The First Democratic Debate Failed The Planet
The Debates Will Be about Climate—Disguised as Other Issues
The Energy 202: Seven minutes were devoted to climate change in the first Democratic debate
Last night’s first Democratic debate was just more of the same as it reflected a deliberate disregard of climate on the part of moderators and candidates. Only four of those on the Miami stage got asked direct questions about the crisis. The questions came finally in the second half of the debate.
Because DNC chair Tom Perez has ruled out a special debate on climate, the advocates want to crucify him. But climate issues are inescapable. Adam Rogers of Wired says:
Because every single issue that a presidential aspirant could conceivably talk about is, at heart, intertwined with climate change. Jobs, the economy, national security, immigration, energy, housing—they’re all facets of the same crystal. The science is clear; the politics, less so. It’ll be a climate debate, all right; the question is what the candidates will do about it.
Inslee, the only one making climate his top-tier issue, didn’t do well last night. A couple of others, like Warren, wormed climate into their answers. But the issue is so complex that it is hard to fit into a debate format. Plus, the candidates fear grandiose climate solutions would simply overwhelm many local voters who are focusing on pocketbook issues.
One could accuse them of playing politics with the overriding issue of our time.
Jay Inslee has a radical plan to phase out fossil fuel production in the US
Writer David Roberts of Vox has as his subtitle: “This is going to make some people mad.” Jay Inslee, as you may know, is the only Democratic candidate to base his whole campaign on the issues of climate change. His proposals have made some of the other candidates look, shall we say, weak by comparison.
The Washington governor’s climate plans aim for net-zero carbon pollution by 2045, sooner than most of his would-be opponents would propose. Today he released details of the fourth planning component. According to Vox, “It is in many ways the most radical piece yet, and likely to be the most controversial. It is about cutting off the flow of fossil fuels from the US—‘keeping it in the ground,’ as the kids say.”
There are several big items of note in the latest plan, including a proposal to put a price on carbon. Fracking? He wants to work toward a national prohibition. He wants to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies, reinstate dozens of environmental rules that President Trump reversed, step up enforcement on polluters, reject all new climate-unsafe infrastructure, and boost corporate climate accountability.
And that just scratches the surface. This is a capacious plan, requiring both executive powers and legislation. The net result would be a conscious, deliberate phasing out of US fossil fuel production.
There are five major steps in the Inslee plan, and each will face great political hurdles. But all appear necessary to avoid the otherwise inevitable disasters.
- end all fossil fuel subsidies
- end federal leasing and phase out fossil fuel production
- hold polluters accountable (with a climate pollution fee, or tax)
- reject all new fossil fuel infrastructure
- improve corporate climate transparency
- make this plan into the official Democratic platform.
I like number 6 best, though I am not holding my breath. And yet, Inslee’s new set of plans could be enough to shake up the other candidates.