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‘This Is Not How You Behave in an Emergency: Where Is Climate Change in the Democratic Debates?

MIAMI - The second night of the Democratic primary debate concluded with little discussion of the climate crisis. Following the first night, when just 6 percent of questions touched on climate change [1], no candidate on tonight’s stage discussed their vision for implementing a Green New Deal or their plans for ending fossil fuel production in the United States. 

In response, Greenpeace USA Climate Campaign Director Janet Redman said:

“This is not how you behave in an emergency. Despite the candidates’ acknowledgement of the existential threat that climate change represents to humanity, we heard next to nothing over two days about how they would actually address this monumental challenge. Talking points and soundbites do not cut it anymore. If we are all going to survive as a civilization, January 20, 2021 must be the first day of a new wave of resistance against the fossil fuel industry.


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“It’s more clear than ever that we need a debate devoted to the climate crisis. The DNC continues to cling to its thin defense that it cannot hold debates on any ‘single issue,’ but climate change is not a single issue — it’s every issue. It’s the droughts and food shortages causing mass migration. It’s the pollution giving our children asthma and driving up healthcare costs. It’s the $27 million in donations Congress members took from oil and gas interests just last year [2]. And it’s the opportunity we’re missing to create millions of jobs in the renewable energy economy.”

Yesterday, Greenpeace USA activists installed seven posters in the area surrounding the venue for the first Democratic primary debate calling on the Democratic National Committee to host a climate debate. The posters read “The climate crisis is worth more than 5 minutes and 27 seconds” in reference to the total time spent on climate and environmental issues during the 2016 presidential debate cycle [3]. 

A Morning Consult poll from earlier this week showed that 63 percent of Democratic voters wanted to hear about climate change in the first debate, more than any other issue. Despite that, DNC Chairman Tom Perez maintains that the party will not be hosting a specific debate on climate change.


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