Here are climate related excerpts from the first Democratic presidential debate that took place in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. The 20 Democratic presidential candidates were randomly divided into two groups of ten, these excerpts are extracted from the debate between the first ten, the second group of ten will debate on July 31. The comments of progressives like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were contrasted by the more cautious approaches we saw from Governor Steve Bullock, Congressman John Delaney, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Congressman Tim Ryan, and Governor John Hickenlooper. The remaining three, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Congressman Beto O’Rourke and Marianne Williamson, seemed to try to have it both ways. Here are comments made by the candidates on the subjects of climate, economics (green new deal), jobs, fossil fuels, renewable energy, electric vehicles, agriculture, science and Republican denial.
The Climate Crisis
Hickenlooper: [as as governor of Colorado] We attacked climate change head-on…we should have an international diplomatic approach where we’re talking to everybody, because if we’re going to deal with climate change and cyber security and nuclear proliferation, we’ve got to be talking to everybody.
O’Rourke: We will meet these challenges here at home, and we will lead the world in those that we face abroad, successfully confronting endless war and climate change…We had the courage of our convictions, talking about universal health care, comprehensive immigration reform, and confronting the challenge of climate before it is too late. We brought everyone in…
Buttigieg: I’m running for president because our country is running out of time. It is even bigger than the emergency of the Trump presidency. Ask yourself how somebody like Donald Trump ever gets within cheating distance of the Oval Office in the first place. It doesn’t happen unless America is already in a crisis — an economy that’s not working for everyone, endless war, climate change. We have lived this in my industrial Midwestern hometown. My generation has lived this as long as we have been alive. And it’s only accelerating. Science tells us we have 12 years before we reach the horizon of catastrophe when it comes to our climate.
Bullock: [Climate in] Washington, D.C., is captured by dark money, the Koch brothers, and others. That’s been the fight of my career. Kicking the Koch brothers out of Montana, taking the first case after Citizens United up to the Supreme Court, making it so that elections are about people. That’s the way we’re actually going to make a change on this, Don, is by changing that system. And most of the things that folks are talking about on this stage we’re not going to address until we kick dark money and the post-Citizens United corporate spending out of these elections…By 2030, we will have passed the point of no return on climate…But here’s the good news: It’s not too late. We can tell our kids that before we ran out of time, just before we ran out of time, in 2020, we did what it took to deliver a climate that we didn’t have to wonder if it could support us…We can do this, if and only if we are ready to walk away from what hasn’t worked with bold action and win, not only defeat this president, but defeat his congressional allies with a defeat so big that it reunites the Republican Party with its conscience as well as bringing Democrats to office…You know, all of us agree that we have address climate change. No one on this stage is talking about it. The Republicans won’t even acknowledge that climate change is real, Dana, and that’s because of the corrupting influence and money. That has been the fight of my career.
Klobuchar: [Trump’s] taking us out of the climate change agreement, out of the Iran nuclear agreement, out of the Russian nuclear agreement, and I don’t agree with that.
Delaney: We can fight climate change and reimagine our education system. But we have to do it with real solutions, not impossible promises.
Green New Deal
Delaney: [the reason the green new deal is not realistic is because] it ties its progress to other things that are completely unrelated to climate, like universal health care, guaranteed government jobs, and universal basic income. So that only makes it harder to do. My plan, which gets us to net zero by 2050, which we absolutely have to do for our kids and our grandkids, will get us there. I put a price on carbon, take all the money, give it back to the American people in a dividend. That was introduced by me on a bipartisan basis. It’s the only significant bipartisan climate bill in the Congress. I’m going to increase the Department of Energy research budget by fivefold, because we fundamentally have to innovate our way out of this problem. I’m going to create a market for something called direct air capture, which are machines that actually take carbon out of the atmosphere, because I don’t think we’ll get to net zero by 2050 unless we have those things. I’m going to increase investment in renewables and I’m going to create something called the Climate Corps. That is a plan that’s realistic. It’s a bet on the U.S. private innovation economy and creates the incentives to get us to net zero by 2050 for our kids.
Hickenlooper: Well, I think the guarantee for a public job for everyone who wants one is a classic part of the problem. It’s a distraction. I share the urgency of everyone up here. We have to recognize — I mean, everyone’s got good ideas. What we do in this country is no better than just a best practice, right? It’s what we do here is a best practice and a template, but it’s got to be done all over the world…We need every country working together if we’re going to really deal with climate change in a realistic way.
Warren: So, climate crisis is the existential crisis for our world. It puts every living thing on this planet at risk. I have a plan for a green industrial policy that takes advantage of the fact that we do what we do best, and that is innovate and create. So I’ve proposed putting $2 trillion in so we do the research. We then say anyone in the world can use it, so long as you build it right here in America. That will produce about 1.2 million manufacturing jobs right here in Michigan, right here in Ohio, right here in the industrial Midwest. And the second thing we will do is we will then sell those products all around the world. Right now, for every $1 the United States…spends trying to market around the world… China is spending $100…Look, I put a real policy on the table to create 1.2 million new jobs in green manufacturing. There’s going to be a $23 trillion worldwide market for this. This could revitalize huge cities across this country.
Sanders: We can create what the Green New Deal is about. It’s a bold idea. We can create millions of good-paying jobs. We can rebuild communities in rural America that have been devastated. So we are not anti-worker. We are going to provide and make sure that those workers have a transition, new jobs, healthcare and education.
Fossil Fuels, Renewable Energy and Jobs
Warren: What you want to do instead is find the Republican talking point of a made-up piece of some other part and say, “Oh, we don’t really have to do anything.” That’s the problem we’ve got in Washington right now. It continues to be a Washington that works great for oil companies, just not for people worried about climate change.
Sanders: I get a little bit tired of Democrats afraid of big ideas. Republicans are not afraid of big ideas. They could give $1 trillion in tax breaks to billionaires and profitable corporations. They could bail out the crooks on Wall Street. So please don’t tell me that we cannot take on the fossil fuel industry. And nothing happens unless we do that. Here is the bottom line. We’ve got to ask ourselves a simple question, “What do you do with an industry that knowingly, for billions of dollars in short-term profits, is destroying this planet?” I say that is criminal activity that cannot be allowed to continue…On this issue, my friends, there is no choice. We have got to be super aggressive if we love our children and if we want to leave them a planet that is healthy and is habitable, so I don’t disagree with Tim. What that means is we got to, A, take on the fossil fuel industry, B, it means we have to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy, at a hell of a lot (ph) of good union jobs, as we do that. We got to transform our transportation… system, and we have to lead the world…because this is not just an American issue…there ain’t nobody in the Congress who’s more strongly pro-worker than I am. So when I talk about taking on the fossil fuel industry, what I am also talking about is a just transition. All right.
O’Rourke: Those community college students that I met in Tucumcari, New Mexico understand that wind and solar jobs are the fastest-growing jobs in the country. And those farmers in Iowa say pay me for the environmental services of planting cover crops and keeping more land in conservation easements. That’s how we meet the challenge. We do it with everyone in this country. We bring everyone in to the solution.
Ryan: … cut the worker in on the deal. Make sure these are union jobs. And I will double union membership to make sure these new jobs pay what the old fossil fuel jobs pay.
Bullock: …as we transition to this clean energy economy, you’ve got to recognize, there are folks that have spent their whole life powering our country, and far too often, Democrats sound like they’re part of the problem. We got to make sure to aid in those transition as we get to a carbon neutral world, which I think we can do by 2020…I think Democrats often, when they’re saying, oh, these fossil fuel industries, these workers, those coal miner workers. Look, the world’s changing. We got to make a change, but I think Democrats often sound like the people that, as Congressman Ryan would say, shower at the end of the day, that they’re part of the problem. And far too many communities are being left behind, as we make this transition.
Ryan: my plan is to create a chief manufacturing officer so we could actually start making things in the United States again, that would pull the government, the Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, work with the private sector, work with investors, emerging tech companies, to dominate the electric vehicle market. China dominates it now, 50 percent to 60 percent. I want us to dominate the battery market, make those here in the United States and cut the workers in on the deal. The charging stations, solar panels, same thing; China dominates 60 percent of the solar panel market…if we’re waiting for 2040 for a ban to come in on gasoline vehicles, we’re screwed. So we better get busy now. And that’s why I’m saying get a chief manufacturing officer, align the environmental incentives with the financial incentives, and make sure that people can actually make money off of the new technologies that are moving forward.
Ryan: But you cannot get there on climate unless we talk about agriculture. We need to convert our industrial agriculture system over to a sustainable and regenerative agriculture system… that actually sequesters carbon… into the soil. And you can go ask — you can go ask Gabe Brown and Allen Williams, who actually make money off of regenerative agriculture. So we can move away… from all the subsidies that we’re giving the farmers. They haven’t made a profit in five years. And we could start getting good food into our schools and into our communities. And that’s going to drive health care down. That’s another part of the health care conversation…
Science and Republican denial
O’Rourke: I’ve listen to the sciences on this, and they’re very clear. We don’t have more than 10 years to get this right, and we won’t meet that challenge with half-steps or half-measures or only half the country. We’ve got to bring everyone in. The people of Detroit and those that I listened to in Flint last week, they want the challenge. They want those jobs. They want to create the future for this country and the world.
Bullock: Are we going to actually address climate change? Fire seasons are 80 days longer in the west now. Or are we going to give people a better shot at a better life? You can do both, but let’s actually have the scientists drive this. Let’s not just talk about plans that are written for press releases that will go nowhere else if we can’t get a Republican to acknowledge… that the climate’s changing.
Buttigieg: We have all put out highly similar visions on climate. It is all theoretical. We will deal with climate, if and only if we win the presidency, if and only if we beat Donald Trump.