The second and final day of the Climate Forum 2020, hosted by Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service, Our Daily Planet, MSNBC and New York Magazine in Gaston Hall, featured five more candidates speaking on the topic of climate change.
Friday’s schedule included Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) and philanthropist Tom Steyer. The event concluded with a session with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld (R), the only Republican presidential candidate to accept an invitation to the forum.
Common themes throughout the day included discussion of the intersection of racial justice and climate change, the effect of climate change policies on jobs in the fossil fuel industry and proposals for a carbon tax as an environmental solution.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) opened the second day of the forum by underscoring the need for climate change plans that focus on environmental justice for minority populations.
During his experience as the mayor of Newark, N.J., Booker saw firsthand the disproportionate effect that climate change has on these groups, including health issues stemming from the effects of climate change, he said.
“Environmental justice was one of the biggest crises in my community, and I began to understand the link between environmental justice and the larger climate change problem,” Booker said.
Booker’s platform on climate change intends to directly invest more than $3 trillion by 2030 to support a transition to a 100% carbon neutral economy by 2045, according to his campaign website.
The United States must have zero carbon emissions while still providing coal industry workers alternative employment options in a postcarbon economy, according to Booker.
“What we need to be doing is show them a future where we say, ‘Hey, we need you to urgently transition off of coal,’ and we will do that with a plan that makes sure that you will not lose your coal job and go to a minimum wage,” Booker said.
To effectively address the climate crisis, Booker said he would call on citizens to more actively engage in activism.
“If I am your president, I will ask more of you than any other president has ever asked of you in your lifetime,” Booker said. “I am going to ask your to serve more, to sacrifice more, to engage more, because every period of change that I have read about or witnessed in my lifetime have come about because of activists on the street.”
Former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) focused his forum session on the effect of climate change on his home state, highlighting the issue’s impact on his constituents and their jobs in the fossil fuel industry.
The employment of individuals working in the fossil fuel industry should not be overlooked when proposing solutions for climate change, according to Bullock.
“As we address this, we cannot leave communities behind; we have to have robust investments in these communities,” Bullock said. “As we transition to renewables, we have to, as a federal government and state governments, be making the partnerships every step of the way.”
Despite this job risk, the process of addressing climate change can also create new jobs in renewable energy, Bullock said.
“Not only is it a climate crisis, but it’s a climate opportunity,” Bullock said. “We can actually create jobs along the way — it is not all about sacrifice.”
Bullock criticized the debate requirements set by the Democratic party earlier this year after he did not qualify for the first round of debates in June by failing to meet party requirements in polling and donations. However, Bullock qualified for and participated in the second round of debates in July.
Under his presidency, climate change would be a priority across the departments of the federal government, in contrast to the current White House administration, according to Bullock.
“The best thing we can do for climate, and the first thing we can do, is replace [President] Donald Trump,” Bullock said.
As videos from Friday’s Boston Climate Strike flashed on screens in the background, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg called for the entire country to mobilize to achieve climate justice and for the implementation of a carbon tax.
U.S. leaders should heed the example of young activists to address the environmental crisis, according to Buttigieg.
“I think climate is a moral issue. This is about stewardship. This is about justice,” Buttigieg said. “The best hope we have to deal with climate and a whole lot of other things is the moral urgency of young people.”
Policymakers should consider that climate change disproportionately impacts the economically disadvantaged, Buttigieg said.
“We need to update the maps; we need to provide the resources for people who never thought they needed flood insurance and now they are going to,” Buttigieg said. “Often those who are the most climate vulnerable are the most economically vulnerable, too.”
Buttigieg released an official climate platform Sept. 4 detailing his environmental policy plans, which include clean energy job creation, strengthening rural communities, protecting natural resources, investing in disaster relief and preventing and improving the United States’ international involvement on climate issues, according to the mayor’s campaign website.
To engage the entire country on the issue of climate change, Buttigieg hopes to implement a voluntary national service program, the U.S. Climate Corps for high school. The initiative will help motivate all Americans to participate in environmental service, he said.
“I think that there is a psychology to this that we’ve got to acknowledge. I don’t think ‘See, I told you so’ is going to win somebody over,” Buttigieg said. “I want to appeal to a sense of pride.”
Billionaire investor and philanthropist Tom Steyer advocated for proactive and innovative solutions to the climate crisis during his hourlong session of the climate forum.
To effectively tackle domestic and global climate issues, the U.S. government must shake off corporate interests that limit government responses, according to Steyer.
“There are a bunch of people who’re making money off this, who are going to fight to the end to keep making that money regardless of the effect on the health and safety of every American, and I decided we’re just gonna have to win this fight,” Steyer told the audience. “If we’re gonna get the kind of policy action we need, we’re going to have to break that corporate stranglehold.”
Steyer said he would declare a national climate emergency on his first day in office and push Congress to pass legislation similar to the Green New Deal, a sweeping progressive policy declaration focused on combating climate change.
Policy reigning in climate change must also have a focus on socioeconomic justice, Steyer said.
“America has concentrated it’s pollution in the low-income neighborhoods that don’t have political power,” Steyer said. “I would immediately initiate a process of going to the most affected communities.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld (R) emphasized the need to combat climate change denial in the Republican Party during the final hour of the Climate Forum. Weld was the only Republican to attend the forum, and he spoke about the reality of climate change, proposing a carbon tax and other free market solutions to fix it.
President Donald Trump has pulled the GOP away from its commitment to conservation, according to Weld.
“It’s fairly recently that the party has drifted from that, and the capstone of course is President Trump saying climate change is a hoax.” Weld said. “[Trump] can apparently say his opinion, which is based on nothing, by the way, is superior to theirs because it’s an opinion. To say it’s irresponsible is an understatement.”
Though climate reversal may mean higher taxes, this investment is vitally necessary for our survival, according to Weld.
“This is not a sacrifice — this is something we have to do,” he said. “This is not a tax increase, but it is an investment in sustaining the future of the human race on this planet, and it’s an investment that we damn well better make.”
Hoya Staff Writers Sana Rahman, Cady Stanton, Riley Rogerson, Jaime Moore-Carrillo and Connor Thomas contributed reporting.