WASHINGTON – After months of campaigning by climate organizers, climate was a main line of questioning for candidates in Wednesday night’s debate, dwarfing the amount of time devoted to the issue in previous debates. In Nevada, home to a long-standing fight over water rights from corporate pipeline owners, candidates faced off about issues from a national fracking ban to climate accountability from fossil fuel CEOs. The Democratic candidates’ appeared to share the opinion that climate change poses an “existential threat,” although vastly differed on timelines and solutions, as they have during the entire election season. Some notable moments included Senator Bernie Sanders’ push for a Green New Deal, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s reminder that climate change disproportionately impacts communities of color, and former Vice President Biden’s concession that fossil fuel polluters must pay for the climate crisis.
The following is a statement from 350 Action’s North America Director Tamara Toles O’Laughlin:
“The specificity of answers candidates provided on climate issues in last night’s debate are a testament to the perseverance of the climate movement whose demands now define the threshold of a progressive platform for the Presidency. From Sanders reminder that a Green New Deal would protect, workers, and create millions of new jobs transitioned from fossil fuels to renewable energy to Warren’s willing engagement on environmental justice, and her understanding of climate vulnerability as an issue of disproportionate impacts for Black, Indigenous and communities of color, we hear our chants and demands in the candidates boldness and clarity.
“Former Vice President Biden’s concession that oil and gas CEOs must pay for the climate crisis was also a major win for the climate movement that has pushed accountability with him for on the campaign trail for months.
“We welcome candidate consensus on the existential threat of climate inaction and are puzzled by the bizarre array of false solutions in responses from the laggards. Senator Klobuchar and Michael Bloomberg’s claims that fracked gas is a ‘transition fuel’ flies in the face of all logic and signals how they would resist the truth of rural and urban communities alike, if elected.
“There is no such thing as an oil and gas transition, beyond a firm rejection that starts now. Much like Donald Trump’s efforts to rebrand natural gas as “freedom gas,” any effort to cast oil and gas extraction as temporary is out of touch with reality and signals stubborn addiction to fossil fuels against any viable plans for reducing emissions. Klobuchar has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge and should know better. Mayor Bloomberg, who advocates for the end of coal, shows lack of foresight in signaling support for short sighted replacements in their stead.
“While Mayor Buttigieg was right in claiming that this election will have a pivotal role in reducing planetary warming, his timeline for action by 2050 is too slow to make him a serious climate champion.”