Here are climate related excerpts from the second CNN Democratic presidential debate that took place in Detroit, Michigan on July 31, 2019. In the CNN debate on July 30th, the first group of ten randomly assigned candidates discussed subjects including: the climate crisis, the Green New Deal, fossil fuels, renewable energy, electric vehicles, agriculture, science, and Republican denial. In the second CNN debate candidates addressed the subjects of climate, the Green New Deal, fossil fuels and science.
The second group of ten randomly assigned candidates included Governor of Washington Jay Inslee, former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Cory Booker, Senator Michael Bennet, Senator Kamala Harris, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Kamala Harris, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, Former tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang, and the Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio.
When it comes to the climate crisis Jay Inslee was unquestionably the leading voice in this field of candidates. Here are climate related comments made by the candidates in the order in which they appeared:
Inslee (opening statement): I am running for president because the people in this room and the democrats watching tonight are the last best hope for humanity on this planet. If—if we make defeating the climate crisis the top priority of the United States, we will have a fighting chance to save ourselves and our children’s future. It has to be our top priority. My plan is one of national mobilization, quickly bringing 100 percent clean energy to Americans, creating 8 million good union jobs. This is a big, bold, ambitious plan for clean energy for a big bold ambitious nation. Middle ground approaches are not enough. We must confront the fossil fuel industry. I’ve been working on this for 25 years. And now we know this, we are at tipping point and whether we shrink from this challenge or rise to it is the vital question of our time. We democrats believe we can still do big things in this nation. We can defeat the climate crisis. Let’s get to work.
Inslee: I know the firsthand terrific impact of climate change on Americans across the country already. The family who I saw, with their aluminum home now, just a pile of molten aluminum, they lost everything in the Paradise fires; the non-profit in Davenport that was washed away in the floods. We have to act now. Look, climate change is not a singular issue, it is all the issues that we Democrats care about. It is health. It is national security. It is our economy. And we know this; middle ground solutions, like the vice president has proposed, or sort of middling average-sized things, are not going to save us. Too little, too late is too dangerous. And we have to have a bold plan, and mine has been called the “gold standard.” Now, we also need to embed environmental justice. I was in zip code 48217 in the Detroit neighborhood the other day, right next to an oil refinery, where the kids have asthma and they have cancer clusters. And after talking to these folks, I believe this…[clean] air and clear water in America…I believe that survival is realistic, and that’s the kind of plan we need. And that’s the kind I have.
Biden: My plan calls for 500,000 charging stations around the country so by 2030 we’re all electric vehicles. My plan calls for making sure that we have $400 billion invested in technologies to learn how to contain what we’re doing, creating 10 million new jobs. We will double offshore wind. We will end any subsidies for coal or any other fossil fuel. But we have to also engage the world while we’re doing it. We have to walk and chew gum at the same time….[there would not be any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration] we would—we would work it out. We would make sure it’s [fossil fuels] eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those, either—any fossil fuel.
Inslee: We cannot work it out. We cannot work this out. The time is up. Our house is on fire. We have to stop using coal in 10 years, and we need a president to do it or it won’t get done. Get off coal. Save this country and the planet. That’s what I’m for.
Biden: There is no middle ground about my plan. The fact of the matter is I call for the immediate action to be taken. First of all, one of the things that – we’re responsible for 15 percent of all the pollution in the country. He’s right about how it affects people and it affects neighborhoods, particularly poor neighborhoods But here’s the deal; in area, there’s also another piece. Eighty-five percent of it is something I helped negotiate; and that is the Paris Climate Accord. I would immediately rejoin that Paris Accord. I would make sure that we up the ante which it calls for. I would be able to bring those leaders together who I know I – I convene them in the White House, like we did in nuclear summit, and I would raise the standard…I also invested $400 billion… in research for new alternatives to deal with climate change…And that’s bigger than any other person.
Yang: The important number in Vice President Biden’s remarks just now is that the United States was only 15 percent of global emissions. We like to act as if we’re 100 percent, but the truth is even if we were to curb our emissions dramatically, the earth is still going to get warmer. And we can see it around it us this summer. The last four years have been the four warmest years in recorded history. This is going to be a tough truth, but we are too late. We are 10 years too late. We need to do everything we can to start moving the climate in the right direction, but we also need to start moving our people to higher ground. And the best way to do that is to put economic resources into your hands so you can protect yourself and your families.
Gillibrand: So the first thing that I’m going to do when I’m president is I’m going to Clorox the Oval Office. The second thing I’m going to do is I will reengage on global climate change. And I will not only sign the Paris global climate accords, but I will lead a worldwide conversation about the urgency of this crisis. The greatest threat to humanity is global climate change. I visited a family in Iowa who—water spewed into her home, Fran Parr, it tossed her refrigerator upend, all the furniture was broken, all the dishes were broken, and mud was everywhere. That is the impact of severe weather right now on families’ lives. And so the truth is, we need a robust solution. When John F. Kennedy said I want to put a man on the moon in the next 10 years, not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard, he knew it was going to be a measure of our innovation, our success, our ability to galvanize worldwide competition. He wanted to have a space race with Russia. Why not have a green energy race with China? Why not have clean air and clean water for all Americans? Why not rebuild our infrastructure? Why not actually invest in the green jobs? That’s what the Green New Deal is about…Not only will I pass it, but I will put a price on carbon to make market forces help us.
Gabbard: Well, first of all, this is personal. If you can imagine, I grew up in Hawaii, which is the most remote island chain in the world. So for us growing up there, protecting our environment was not a political issue, it’s a way of life. It’s part of our culture. It’s part of who we are. This is why, as a member of Congress, long before there was ever a Green New Deal, I introduced the most ambitious climate change legislation ever in Congress called the Off Fossil Fuels Act. That actually laid out an actionable plan to take us from where we are today to transition off of fossil fuels and invest in green renewable energy, invest in workforce training, invest in the kinds of infrastructure that we need to deal with the problems and the challenges that climate is posing to us today.
Booker: I just want to take, first of all, a step back and say that I agree wholeheartedly with Governor Inslee. It’s one of the reasons why Greenpeace ranks me and him at the top of this entire field of the candidates on climate.
Inslee: Second, Cory. Second, but close. You’re just close.
Booker: I’m—hey, hey. I want to say very clearly—thank you, man. Thank you. I’ll try harder. Look, the reason why is because, first of all, this problem didn’t start yesterday. Science didn’t become a reality yesterday. This has been going on for years. There was another president that would not join an international accord. Then it was the Kyoto accords. I was mayor then. And I stood up in national leadership joining with other mayors to say climate change is not a separate issue. It must be the issue and the lens with which we view every issue. Nobody should get applause for rejoining the Paris climate accords. That is kindergarten. We have to go to far advances and make sure that everything from our trade deals, everything from the billions of dollars we spend to foreign aid, everything must be sublimated to the challenge and the crisis that is existential, which is dealing with the climate threat. And, yes, the majority of this problem is outside the United States, but the only way we’re going to deal with this is if the United States leads.
Harris: I mean, I have to agree with Governor Inslee. And I’m going to just paraphrase one of your great sayings, Governor, which is we currently have a president in the White House who obviously does not understand the science. He’s been pushing science fiction instead of science fact. The guy thinks that wind turbines cause cancer, but what in fact they cause is jobs. And the reality is that I would take any Democrat on this stage over the current president of the United States, who is rolling it back to our collective peril. We must have and adopt a Green New Deal. On day one as president…I would re-enter us in the Paris agreement…And put in place so we would be carbon neutral by 2030.
Bennet: It’s so important. Donald Trump should be the last climate denier that’s ever in the White House…now we have a person in the White House who has no appreciation of that history, who doesn’t believe in the rule of law, who doesn’t believe in the independence of the judiciary, who doesn’t believe that climate change is real. I think that we have an incredible opportunity in front of us, all of us, to come together just as our parents and grandparents did before them, and face challenges even harder than the ones that we face, but the only way we’re going to be able to do it is to put the divisive politics of Donald Trump behind us and the divisive politics of the last 10 years behind us. We need to come together united against a broken Washington, make Donald Trump a one-term president, and begin to govern this country again for our kids and our grandkids who cannot do it for themselves.
Inslee: For decades, we have kicked the can down the road on climate change. And now under Donald Trump, we face a looming catastrophe. But it is not too late. We have one last chance. And when you have one chance in life, you take it. Think about this: Literally the survival of humanity on this planet and civilization as we know it is in the hands of the next president. And we have to have a leader who will do what is necessary to save us. And that includes making this the top priority of the next presidency. And I alone on this panel am making a commitment that this will be the organizing principle of my administration not the first day, but every day. And if you share my view of the urgency of this matter, I hope you’ll join me, because we are up against powerful special fossil fuel interests. And it is time to stand up on our legs and confront the fossil fuel special interests. Because that is our salvation, what it depends upon. So I hope you will consider going to jayinslee.com and joining this effort. And I will close with this: I am confident and optimistic tonight, even in the face of this difficulty, because I know we can build a clean energy economy, I know we can save our children and our grandchildren. I know that we can defeat climate change and we will defeat Donald Trump. This is our moral responsibility. And we will fulfill it. Thank you very much.