Dear EarthTalk: Where do the remaining Democratic presidential candidates stand on climate and environment?
-- Mary W., Miami, FL
It was just a few months ago that two dozen Democrats were vying for their party’s nomination to take on Donald Trump in 2020. While technically 16 are still in the race, only seven — Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders, Steyer, Warren and Yang — qualified for participation in the December 2019 debate (based on a minimum number of contributing supporters and success in polling in the four “early voting” states). While the Democratic party will most likely choose its candidate from among these seven, it’s still too early to count out the other contenders.
For their part, environmentalists would’ve been happy if Washington governor Jay Inslee, who made promoting the need to address climate change the central tenet of his 2020 presidential bid, was still in the race. Before dropping out in August, Inslee released an omnibus plan to phase out fossil fuels and shift the economy wholesale over to green energy. Fans called it a more practical version of the Green New Deal, a similarly comprehensive green energy-based economic overhaul plan introduced into Congress earlier in the year.
With Inslee out, no one candidate stands out as particularly focused on the environment, although they all support a carbon drawdown of some sort. Elizabeth Warren has adopted Inslee’s climate plan lock, stock and barrel. Previously, she had co-sponsored the Green New Deal along with fellow senators Sanders, Booker and Klobuchar. Most of the other Dems in the running expressed support for the Green New Deal.
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Meanwhile, Tom Steyer, a hedge fund billionaire-turned-activist, has lots of environmental cred given his role as founder and funder of NextGen Climate (now NextGen America) an advocacy non-profit and political action committee which steered some $74 million of his riches toward environment-friendly Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in the 2014 elections.
Another compelling candidate from an environmental perspective is media mogul and former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has put up $150 million of his own money in support of the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign which helped shutter some 50 coal-fired power plants nationwide. Last June, he pledged another $350 million to the cause via Beyond Carbon, his initiative to fight dirty energy.
Other candidates may not have so much money to throw around, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t also keen to fight climate change. Reading through the answers of a recent environment survey of the Democratic hopefuls by the non-profit League of Conservation Voters (LCV) shows more similarities than differences, with each of the Dems pledging to commit billions or trillions of dollars to fighting climate change and restore the U.S. to a leadership position on the issue internationally.
In short, voters concerned about climate change would do well to pull their levers in favor of any of the Democrats running. Whether there are enough like-minded Americans to unseat Trump in 2020 is another question entirely — but the health of the planet may just hang in the balance.