Margaret Valenti writes about CNN’s unprecedented town hall on Climate Change in which ten democratic presidential candidates discussed policies they will implement to combat the Climate Crisis and the future along with the importance of aggressive action. 

On Wednesday, CNN hosted a live town hall for ten democratic candidates to be asked questions about the Climate Crisis by CNN journalists, town hall attendees, and digital submissions from citizens across the U.S.

This is the first time a town hall was done specifically on Climate Change and ten 2020 democratic presidential candidates showed up to discuss the issues and their proposed plans to deal with the crisis.  Those candidates in attendance were: Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Businessman Andrew Yang, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Former democratic presidential candidate and a climate advocacy champion in the U.S. government, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, also attended.  None of the aggressive policies seen from many candidates would be up for discussion or even plausible without Inslee’s initial presence in the race. He put forward bold policies as a candidate that challenged other candidates to propose policies not quite as bold as his, but enough for him to drop out of the presidential race with a clear conscience.

While the majority of Democrats, and many Republicans, agree that there needs to be a fight against the Climate Crisis, there are many obstacles, policies, and concerns that have stilted any significant action to date.

The Problems

The U.S. President sits in his oval office predicting the trajectory of Dorian with a hasty sharpie arc and denies climate change while promoting harmful policies or removing protections which negatively impact the global environment. 

There is evidence, though not universally accepted, to suggest that Climate Change helped spark the Syrian Civil War due to an unprecedented drought in the region causing farmers to flee to the city which became a catalyst for the armed conflict. Island nations are already at risk of disappearing, making a solution for their survival and relocation is of current and dire consequence. Whales and other sea creatures die daily from digesting or being caught in the plastic waste of humans. Also, the Amazon is on fire, and though exactly what the effects of this catastrophe will be are unclear, the “lungs of the Earth” disappearing inch by inch in a smoldering heap will no doubt do substantial harm to the global climate

Do not worry, though, the Earth will continue to spin even though much of the landscape will look different since many species of plants and animals are going to be extinct. “Nothing will be the same” is a guarantee after decades of inaction. It will take the Earth hundreds of years to recover from the effects of Man-Made Climate Change.

Any plans the candidates propose to combat the Climate Crisis come with a hefty price tag (estimated in the trillions) and are going to be tough or likely impossible to pass through Congress and the Senate with the current federal budget system in place. The problem for many of the candidates, if they ever make it to the presidency, is going to be how to fund reversing the progress of Climate Change without continuing to contribute to the problem, something that Candian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is currently having trouble with. 

Trudeau ran for Prime Minister in Canada as a liberal. He was the “I’m going to be the candidate to fight Climate Change,” candidate in the race (just like the ten candidates who joined the CNN town hall on Wednesday night). However, recently he nationalized the new Kinder Morgan pipeline, which will run adjacent to an existing pipeline. The new pipeline, according to climate scientists, will still release a significant amount of carbon into the atmosphere despite what Trudeau claims. His argument, according to an interview with Patriot Act’s Hasan Minhaj, is that he needs to find ways to fight Climate Change by working with the existing global economy which still relies heavily on natural gas. 

It is the fault of the system, this global economy, that global leaders have to deal with “the devil” in order to save their citizens from the horrors of the Climate Crisis. How do you fund reversing the progress of Climate Change without negatively impacting the global climate in the process?  

The Climate Change Policies Of The Democratic Candidates

How are the ten U.S. democratic presidential candidates going to deal with that problem? 

Many candidates suggest rejoining the Paris Agreement Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of. While the Paris Agreement was a huge step forward, many argue it was not nearly aggressive enough and many countries are still not meeting the goals set forth by the agreement.

The discussion also focused on the individual impacts of climate change, from low income communities — often communities of color — who are the most unable to thrive within the direct impacts of climate change on their lives. Helping these communities, the candidates argued, will help reduce the impacts of climate change and open the economy of the future to a more diverse group of people, which is obviously necessary. However, the candidates need to be careful not to focus too much on individuals and communities, and look at the larger picture.

While these communities will feel the heaviest impacts of climate change, a toxic part of the Climate Change debate always focuses on steps individuals and communities can take to reduce climate change — paper straws and no plastic bags due to high levels of plastic waste in the ocean, shorter showers to reduce water consumption, raised houses on the coast to prevent damage during unprecedented storms, the building of new water drainage systems for coastal communities to combat rising sea levels, etc. — without addressing the root causes of climate change: the corporations who contribute most to the problems of Climate Change seen today or create products that contaminate the environment in the first place. 

All the candidates proposed putting into action or agreed with some form of a carbon tax. It will apply to corporations who make a lot of money ruining the environment and put tons of carbon into the atmosphere every day, but which industries will be affected?: Meat packing? Plastic? Logging? Landfills? Oil? Natural gas? Planes? Cars? Busses? Boats?

How effective would the tax actually be? How much wiggle room would the government need to give these companies to prevent them from leaving the U.S.? Especially when these candidates all say we need to be more aggressive on climate change, the carbon tax still lets companies put a certain amount of carbon into the atmosphere. However, Warren does have a plan that, if put in place, may work to help reduce the national debt, bring the U.S. into an emerging market of green technology, and create jobs in the process all without negatively impacting the global climate in a significant way.  

By investing two trillion dollars in green research, manufacturing, and exporting, investing in an estimated twenty three trillion dollar emerging market, Warren’s proposed plan could actually help reduce the effects of Climate Change without doing further damage and transition the U.S. towards the green energy economy of the future. Her plan could actually work and it directs progress towards the aggressive goals set forth in The Green New Deal.

Other candidates have aggressive policies, but nothing as comprehensive in scope, as aggressive, or as workable as Warren’s. 

Doability

According to The Green New Deal, it is necessary to meet all of the goals set forth in the resolution within a decade. The decade long limit is ambitious, but it is what the science says is needed to combat the effects of the Climate Crisis. Doable? Perhaps not. However, this is the forward trend that needs to be set if we are ever going to curb the effects of Climate Change enough to prevent the predictions of climate scientists.

If Mitch McConnell is still the Senate Majority Leader, it will make any democratic candidate’s efforts to curb the effects of the Climate Crisis that much harder. Still, even amongst democrats, there is a significant number who do not like the necessary and aggressive policies set forth by candidates such as Warren, Booker, Castro, Biden, and Sanders. No doubt, any of the more aggressive climate change policies will be difficult to pass through Congress and the Senate, regardless of which party is in control. 

If many of the Democrats in office can get behind the more liberal, leftist, and outspoken candidates such as A.O.C (Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY), then these more aggressive policies stand a chance. That is a big “if” though because corporate interests still have their grip on many politicians and change is often a costly, slow, and difficult process.

It is difficult to say which road the country will take, though a cynic may say otherwise. The easy and most convenient way is to stay on our current path. Hopefully, we will pick “the road less traveled by” and a path forward towards combating the global Climate Crisis by choosing a candidate who vows to make the hard, unpopular choice to save the global ecosystem.

Author: Margaret Valenti

Keywords: The Climate Change Town Hall Demonstrates The Necessity For Aggressive Policy

Proposed Tags: Climate Crisis, Climate Change, Global Warming, The Amazon, CNN Town Hall, Climate Change Town Hall, 2020, 2020 Presidential Race, Elizabeth Warren, Justin Trudeau, Kinder Morgan Pipeline.

Margaret Valenti

Margaret Valenti is the Editor of Generation Z Voice at The Pavlovic Today.