Dear EarthTalk: Where do the remaining Democratic presidential candidates stand on climate and environment?
—D. Mullin, Port Orford, OR
It was just a few months ago that we had two dozen Democrats vying for their party’s nomination to take on Donald Trump in 2020. While technically 16 of them are still officially 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 qualifiers, it’s still too early to count out some of the other contenders still holding out for the nomination.
For their part, environmentalists would have 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 late August, Inslee released a four-part omnibus plan to phase out fossil fuels in the U.S. and shift the economy wholesale over to green energy. Fans called Inslee’s climate plan a more practical version of the Green New Deal, a similarly comprehensive plan to overhaul the economy with green energy introduced into Congress earlier in the year.
With Inslee out of the race, no one candidate stands out as particularly focused on the environment, although they all support a carbon drawdown of some sort as well as much more oversight on environmental issues. 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. Meanwhile, Biden, Castro, Yang and Buttigieg, among others, expressed their support for the proposed legislation from outside of Congress.
Media mogul and former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg may be one of the most compelling candidates from environmentalists’ perspective, given he has already pledged $150 million of his own money to fighting climate change through support of the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign which helped shutter some 50 coal-fired power plants across the country. Last June, Bloomberg pledged another $350 million to the cause through the launch of Beyond Carbon, an initiative to fight against dirty energy through philanthropic aid as well as advocacy efforts.
While other candidates may not have so much of their own money to throw around, it doesn’t mean they aren’t also keen to fight climate change. Reading through the answers of a recent climate and environment survey of the Democratic hopefuls by the non-profit League of Conservation Voters (LCV) shows more similarities than differences. Indeed, each of the Dems wants to commit billions or trillions of dollars to fighting climate change and restoring the U.S. to a leadership position on the issue internationally.
In short, voters concerned about addressing 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—and the habitability of the planet for humans may just hang in the balance.
- League of Conservation Voters
- Green New Deal (HR 109)
- Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal
- Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Beyond Carbon