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Democratic presidential candidates participate in climate change town hall hosted by CNN

From left, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Andrew Yang, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are introduced before the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Wednesday, July 31, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit.
Carlos Osorio, Associated Press

CNN hosted a town hall in New York City on Wednesday to discuss the issue of climate change.

The town hall involved 10 of the Democratic presidential candidates and was the “most substantive discussion of climate change ever broadcast on primetime television,” according to Vox.

While recent reports claim that some climate-related risks include drought, forest fires, flooding and a diminishing availability of drinking water, President Donald Trump has called climate change a “hoax,” though on one occasion he later said he was joking.

Many of the candidates, who are vying to run against Trump in 2020, refuted his statements and took the town hall as an opportunity to reveal new policy proposals addressing the environment.

Here’s a breakdown of what the candidates said.

Julián Castro

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro said that minority communities face the climate crisis the most and that part of his plan to battle global warming would include “new civil rights legislation,” according to CNN.

“I know that too oftentimes it’s people that are poor, communities of color, who take the brunt of storms that are getting more frequent and more powerful,” Castro said.

Castro also claimed that under Trump’s administration “you can’t rely on the government” to stop polluters, but that if he were to take office he would “invest that power back to the people.”

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang proposed the elimination of gross domestic product as a measurement of the country’s success in favor of measuring the country’s success through the health and happiness of its citizens.

This system would be similar to what is in place in Bhutan, which measures gross national happiness.

Kamala Harris

California Sen. Kamala Harris stated that, as president, she would call for the Department of Justice to battle with oil and gas companies that directly contribute to climate change, claiming that she would “take them to court and sue them.”

“When you take away that money because you take them to court and sue them, as I have done, it’s extraordinary how they will change behaviors,” Harris said. “They have to be held accountable. Maybe this is the prosecutor in me. They have to be held accountable.”

Harris also noted that there has been no accountability taken by those who have caused harm and death through directly affecting the country’s environment.

“These are bad behaviors. They are causing harm and death in communities,” Harris said. “And there has been no accountability. Certainly not by this administration. Nor, and I hate to say it so generally, by the Republicans in Congress.”

Amy Klobuchar

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar stated that she hopes for the United States to “go carbon neutral by 2050” and that she believes the efforts of fighting climate change should be treated like the space race or the civil rights movement “where (the) country came together and said, we’re going to solve something.”

Joe Biden

During former Vice President Joe Biden’s segment of the town hall, a 19-year-old activist asked him how young voters could trust him to prioritize them and their futures over big businesses. In response, Biden claimed that he had “never made that choice” throughout his career.

Biden also spoke of his plans to implement more mass transit and high-speed trains throughout the country.

“I’ve been pushing really hard for mass transit and for rail. We can take millions of vehicles off the road if we have high-speed rail,” he said.

Bernie Sanders

Few candidates have gone as in depth as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in their proposals on combating climate change.

Sanders, who recently released a statement on the Green New Deal, said that, rather than putting so much money towards military funding, the country needs to pool those resources and use them to fund the fight against climate change.

Sanders also spoke of the importance of the middle class and working families.

“To my mind, it’s not prioritizing this over that. It is finally having a government which represents working families and the middle class, rather than wealthy campaign contributors,” he said. “When you do that, things fall into place.”

Elizabeth Warren

During Elizabeth Warren’s town hall segment, she claimed the discussions taking place over plastic straws, cheeseburgers and light bulbs are distracting voters from the wrongdoings of the fossil fuel industry.

Warren also urged voters to fight harder to make changes, despite only making up 20% of the world’s population.

“We’re only 20% of the problem,” Warren said. “That’s a big hunk of the problem, but there’s another world out there that’s 80% of this problem. So you bet that this is a moment where we better dream big and fight hard because that’s how it is that we’re going to make the changes we need to make.”

Pete Buttigieg

During Pete Buttigieg’s town hall segment, he was forced to defend his choice to fly on private planes throughout his campaign.

Buttigieg said that he was “interested in de-carbonizing the fuel that goes into air travel” but he chooses to fly privately because “(we are in) a very big country and (he’s) running to be president of the whole country.”

Buttigieg also stated that, while he’s sure the country can do more to provide alternatives such as trains, he “(doesn’t) think that we’re going to solve the question of how to get around the world without air travel.”

Buttigieg also discussed that, regardless of religious views, he believes that we all have a responsibility to take care of our environment and the people around us.

“Eventually, it gets to the point where this is less and less about the planet as an abstract thing and more and more about specific people suffering specific harm because of what we’re doing right now,” he said.

Beto O’Rourke

According to CNN, “Beto O’Rourke said that, should he be elected president, his administration would spend federal dollars to help people in flood-prone areas move to higher ground.”

O’Rourke also discussed his opposition of a carbon tax and pushed for a carbon cap-and-trade program instead.

“We should certainly price carbon. I think the best possible path to do that is through a cap-and-trade system. There would be allowances granted or sold to polluters,” he said, adding that the allowances granted would decrease each year.

Cory Booker

Finally, during New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s town hall segment he stated that, while he is vegan, he does not believe in urging fellow citizens to halt their consumption of meat.

“Freedom is one of the most sacred values — whatever you want to eat, go ahead and eat it,” Booker said.

Booker concluded by saying that climate “is not a separate issue” but “the lens through which we must do everything.”

Bonus: Jay Inslee

Throughout the town hall, candidates mentioned Jay Inslee — who dropped out of the race in August — and admired his campaign, which was built around the urgency of combating climate change.

“I also want to give a shoutout to governor Jay Inslee, who did a fantastic job bringing this issue to the forefront of this campaign,” Castro said.