CNN Hosts Seven-Hour ‘Climate Crisis Town Hall’ with Democratic Presidential Candidates


CNN on September 4th broadcast a seven-hour “Climate Crisis Town Hall” featuring ten Democratic presidential candidates. Each of the following candidates was in the spotlight for about 40 minutes: Julián Castro, Andrew Yang, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mayer Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend, IN), Beto O’Rourke, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). Transcripts of each candidate’s segment are available here.
Host Wolf Blitzer set the tone by declaring that this “unprecedented town hall is dedicated to the climate crisis, an issue many voters say needs aggressive action and scientists say that action needs to happen now.” For context, Mr. Blitzer asserted that “We’re seeing firsthand the effects of climate change as a powerful Atlantic hurricane is sitting right now off the coast of Florida.” He did not cite any studies to back that up. For an alternative assessment, see Roy Spencer’s column.
The phrases “climate crisis” occurred 53 times during the 7-hour broadcast, “existential threat” 15 times, and “existential crisis” once. All the transcripts combined and converted into a single Word document span over 130 pages. Fortunately, the The New York Times does a good job of summarizing each candidate’s remarks and encapsulating the “consensus” among them. 
As the Times reports, all believe (1) “climate change is an existential threat not only to the United States but to human civilization,” (2) America “needs to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the very latest,” and (3) “there are certain policies you can’t avoid if you want to get there.” Specifically, “Pretty much everyone wants a moratorium on oil and gas leases on public lands,” most “also support some form of putting a price on carbon emissions, at least in theory,” and all “want to spend money, and lots of it” for “clean energy research,” “carbon-capture technologies,” high-speed rail, and environmental justice programs.
Perhaps the most revealing of what’s at stake in the 2020 elections was Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s response to a question from the audience. “Bernie Sanders has endorsed the idea of the public ownership of utilities, arguing that we can’t adequately solve this crisis without removing the profit motive from the distribution of essential needs like energy,” the questioner noted. He then asked: “As president, would you be willing to call out capitalism in this way and advocate for the public ownership of our utilities?”
Sen. Warren replied: “Gosh, you know, I’m not sure that that’s what gets you to the solution. I’m perfectly willing to take on giant corporations. I think I’ve been known to do that once or twice. But for me, I think the way we get there is we just say, sorry, guys, but by 2035, you’re done. You’re not going to be using anymore carbon-based fuels; that gets us to the right place.”