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Tonight’s Climate Town Hall: Crisis Demands Tough Questions, Honest Answers

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Tonight’s town hall is a forum for 10 Democratic presidential candidates to address the climate crisis. The crisis demands substantive treatment, like that given health care and immigration, not softball questions answered with platitudes. But so far, most candidate answers to reporters’ climate questions don’t tell us much about where the candidates actually stand or what they’ll do if they get elected.

Here’s what we’d like to see CNN’s moderators ask the candidates tonight. In every case, questioners must demand that the candidates be specific.

  • If we rejoin the Paris climate accord, how would you reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the targeted 1.2 billion metric tons by 2025? Would you reduce GHG emissions by more than 1.2 billion tons by 2025? How much more?
  • Do you support a national Renewable Energy Standard to require all states to increase renewable production? If yes, would your RES require more electricity from wind and solar? How much more? By when? What about nuclear? What about natural gas?
  • The costs of utility-scale battery storage are falling dramatically. How would you accelerate the development of battery storage?
  • Would you end oil and gas drilling on public lands? If not, would you end new drilling leases on public lands?
  • Would you ban fracking? If not, would you change how we regulate fracking? How would you address methane emissions from natural gas production?
  • Would you end fossil fuel subsidies, which cost taxpayers about $15 billion a year? Do you support costly bailouts for nuclear plants? Would you increase subsidies for wind, solar and battery storage? By how much?
  • Do you support a carbon fee? How much should it be? How would you adjust the fee to reflect GHG reduction goals? Would you provide a dividend from the fees? How would it be distributed?
  • Do you support limits on fertilizer applications to reduce nitrous oxide emissions? If yes, how would you enforce these limits? If not, how would you reduce nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer?
  • How would you reform the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, to accelerate the development of second-generation biofuels? How would you reform the RFS to demand more GHG reductions from corn ethanol? Would you require all biofuels to produce a 50 percent reduction in GHG emissions when compared to fossil fuels?
  • How would you accelerate the transition to electric vehicles? What about charging stations? Who should pay?
  • Should we prohibit the production of vehicle engines powered by fossil fuels? If so, by when?
  • How would you accelerate efforts to make our homes and buildings more energy efficient? Should all buildings be retrofitted to meet energy efficiency standards? By when?
  • How much of the cost of addressing and mitigating climate change should be paid for by polluters? Should polluters be immunized from litigation? Will you pledge to stop taking political contributions from fossil fuel companies and their lobbyists?

There no more urgent issue facing us than the climate crisis. The time for climate wish lists is over. Simply pledging to rejoin the Paris accord — without a credible plan to meet even tougher targets — is not enough. Candidates should be challenged to take a stand on subsidies, federal lands, energy and efficiency standards, farm pollution and other policies that are specific and equal to the challenge we face.

Candidates should be evaluated by their ability to deliver results, not speeches. More hot air is not the solution for an overheated planet.


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