Dem debate round 2, night 2. Image: Maddie McGarvey/The New York Times

Last night was night 2 of round 2 of the Democratic primary debates and the conversation on climate change was certainly more substantive than the first night. What really stood out about last night was Gov. Jay Inslee devoting his entire opening statement to climate change and the urgency with which we much act. Even if he is a long-shot candidate (and this might be his last debate), the fact that made it evident that the “future of humanity on this planet” is at stake on national television is such a drastic change from how climate change was talked about in the 2016 presidential race.

Cory Booker: Senator Booker was not shy about going on the offense (especially when it came to VP Joe Biden) in saying that rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement shouldn’t be a policy stance of any candidate, rather it should be a given. His standout line that reverberated across the Twitterverse was “No one should get applause for rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, that’s kindergarten.” Booker also stressed that since the United States helped create the climate crisis that we should be at the global forefront of taking action to drastically reduce emissions.

Fossil Fuels: Gov. Jay Inslee made it clear that the swift phase-out of fossil fuels is the only way that we can reduce emissions by a high enough margin to ensure that we don’t see the worst effects of climate change as scientists have warned. He pointedly asked Vice President Biden if his administration would be aggressive enough in phasing out fossil fuels to which Biden responded that it was a priority to “work them out” (he likely meant “phase them out”).

Clean Water: Throughout both nights of debates the subject of clean water did come up but considering the fact that the debate took place in Detroit, no candidate answered substantively enough about how he/she would ensure that no American community is poisoned by their water ever again. DC-based NGO Food and Water Watch shared the following response with us, reiterating that candidates must be more specific in whether or not they see clean water access as a fundamental human right:

“Night 2 of the dem debates and we heard some meaningful conversations about water and climate change and yet again no candidates are explaining HOW they would invest in clean water and whether or not they would commit to keeping it public the way they did when discussing healthcare.

Why This Matters: The issue of healthcare got about an hour of debate time last night and only Gov. Inslee made the point that climate change is not a singular issue but is also very much a healthcare issue. In subsequent debates, it would be great if candidates were asked about how their healthcare plans will accommodate the stresses to our healthcare system that climate change poses. There is so much more nuance to climate change than “do you support the Green New Deal?” and that’s the conversation we hope to have in our climate forum this September. Debates with so many candidates are good for a few soundbites but we certainly didn’t walk away from last night feeling as if we knew any more on where the candidates stand when it comes to implementing their climate policies should they be elected.

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