I was looking for the entrance that would take me to the CNN Climate Town Hall, when I saw them. A sizable group of demonstrators with signs like “Ban Fracking Now” and “Youth Power.” They were listening to speeches by a rotation of speakers. I was handed a blue slip of paper with information on the September 20th Climate Strike.
Inside the CNN audience members gathered. The crowd skewed young, with many college students present. They were joined by activist groups including the Sunrise Movement, LCV, WeAct. I represented Moms Clean Air Force for the second half of the Climate Town Hall, and there were two important takeaways:
- The unsung hero of the evening was Gov. Jay Inslee, who had staked his presidential run on the climate crisis. He was mentioned and thanked by many of those present.
- The urgency of protecting the environment, grossly overlooked in 2012 and 2016, was now palpable. Throughout the broadcast, there were updates on the path of Hurricane Dorian and the growing devastation in the Bahamas.
Here’s my first-hand account:
Joe Biden was up first. He presented himself as a global leader who would be effective in getting consensus from other nations to combat the climate crisis. “We should be organizing the world,” he said.
Proposing “net zero emissions by 2050,” Biden was asked if his “plan was aggressive enough,” – to which he responded, “Yes.” When he was asked a question with the refrain of, “How can we trust you?”– Biden offered details on the Global Climate Protection legislation he had proposed in 1986.
Soon after, Biden was grilled about the Andrew Goldman fundraiser on his behalf, scheduled for the following evening. Goldman is a co-founder of Western LNG. Biden’s surprised response was, “I didn’t realize that.” It was followed by a promise that his staff would look into it. (He did attend.)
Bernie Sanders followed, and it was clear that he had many supporters in the audience. He defended the price tag of his $16 trillion plan asking, “Is an uninhabitable world realistic?”
He called to task the $400 billion worth of tax breaks and subsidies going to the fossil fuel sector. He drew hearty applause for the suggestion to cut monies going to the military for the purpose of “defending foreign oil fields.”
Sanders underscored the need for “political will” to promote an equitable transition that “would support all workers.” When asked about nuclear power, he said flatly, “It doesn’t make sense to add more dangerous waste.”
Elizabeth Warren reiterated her core belief: the need to combat the corruption of fossil fuel polluters. Her words to those perpetrators of malfeasance were, “You’ve got to clean up your own messes!” Her mantra was, “They don’t get to make our kids sick to increase their profitability.”
Warren discussed union jobs, environmental justice, and protecting people over profits. Her plan costs $3 trillion over a decade. Warren’s legal chops were evidenced in her stance, “We need to use our regulatory tools.” She does not support new nuclear initiatives.
Pete Buttigieg’s ideas were firmly rooted in “bringing people to the table who haven’t felt like they were part of the process.” He said, “Rural Americans are a key part of the equation.” He spoke about “green global agriculture” and how Americans had to “set the goal and then meet it.”
Environmental justice and “generational justice – for those after us,” was a key piece for Buttigieg. He called out the Republicans, emphasizing, “This ought to be a bipartisan issue.” Addressing the need to give union workers “identity, community, and purpose,” he pronounced, “If we’re not underway by 2020, we’ve lost our shot.”
Beto O’Rourke, who supports a cap and trade system, made sure to give the Sunrise Movement a shout-out early on. Coming out of Texas, O’Rourke’s record with the oil industry and fracked gas has been critically parsed. He did state that he opposed off-shore drilling.
Speaking about drought in Guatemala, O’Rourke pointed to why there needs to be a “special category for climate refugees.” Reflecting on the potential catastrophe at hand, O’Rourke stated, “We have no room for error.” Yet, he wondered if the country could “come together to meet this challenge.”
Cory Booker was the final speaker, and he brought an inspirational tone to his insights. His $3 trillion climate plan went beyond numbers and banning fracking to encompass a discussion about “food justice, perverse farming practices, and American Climate refugees.” He spoke definitely about the need to “incentive good practices.” Invoking the CCC, put into play by President Roosevelt, Booker called for “planting billions of trees.”
To a proactive crowd, Booker got an effusive reaction when he said, “Democracy is a verb. We must all act.”
It was a fitting end to an engaging evening.
View photos from CNN Climate Crisis town hall HERE.