of emergency on day one on climate," he said.
Warren, meanwhile, painted herself as the best person to get to the root cause of decades of climate inaction.
"Mr. Steyer talks about it being problem number one," she said. "Understand this, we have known about this climate crisis for decades. Back in the 1990s we were calling it global warming, but we knew what it was. Democrats and Republicans back then were working together because no one wanted a problem. But you know what happened? The industry came in and said, we can make big money if we keep them divided and make no change. Priority number one has to be taking back our government from the corruption. That is the only way we will make progress on climate, on gun safety, on health care, on all of the issues that matter to us."
Sanders, for his part, pointed to his plan for a Green New Deal to transition to 100 percent renewable energy in 10 years.
"If we as a nation do not transform our energy system away from fossil fuel, not by 2050, not by 2040, but unless we lead the world right now — not easy stuff— the planet we are leaving our kids will be uninhabitable and unhealthy," he said.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, meanwhile, pointed to his legacy.
"[B]ack in 1986, I introduced the first climate change bill — and check PolitiFacts (sic); they said it was a game-changer. I've been fighting this for a long time. I headed up the Recovery Act, which put more money into moving away from fossil fuels to — to solar and wind energy than ever has occurred in the history of America," he said.
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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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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.
"I'm running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America," Bloomberg said in the statement that launched his campaign. "We cannot afford four more years of President Trump's reckless and unethical actions. He represents an existential threat to our country and our values. If he wins another term in office, we may never recover from the damage."
He listed the climate crisis as one of the problems he would seek to tackle as president and said he would outline a plan for "fighting climate change" over the course of his campaign.
His website also touted his record on climate, including his successful work with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, which has retired almost 300 U.S. coal plants, and his America's Pledge initiative with former California Gov. Jerry Brown, to organize cities, states and businesses to meet the U.S. Paris agreement pledge, despite Trump's decision to withdraw.
He also reduced New York City's carbon footprint by 14 percent as mayor and serves as the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Climate Action, according to his website.
"As president, Mike will ensure the federal government leads an ambitious agenda to accelerate the U.S. toward a clean energy economy," his campaign promised.
But environmental activists are expressing concerns. In addition to there already being too many candidates vying to defeat President Donald Trump, there's specific concern that the centrist, pro-business Bloomberg is out of step with the social justice orientation of the current climate movement as exemplified by the Green New Deal.
With Bloomberg joining the presidential race, which already includes billionaire Tom Steyer addressing climate change as a top issue in his own campaign, there's a sense that climate issues are moving away from the grassroots movement that elevated it as a priority.
"[His run] creates the perception that only rich white people care about climate, and we have been working so hard to overcome that assumption by bringing climate justice front and center with the Green New Deal," RL Miller, political director of the advocacy group Climate Hawks Vote, told InsideClimate News.
Bloomberg's campaign strategy immediately raised criticism about income inequality. The campaign launched with the largest ad buy in primary history, reserving more than $30 million worth of TV ads, The Guardian reported. Bloomberg is making up for his late entry by opting out of the first four states in the primary calendar and focusing on the Super Tuesday states in March. One of the richest men in the world, he is also entirely self-funding his run, which means he will not be able to participate in debates under current rules, which require a candidate to amass at least 10,000 individual donations.
"I'm disgusted by the idea that Michael Bloomberg or any billionaire thinks they can circumvent the political process and spend tens of millions of dollars to buy elections," Independent Vermont Senator and primary contender Bernie Sanders tweeted Saturday. "If you can't build grassroots support for your candidacy, you have no business running for president."
I’m disgusted by the idea that Michael Bloomberg or any billionaire thinks they can circumvent the political proces… https://t.co/4ei90KCFGQ— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)1574461224.0
This matters for the climate movement, co-founder of the nonprofit Carbon Tax Center Charles Komanoff told InsideClimate News, because he sees taxing the extremely wealthy as an essential part of funding a transition to renewable energy while addressing income inequality.
While Komanaff acknowledges Bloomberg's climate efforts were bold in 2007 when Bloomberg led as New York City's mayor, InsideClimate News reported, Komanoff believes "the times call for a different kind of leadership."
By Julia Conley
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.
The campaign and its supporters applauded the evening as the latest evidence of Sanders's momentum.
"Thousands of Iowans joined together tonight to say loud and clear that it's time for a fundamental change in this country," said Bernie 2020 Iowa state director Misty Rebik. "This is a grassroots movement built to transform this country. Together we're going to expand the electorate and win the Iowa caucus."
As they did last month at a rally in Queens, where Ocasio-Cortez officially endorsed the Vermont Independent senator, the two progressives centered the event on a call for solidarity with people of diverse races, class backgrounds and life experiences.
One key to "expanding the electorate," Ocasio-Cortez suggested, is to inspire voters to vote to improve the lives of people they may never meet in person.
"Solidarity means, I fight for you and you fight for me," the freshman congresswoman told the crowd before introducing Sanders.
"Iowa, you're the first in the nation, baby," she added. "You need to set the tone. I need to go back home to the Bronx and tell my community in the Bronx, 'We need to fight for Iowa.'"
After news broke last month that Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) were expected to back Sanders, CNN host John King wondered aloud if the endorsements would come across as "too urban" and "too far-left" to appeal to Midwest voters — drawing accusations of racism as well as of misunderstanding Sanders's broad appeal among young and working-class voters across the country.
Contrary to the predictions of the corporate media, Ocasio-Cortez won raucous applause in the key state as she rallied the crowd, and attendees shared positive feedback on the congresswoman with the press.
"I love her," Hannah Cook of Glenwood, Iowa, told the Des Moines Register. "I was so excited when I saw that [she was going to be here]."
In addition to holding the largest rally in Iowa so far, Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez drew the largest crowd of any candidate in any state when they spoke to a crowd of 25,000 people in Queens.
In Council Bluffs Friday, Ocasio-Cortez spoke about the need to "stitch together" a coalition of people from all backgrounds and demographics who would benefit from having a president intent on passing Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and other bold initiatives to drastically narrow the wealth gap in the U.S.
"We need to stitch this movement together, bit by bit, stitch by stitch, and that's how we're going to win," Ocasio-Cortez said. "That's not just how we're going to win a Bernie Sanders presidency, but that's how we're going to win our future back. That's how we're going to win our country back. That's how we're going to win it all."
Watch the whole rally below:
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
Naomi Klein and Youth Environmental Leaders to Join Bernie Sanders and AOC for Climate Crisis Summit in Iowa
By Jake Johnson
Author and environmentalist Naomi Klein, U.S. Youth Climate Strike co-founder Isra Hirsi, and Sunrise Movement leader Zina Precht-Rodriguez are among those slated to join Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Iowa on Saturday for a "Climate Crisis Summit" focused on the urgent need for a Green New Deal.
"The climate crisis is an international challenge and we are ready to take it on with a Green New Deal," Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said Monday in a tweet promoting the summit, which is set to take place at Drake University in Des Moines.
The climate crisis is an international challenge and we are ready to take it on with a Green New Deal.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) November 4, 2019
Join me, @AOC, @NaomiAKlein, @israhirsi, @zina__pr, and @swalker06 this Saturday in Des Moines for our Climate Crisis Summit.
RSVP here: https://t.co/bii033ESo3 pic.twitter.com/Utj3KUkg4l
The event, as Vox reported Monday, is part of the Sanders campaign's push to win the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses with an ambitious climate message and policy platform. In August, Sanders unveiled a sweeping Green New Deal proposal calling for a 10-year mobilization to transition the U.S. economy to 100 percent renewable energy while creating 20 million decent-paying union jobs in the process.
"Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to be the new climate candidate of the 2020 presidential race — and his campaign is betting it can win them Iowa," Vox reported Monday.
The youth-led Sunrise Movement tweeted in response to Vox's story that the country has "never seen something like this."
"In 2020, Green New Deal voters could determine who wins the Iowa caucuses, and from there the presidency," the group said.
The Sanders campaign said in a statement that the summit on Saturday "is set to be one of the largest gatherings in Iowa to confront climate change." The event will feature national climate leaders like Hirsi and Precht-Rodriguez as well as local Iowa activists.
"Sen. Sanders probably has the most intensive climate plan on the circuit right now," Hirsi told Vox. "I think a lot of young people are hearing Sanders' message and waking up."
"The climate crisis is everything," Hirsi added. "It's healthcare, it's racial justice, it's criminal justice — everything. It's our lives on the line; lives are already being lost because of it."
The day after the Climate Crisis Summit, Sanders plans to go on a "Green Jobs Tour" across Iowa's conservative fourth congressional district.
Bill Neidhardt, the Sanders campaign's deputy state director in Iowa, predicted the Vermont senator's bold climate message will have broad appeal among Iowa voters.
"Climate is typically seen as an issue for young voters but we reject the notion that climate only engages young voters," Neidhardt told Vox. "We think a strong focus on climate, especially on the economic issues, can really turn the tide."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
On Tuesday night, the Democratic presidential candidates gathered for what The Guardian said was the largest primary debate in U.S. history, and they weren't asked a single question about the climate crisis.
This comes despite the fact that a September CBS poll found that 72 percent of Democrats rated climate change as a "very important" issue, below only health care. It also comes despite a push from climate activists and some candidates this summer for a debate entirely focused on the climate crisis, a push the Democratic National Committee ultimately refused.
It is also a surprising omission given that the debate was moderated by CNN and The New York Times, Grist pointed out. CNN held a climate-focused town hall in September for the candidates, and The New York Times has a news team specifically assigned to the issue.
Climate activists and concerned citizens took to Twitter to express their outrage.
"Just a livable future for our generation at stake," the Sunrise Movement tweeted. "Guess there's no need to ask what the next President of the United States is gonna do about it."
2 hours and 20 minutes into tonight’s #DemDebate and still not a single question on the climate crisis from @CNN @nytimes @DNC.— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@sunrisemvmt) October 16, 2019
Just a livable future for our generation at stake. Guess there’s no need to ask what the next President of the United States is gonna do about it. 🤷♀️
Viewers were especially outraged when, in the last 15 minutes of the debate, CNN's Anderson Cooper referenced the recent revelation that liberal entertainer Ellen DeGeneres and former Republican President George W. Bush are friends.
"In that spirit, we'd like you to tell us about a friendship that you've had that would surprise us and what impact it's had on you and your beliefs," Cooper asked.
The contrast between the gossipy nature of the question and the seriousness of the issue that was not raised drew ire.
"LAST QUESTION IS ABOUT BIPARTISAN FRIENDSHIP AND NOT CLIMATE CHANGE," University of California, Santa Barbara professor and climate politics researcher Leah Stokes tweeted.
Even some of the candidates called out the moderators for their priorities.
Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro pointed out that there had been no questions about climate, housing or immigration.
"Climate change is an existential threat. America has a housing crisis. Children are still in cages at our border," he tweeted. "But you know, Ellen."
Three hours and no questions tonight about climate, housing, or immigration.— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) October 16, 2019
Climate change is an existential threat. America has a housing crisis. Children are still in cages at our border.
But you know, Ellen.#DemocraticDebate
One candidate, billionaire Tom Steyer, used the closing friendship question to address environmental issues.
"So I'm friends with a woman from Denmark, South Carolina, named Deanna Berry, who's fighting for clean water and environmental justice in her community," he said, according to a Washington Post debate transcript. "She's a different gender. She's a different race. She's from a different part of the country. But she reminds me of my parents in terms of her courage and her optimism and her honor."
Steyer also called attention to the lack of a climate question after the debate.
"I'll tell you what broke my heart is that no one asked a question about climate," Steyer told reporters in a video posted by NBC New York. "I've spent more than 10 years working on climate, I've said it's the number one priority of my administration, and that I'd declare a state of emergency on day one."
Despite the moderators' silence, most of the other candidates did mention the climate crisis during the debate itself, Grist pointed out.
Steyer also raised it during the foreign policy discussion, according to the Washington Post transcript.
"Let's go to the most important international problem that we're facing, which no one has brought up, which is climate," Steyer said. "We can't solve the climate crisis in the United States by ourselves. It's an international crisis."
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) brought it up during a question about his federal jobs guarantee.
"Furthermore — and I hope we will discuss it at length tonight — this planet faces the greatest threat in its history from climate change. And the Green New Deal that I have advocated will create up to 20 million jobs as we move away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy," he said, according to The Washington Post.
We need a Green New Deal to save this planet. pic.twitter.com/mGDuwtTfLw— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 16, 2019
Finally, both Sanders and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg cited the climate crisis as one of the major issues the country still has to deal with as the impeachment process against President Donald Trump continues.
Buttigieg asked the audience to look forward to the moment when the Trump presidency is over, one way or another.
"But really think about where we'll be: vulnerable, even more torn apart by politics than we are right now. And these big issues from the economy to climate change have not taken a vacation during the impeachment process," Buttigieg said, as The Washington Post reported. "I'm running to be the president who can turn the page and unify a dangerously polarized country while tackling those issues that are going to be just as urgent then as they are now."
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For the first time, Democratic contenders for President participated in a town hall solely focused on the climate crisis. For more than seven hours last night, 10 candidates fielded questions from an audience of Democratic voters and from CNN's moderators.
After a summer of record heat waves, wildfires and ice melt, and on the heels of Hurricane Dorian stalling over the Bahamas and dropping record rainfall, there were no longer softball questions about whether or not human-induced climate change is real. Instead, questions touched on many aspects of environmental damage, not just from coal and cars, but also from farming, industry, human migration, adaptation, deforestation, trade, the food system and the racial and economic divide in the face of a changing climate, amongst several other topics.
Throughout the night, the candidates faced some straight forward questions from the moderators about light bulbs and plastic straws; the tough questions came from young people in the audience, as The New York Times pointed out. In fact, one of the questions seemed to rattle former Vice President Joe Biden.
"How can we trust you to hold these corporations and executives accountable for their crimes against humanity when we know that tomorrow you are holding a high-dollar fund-raiser hosted by Andrew Goldman, a fossil fuel executive?" asked Isaac Larsen, a 27-year-old Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern.
Biden then used an outsized portion of his 40-minutes to explain away his connections to Andrew Goldman, a co-founder of a liquid natural gas company. Biden was also asked by a 19-year-old how her generation can trust him to prioritize their future over big business.
A high school student asked Julian Castro why he should be trusted when he supported fracking as mayor of San Antonio. Similarly, a college student asked Amy Klobuchar if she could actually stand up to the beef and dairy industry when they have so much influence in government and, in particular, Minnesota, which she represents in the Senate.
https://t.co/xCe6YrKpiZ— darien DignityRespectKindness (DRK) (@darien DignityRespectKindness (DRK))1567642478.0
Several of the candidates took exception to the questions that the moderators asked as too simplistic and too much an echo of conservative talking points. For example, being asked if the US should rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, Sen. Cory Booker bristled, ""I'm sorry. That is, like, a cost of entry even to run for president or talk about the presidency."
Elizabeth Warren was exasperated by Chris Cuomo's question about whether the government should regulate light bulb uses. She pointed out that it is a conservative talking point to the put the onus on the consumer rather than polluting industries, as Mother Jones reported.
"Oh come on, give me a break," Warren said to Cuomo. "This is exactly what the fossil fuel industry wants us to be talking about. That's what they want us to talk about: This is your problem."
And, when Sen. Bernie Sanders was asked by Anderson Cooper if he would reinstate the light bulb requirement, he simply answered, "Duh!"
Some other notable moments came from Andrew Yang who offered creative solutions and knew how much of a carbon-tax he would like to levy. He also championed changing the calculation of gross domestic product to include environmental factors. "Let's upgrade it with a new score card that includes our environmental sustainability and our goals," he said.
Sen. Kamala Harris said she would direct the Department of Justice to investigate oil and gas companies whose practices "are causing harm and death in communities. And there has been no accountability," she said.
Sanders boasted about his $16 trillion spending plan as the most serious approach to a mounting crisis. "We are fighting for the survival of the planet Earth, our only planet. How is this not a major priority?" Sanders asked during the town hall.
Sanders also unequivocally opposed nuclear power plants. "It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me to add more dangerous waste to this country and the world when we don't know how to get rid of what we have now," he said, as the The New York Times reported.
That differed from several other candidates. Both Andrew Yang and Sen. Booker championed nuclear power as a necessary ingredient for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 plan. Harris worried about waste, but said she would leave it up to the states to decide, according to the The New York Times.
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