Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

36 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Democratic presidential hopefuls participate in the third Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas on September 12, 2019. (Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

'ABC and the DNC Should Be Ashamed,' Say Progressives, After Just One Question on Climate Crisis During Democratic Debate

"I don't know how Tom Perez and DNC leaders can look themselves in the mirror after tonight."

Jake Johnson

A major climate refugee crisis is currently underway after one of the most catastrophic storms in recorded history ripped through the Bahamas, but the 2020 Democratic presidential debate Thursday night featured just one question and less than five minutes of discussion on the planetary emergency that is intensifying extreme weather, taking lives, and threatening to render large swathes of the planet uninhabitable.

"I don't know how Tom Perez and DNC leaders can look themselves in the mirror after tonight," said Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the youth-led Sunrise Movement. "When Tom Perez and Democratic Party leaders rejected a climate debate last month they promised us that they would ensure this issue got the attention it deserved. Tonight their check bounced."

Hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision, the third Democratic presidential primary debate took place in Houston, Texas, a city that is often referred to as the oil capital of the world.

Yet the first and only question specifically about the global climate crisis, which came two hours into the three-hour debate, did not make the connection between the oil and gas industry and the ecological emergency.

Noting the destruction caused in Texas by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Univision's Jorge Ramos asked former Rep. Beto O'Rourke what "meaningful action" he would take to "reverse the effect of climate change."

O'Rourke said he would "make sure that we free ourselves from a dependence on fossil fuels and embrace renewable wind and solar energy technology."

Angering climate campaigners, many of the 10 candidates on stage—including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whose Green New Deal plan has been hailed as a benchmark for climate policy—were not given an opportunity to respond to the question.

Observers noted that Hurricane Dorian—which destroyed tens of thousands of homes in the Bahamas and left at least 50 dead and 1,300 missing—was not mentioned during the debate.

"None brought up the people or places already suffering the extreme weather and insufficient infrastructure that scientists have long warned makes climate change deadly," reported HuffPost's Alexander Kaufman. "Catastrophic weather has displaced on average 24 million people per year since 2008, according to the Swiss-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. By 2050, that number could climb to anywhere from 140 million to 300 million to 1 billion."

And with the youth-led global climate strikes just a week away, no questions were asked about what organizers say could be the largest mass mobilization for climate action in history.

"That sound you hear," reported The Guardian, "is every climate activist banging their head against the wall."

"Climate change is the greatest existential threat we face as a nation," said Sunrise's Prakash. "Yet, even as poll after poll show that it's a top concern for voters in the 2020 election, tonight's debate almost entirely ignored it."

"This is an emergency," Prakash added. "We need the next president to act like it. They should show they're ready to fight for our generation by standing up to the DNC and commit to a climate debate."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Naomi Klein: The US Is in the Midst of a 'Shock-and-Awe Judicial Coup'

"The rolling judicial coup coming from this court is by no means over," warned the author of "The Shock Doctrine."

Jake Johnson ·

Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·

Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·

Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·

'Payoff for 40 Years of Dark Money': Supreme Court Delivers for Corporate America

"It was the conservative court's larger agenda to gut the regulatory state and decimate executive powers to protect Americans' health and safety," warned one expert.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo