So far, Governor Inslee and Senators Warren and Sanders have said they would support a Democratic Presidential debate dedicated solely to the subject of climate change.  Yesterday, three prominent Democratic Senators (Schatz, Whitehouse, and Heinrich) joined the chorus — in a letter to the President of NBC News they urged that the FIRST debate, set for June 26-27 in Miami, should be focused on climate change. 

  • In the letter, republished in The Daily Beast, the Senators argued that the 2016 Presidential debates devoted only five minutes to climate change — no time at all compared to other topics.
  • The Senators wrote, “[t]here are many ways to address the climate crisis, and voters want to know what policies each candidate supports. Voters deserve a vigorous debate with an informed moderator that can press candidates for detailed answers and hold them accountable.”

So what would the climate debate look like — and is there enough to discuss?  Plenty.  We think there are at least 10 questions about climate change that deserve serious discussion from the candidates.

  1.  Will you refuse to take campaign contributions from oil and gas companies and other fossil fuel interests, and if no, why not?  How (else) will you reduce their influence?
  2.  Will climate change be the top issue you would tackle on day 1 of your Presidency?  Where would be the first domestic policy change you would make?
  3.  Do you support the Green New Deal?  How much should the U.S. spend on any mobilizing to combat climate change?  How would you pay for it?  How many “green” jobs would you create?
  4. How quickly would you try to achieve key milestones to get to carbon neutrality?  What would it take to get to those milestones faster?
  5. How would you ensure that the national security risks of climate change both at home and abroad would be addressed?
  6. How will you provide for an equitable transition for hard-working Americans who are currently in coal mining or other fossil fuel production jobs?
  7. Do you believe we have major clean air and clean water and safe drinking water problems in the U.S.?   How would you protect low-income communities and their residents from the disproportionate climate and pollution impacts they currently experience?
  8.  Do you believe nuclear power should be part of the solution?
  9.  Where do you believe the government should permit oil and gas leasing on federal lands and federal waters?
  10. What is your view on hydraulic fracking?  Would you permit construction to continue on the XL pipeline and others like it?

Why This Matters:  As the Senators noted in their letter, recent polling shows that 96 percent of Democrats believe that taking aggressive action on climate change is important, making it one of the top two issues for Democrats.  But even one debate may not be sufficient to get to the many important questions, given that enormous number of candidates. We humbly suggest that perhaps a series of town halls in which each candidate would both present their proposals and be questioned by experts and by members of the public would give the public even more information about the candidates’ views on the climate crisis and how to address it.

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