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'This Exchange Cuts to the Heart of Our Crisis': Watch DNC Chair Hide Behind Party Rules to Argue Against Climate-Focused Debate

"If you understand the impact that the climate crisis is going to have, it isn't a single issue. It's going to affect literally every single aspect of our lives."

Tom Perez

At an event in Kansas City on Wednesday, a Sunrise Movement activist confronted Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Tom Perez about refusing to hold a climate debate. (Photo: Sunrise Movement KC/Twitter)

"Humans can change human-made rules, we can't change the laws of nature."

That's how author and activist Naomi Klein responded to a video posted to Twitter Wednesday evening that shows an activist with the youth-led Sunrise Movement challenging Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Tom Perez on his refusal to hold a 2020 primary debate on the climate crisis and candidates' proposed solutions, despite pressure from many presidential hopefuls and voters.

For months, environmental organizations and activists have called for a debate about the human-caused crisis—and on Wednesday, groups delivered more than 200,000 petition signatures to the DNC with that demand.

In April, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, one of the two dozen Democratic presidential contenders, became the first candidate to publicly back the grassroots call. Last week, Inslee revealed that the DNC told his campaign that the party would not hold such a debate and would exclude any candidate who participated in one from future debates.

Perez, over the weekend, claimed that holding a climate debate was impractical. Confronted at a Florida fundraiser amid growing outrage over the DNC's decision, the chair said that "once you have one single issue debate, then every debate leads to become a single issue debate in order to address the concerns."

In Wednesday's exchange with the Sunrise activist in Kansas City, Perez doubled down on that defense. He also suggested that it is too late to change the rules and that a debate about the climate crisis—the central focus of Inslee's campaign—would unfairly benefit the Washington governor.


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Khiana, the Sunrise activist, responded: "If you understand the impact that the climate crisis is going to have, it isn't a single issue. It's going to affect literally every single aspect of our lives—the air we breathe, our homes."

Given the high number of candidates who have spoken out in favor of a climate debate, "it's not preferential treatment for [Inslee] if you hold a climate change debate," Khiana added. "The rules are a very thin defense against the climate crisis."

As an example of just how unprecedented and perilous the global climate emergency has become, meteorologist and journalist Eric Holthaus issued this reminder on Thursday morning:

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