Walking into the CNN studio on September 4th in New York City for the Climate Town Hall, and seeing the words “CLIMATE CRISIS” with a bright red emphasis on “CRISIS”, put a smile of victory on my face.
Before I provide a few highlights from the 7-hour long primetime climate forum, let me start by saying: We’ve been asking our elected officials to move forward on climate change for a long time. This town hall brought us closer to achieving that. Bravo to all the candidates, and a huge thank you to CNN.
Without a doubt, the candidates would not have addressed the urgent climate crisis without the tireless hard work of environmental and health justice groups like Moms Clean Air Force. So joining the CNN audience for this historic media event was a proud moment for me and my colleague, Trisha Sheehan.
Here are 10 climate highlights:
1. Julian Castro called climate change “an existential threat.” Discussing low-income communities living near superfund sites he said:
“That’s the environmental injustice of racism that we’re dealing with.”
2. Andrew Yang had recently visited Flint, Michigan, and said he’s a dad of two. He believes safe drinking water is a “fundamental human right.”
“You know what’s expensive? Poisoning our kids.”
3. Kamala Harris told the audience she would deal with climate change “disinformation campaigns” by taking polluters to court.
“People who profit off of harmful behaviors, when you take away that money — because you take them to court and you sue them, as I have done — it’s extraordinary how they will change behaviors. They have to be held accountable.”
4. Amy Klobuchar called for “sweeping legislation” including investing in clean energy, and restoring policies like the Clean Power Plan.
“I think you have to be honest with people” about what is possible.
5, Joe Biden was optimistic his climate plan would hit net-zero emissions in the United States by 2050.
“We’re walking around with our heads down like ‘What are we going to do? We’re in such great trouble.’ We’re the United States of America and there’s not a damn thing we can’t do once we set our minds to it.”
6. Bernie Sanders says we must have a government that represents the people, not wealthy campaign contributors. This will help us understand the climate urgency.
“If I start from the moral position that we have no choice but to do everything that we can, with countries all over the world, to save this planet for our children and future generations, that will mean change. I think that what a president of the US has got to do is make it clear to the people of our country and the world what the dangers are if we do not act.”
7. Elizabeth Warren made clear that we shouldn’t get distracted by the three industries contributing to the most carbon dioxide emissions – the building industry, the electric power industry, the oil industry.
“This is exactly what the fossil fuel industry hopes we’re all talking about. They want to be able to stir up a lot of controversy around your light bulbs, around your straws and around your cheeseburgers. When 70 % of the pollution, of the carbon that we’re throwing into the air, comes from three industries.”
8. Pete Buttigieg framed his climate change approach in terms of morality:
“If you believe that God is watching what do you think God thinks of that? This is less and less about the planet as an abstract thing and more about specific people suffering specific harm because of what we’re doing right now. At least one way of talking about this is that it’s a kind of sin.”
9. Beto O’Rourke discussed his plan for reaching the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 with a carbon tax:
“We should certainly price carbon. I think the best possible path to do that is through a cap and trade system. It’s the best way to send a pricing signal.”
10. Cory Booker doesn’t separate climate change from his list of other pressing national priorities.
“It is the lens through which we must do everything.”
Americans had a chance to be reminded again and again Wednesday night, that a strong climate plan, one that puts the lives of people and planet over polluters, is a win for our children.
View all the photos from the CNN Climate Town Hall HERE.