Here are the climate related excerpts from the CNN Univision Democratic Presidential Debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders that took place on March 15, 2020 in Washington DC. The debate was moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, and Univision’s Ilia Calderón. Although the coronavirus was predominate theme in the debate, more than 12 minutes were devoted to climate change and fossil fuels. Here is the full summary:
Jake Tapper: (13:37)
Let’s move now to the climate crisis. I’m coming right to you Senator Sanders. The world Health Organization calls the climate crisis, a “Health crisis” and warns that climate change could fuel the spread of infectious diseases. Can you point to specific measures in your climate plan that address that threat?
Bernie Sanders: (13:57)
Well, of course we do. I mean we… Look, this is what the scientists are telling us, the same scientists who make your point there, Jake. What they’re telling us is, if we don’t get our act together in the next seven or eight years, there would be irreversible damage done to this planet. We’re talking about cities in America, from Miami to New Orleans to Charleston, South Carolina being underwater. We are talking about severe droughts which will prevent farmers in the Midwest from growing the food that we need. We’re talking about extreme weather disturbances which hit Houston Texas, Venice Italy, just a few months ago.
Bernie Sanders: (14:37)
We are talking about the absolute need and I want to hear Joe’s position on this. This is not a middle of the ground thing. This is not building a few more solar panels or a few more wind turbines. What this is about is transforming our energy system, as quickly as we humanly can, away from fossil fuel. It is insane that we continue to have fracking in America. It is absurd that we give tens of billions of dollars a year in tax breaks and subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. This has got the end and end now if we love our kids and future generations.
Jake Tapper: (15:15)
Vice President Biden?
Joe Biden: (15:16)
First thing that President Obama and I were summoned to the State Department… Excuse me, the Defense Department for was to meet with all the chiefs, the single greatest threat to our national security, they said, is climate change. Single greatest threat to our national security, because as populations have to move because they can no longer live where they are, because their islands are sinking, because you saw what happened in Darfur, with the change in weather patterns and the deserted there. It causes war, it causes great migrations, great migrations. They said that’s the single biggest problem. Number two, there’s an awful lot of people today who are in fact getting ill because of the changes in the environment, particularly up where Bernie lives. I’m not… It has nothing to do with him. But having, up in the Northeast, because you have everything from beetle infestation and a whole range of things that are causing diseases as well, in addition to eliminating foliage. But-
Jake Tapper: (16:11)
So Vice President Biden, let me ask you then, you talk about this being the number one crisis-
Joe Biden: (16:16)
Jake Tapper: (16:17)
… they told you at the Pentagon. The price tag for your climate plan is about $1.7 trillion. That’s about $14 trillion less than Senator Sanders wants to spend on this. Is your plan ambitious enough to tackle this crisis?
Joe Biden: (16:30)
Yes, it is ambitious enough to tackle the crisis, because what… Go to joebiden.com, I lay out the first 13 things I would do immediately upon being elected. Number one, we’re going to once again reinstate all the cuts the President made and everything from the cafe standards, how far automobiles can go, investing in light rail so that we take cars off the road, making sure we’re in a position where we are now in a position that we put 500,000 charging stations in areas that… [silence 00:17:03] … all new highways that we built, making sure that we spent $500 billion a year… [silence 00:17:22] and the federal government paying for transportation, the vehicles we run, all of those being converted to being able to run on low carbon fuel and/or be able to run on no carbon fuel at all by having them move into a direction that is all carbon free. We can do these things. We can lay down the tracks where nothing can be changed by the next President or the following President, the one beyond that.
Joe Biden: (18:02)
In addition to that, we also have to… I would immediately rejoin the Paris climate accord, which I helped put together. I would call the 100 nations, over a hundred nations, but the hundred major polluters to the United States and the first hundred days, to up the ante and make it clear that in fact if they didn’t, there’d be a price to pay. And lastly, I would be right now organizing the hemisphere and the world, to provide $20 billion for the Amazon, for Brazil no longer to burn the Amazon, so they could have forests… They’re no longer forests but they could have farming and say, “This is what we’re going to do.” … the region is burning out than we admit in one entire year, per year.
Jake Tapper: (18:41)
Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Senator Sanders?
Bernie Sanders: (18:43)
All well and good, but nowhere near enough. I mean, you mentioned, we started this debate talking about a warlike situation in terms of the coronavirus and we said, “We have to act accordingly.” You said it. I think you’re right. I said it. We have to act dramatically, boldly, if we’re going to save lives in this country and around the world. I look at climate change in exactly the same way. It’s not a question of reentering the Paris Accord. That’s fine. Who cares? It’s not a big deal. The deal right now is, do we have the courage? And this gets back to the point I’m trying to make all night long. Do we take on the healthcare industry and tell them their profits are not more important than healthcare for all? Do we take on the fossil fuel industry?
Bernie Sanders: (19:28)
Look, in terms of the fossil fuel industry, these guys have been lying, they’ve been lying for years, like the tobacco industry lied 50 years ago. “Oh we don’t know if fossil fuels, if oil and carbon emissions are causing climate change.” They knew. ExxonMobil knew, they lied. In fact, I think they should be held criminally accountable. But this Jake, is an issue of enormous consequence. What Joe was saying goes nowhere near enough. It’s not a question of money. Give me a minute here. We have time to talk about this. This is a world shaking event.
Jake Tapper: (20:03)
I understand. I just want to give him a chance to respond and then we can come back to you.
Bernie Sanders: (20:05)
Okay, fine let’s stay on.
Jake Tapper: (20:06)
We’re staying on this issue.
Joe Biden: (20:07)
Number one, no more subsidies for fossil fuel industry. No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends, number one. Number two, we’re in a situation as well where we cannot… We are able to move rapidly to change the dynamic, in terms of what we can do to set in motion. The fact that he says climate change, Paris Accord doesn’t mean much. We could get everything exactly right, we’re 15% of the problem. 85% of the problem is over there. We need someone who can deal internationally. We need someone who can bring the together again. We need someone who can move in a direction that in fact, if you violate the commitment you make, you will pay an economic price for it. Like what’s happening in China there they’re exporting coal, significant coal.
Jake Tapper: (21:00)
Bernie Sanders: (21:01)
Okay. Look, obviously the Paris Accord is useful, but it doesn’t go anywhere… If you’re laughing Joe, then you’re missing the point.
Joe Biden: (21:08)
You’re missing the point.
Bernie Sanders: (21:08)
This is an existential crisis.
Joe Biden: (21:10)
Bernie Sanders: (21:11)
You talk about… I’m talking about stopping fracking, as soon as we possibly can. I’m talking about telling the fossil fuel industry that they are going to stop destroying this planet. No ifs, buts and maybes about it. I’m talking about speaking-
Joe Biden: (21:27)
So am I.
Bernie Sanders: (21:28)
… to China… Well, I’m not sure your proposal does that. I’m talking about speaking to China, to Russia, to countries all over the world and in this moment, making the point that instead of spending 1.8 trillion on weapons of destruction designed to kill each other, maybe we should pool our resources and fight our common enemy, which is climate change. I know your heart is in the right place, but this requires dramatic, bold action. We’ve got to take on the fossil fuel industry. Your plan does not do that.
Joe Biden: (21:59)
My plan takes on the fossil fuel industry and it unites the world. He just got finished saying, what’s he going to do? He’s going to bring these countries together, making it clear to them. I’m saying we bring them together, make them live up to the commitments. If they don’t live up to the commitments, they pay a financial price for it. They pay an economic price for it. Because we can do everything, my state is three feet above sea level. I don’t need a lecture on what’s going to happen about rising seas. I know what happens. I watched the whole Delmarva Peninsula, just like it is in South Carolina and the rest. Something I know a little bit about, I wrote the first climate change bill that was in the Congress, which PolitiFact said was a game changer. I’m the guy who came along and said with Dick Lugar, that we’re going to trade, we’ll forgive your debt if you don’t cut down your FARs. I’ve been way ahead of this curve. This idea that all of a sudden Bernie found this out is amazing to me.
Jake Tapper: (22:53)
Bernie Sanders: (22:53)
No, Bernie didn’t find it out. Bernie is listening to the scientists and what… You’re talking about making countries around the world fulfill their commitments. Those commitments are not enough. What this moment is about Joe, is that the scientists are telling us they underestimated the severity of the crisis. They were wrong. The problem is more severe. So all that I’m saying right here is that we are fighting for the future of this planet, for the wellbeing of our kids and future generations. You cannot continue, as I understand Joe believes, to continue fracking, correct me if I’m wrong. What we need to do right now is bringing the world together, tell the fossil fuel industry that we are going to move aggressively to win solar, sustainable energies-
Jake Tapper: (23:43)
Bernie Sanders: (23:44)
… and energy efficiency.
Jake Tapper: (23:45)
Thank you Senator.
Joe Biden: (23:46)
No more, no new fracking. And by the way, on the Recovery Act, I was able to make sure we invested $90 billion in making sure we brought down the price of solar and wind, that is lower than the price of coal. That’s why not another new coal plant will be built. I did that while you were watching, number one. Number two, we’re in a situation where we in fact have the ability to lay down the tracks where no one can change the dynamic. And that’s why we should be talking about things like I’ve been talking about for years, high speed rail, taking millions of automobiles off the road. Making sure that we move in a direction where no more, no more drilling on federal lands, making sure that we invest in changing the entire fleet-
Jake Tapper: (24:32)
Joe Biden: (24:32)
… of the United States military to… I know.
Jake Tapper: (24:35)
Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Senator Sanders-
Bernie Sanders: (24:36)
Can I respond?
Jake Tapper: (24:37)
… I want to talk to you about fracking because you want to ban fracking-
Bernie Sanders: (24:40)
Jake Tapper: (24:40)
… which is a method of extracting natural gas. The shift towards natural gas and away from coal has resulted in reduced US carbon emissions. So how can the US transition to your targeted goal is zero emissions with fracking completely out of the picture?
Bernie Sanders: (24:56)
Because we have to invest in an unprecedented way, in an unprecedented way. You started off by saying that we’re talking about a 13, $14 trillion investment. That is a lot of money and I’ve been criticized for that. But I don’t know what the alternative is, if we are playing for the future of this planet. So we’ve got to be dramatic and what being dramatic is, massive investments in wind, in solar and sustainable energies in general and research and development, in making our buildings all over this country… In my state of Vermont and around this country, got a lot of old buildings. We can put millions…