This is everything you wanted to know about the climate crisis discussion in the upcoming presidential election.
You may have heard on the news that climate change is an existential threat to our existence, or you may have heard about the different plans brought up by the presidential candidates to battle this looming crisis.
It is important to understand what the debate is about. I recommend anyone to read this article and search for the evidence themselves. There is nothing more gratifying than learning something and understanding it, especially something so complicated and obscure as politics and science.
So let’s get learning.
Many candidates in the Democratic Party have shared their climate change plans, and most of them are similar. But there may be many questions still swimming around in your mind.
What is the best possible plan for climate change? What are the current plans? Whose plan is the best? Who should I vote for?
I will attempt to answer your questions by showing the basic template of the best climate change plan, and then looking at the democratic frontrunners for the Presidential seat and establishing a point system to determine the best candidate in the race in terms of preparedness for the climate crisis. I would recommend reading until the end.
Let’s answer those questions.
Based on my understanding and my previous research of other climate change plans, I have compiled a list of criteria. So here’s the basic template for the best climate crisis plan.
Moving away from fossil fuels
- End fossil fuel subsidies, ban new oil and gas permits on public lands
- Introduce legally binding emissions reduction target
Creating a clean energy economy
- Introduce high speed transportation
- Expand green manufacturing
- Quadruple federal investment in renewable energy and energy storage research and development
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
- Eliminate fracking and coal production
- Pay farmers to practice techniques to store more carbon in the soil
- Investing in zero emission transportation and carbon neutral electricity
- Ban drilling on public lands, fracking, crude oil exports, once it is proven that our economy can sustain itself with new clean technology.
- Zero carbon emission and renewable electricity by 2035 (estimate)
- Set a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050
Protecting workers in transition
- Workers in the transition will be guaranteed training opportunities and new clean tech jobs
- Providing them with financial security (early retirement benefits, job training, union protections, and benefits, guaranteeing wage and benefit parity for affected works)
- Pay farmers to conserve land and improve soil health
- Hold polluters accountable, especially in vulnerable communities
- Increase penalties for companies that violate federal pollution laws
- Supports a carbon tax whose dividends are paid out in a “progressive” way
- Pursue civil and criminal cases against companies that concealed knowledge of the dangers their products posed to the environment
Increase government transparency
- Building trust and cooperation
- Post government spending online.
- Establish an online Congressional outreach platform.
Restore the power of the EPA
- Making sure that the EPA performs federal research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection.
Restoring global leadership
- Rejoining the Paris climate accord
- Marketing of new tech overseas
- Invest money in climate mitigation strategies worldwide
Supporting the advancement of nuclear energy
- Investing money for research in the nuclear energy field in order to make existing power plants safer and more efficient.
Includes programs to help “front line communities”
- Work with those that have experienced systematic socioeconomic disparities
- Environmental Justice Fund for “frontline” communities — use up to $50 billion annual investment to replace all lead drinking water pipes, clean up polluted sites around the country, and ensure proper wastewater disposal for households
The scientific evidence suggests that if we move away from fossil fuels, reduce harmful gas emissions, and create a clean energy economy, we will be able to mitigate the effects of global warming. It is also crucial that we help workers who transition from fossil fuel jobs to clean energy tech jobs. Helping “front line” communities, such as the one in Flint, Michigan, is another necessary way to cope with the climate crisis. Restoring government transparency and the power of the EPA are changes that must be made in order rehabilitate our democracy.
Most of the candidates vying for the presidential seat, except for the GOP party members, have a plan that includes the above parameters. But only one of them fulfills all of the above criteria.
Now that we know the basic plan outline, we are finally ready to establish who’s climate change plan is the best. Let’s go down the list.
Based on the ten basic requirements of a climate plan, I compiled a table that sums up the plans of the presidential front runners, including Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Bernie Sanders.
As you can see, many candidates are missing a few criteria. By “missing”, I mean that that certain candidate has not included that specific criterion in their plans anywhere, and they have barely touched on it.
In order to make the decision of who has the best plan a little easier, I have created a simple points system. Fulfilling one criterion, as stated in the table above, would earn the candidate two points. They will gain an extra point for having one unique element in their plan, but they will loose a point or two points if they fail to meet one criterion, depending on how badly they missed it. Here is the layout:
Now let’s go down the list of candidates.
Joe Biden: 19/22 points
If you watched the first two democratic debates, you may have realized that almost every candidate said something against Biden. He has been doing well in the polls, and people like Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, are adamant on shattering his climate change plan to pieces.
Biden has been repeatedly attacked on his plan’s late timeline. During the second round of the Democratic debates, Gov. Jay Inslee, who has now dropped out of the race, claimed that Biden’s plan was just too late. Here’s what he said:
“… unfortunately your plan is just too late. The science says we have to get off coal in 10 years. Your plan does not do that. We have to get off of fossil fuels from our electric grid in 15. Your plan simply does not do that.” (Vox)
Biden hopes to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and get off coal by 2050, which is around five years late, compared to the other plans brought up.
The only thing that stands out in Biden’s plan is the late timeline and the Kigali Agreement, a promise that only Biden has stated he will fulfill. The Kigali Agreement strengthens the Paris Agreement which sets an ambitious target of restricting the rise in global temperature below 2O Celsius, as compared to pre-industrial level. Unlike the Paris agreement, it gives clear, concrete and mandatory targets with fixed timelines to the signatory parties to achieve their targets. In a nutshell, the main goal of this agreement is to protect the ozone layer, and no other candidate has talked about this.
Because Biden’s timeline is too late, he will loose two points for failing to meet that requirement. However, Biden is the only one talking about the Kigali Agreement, which gives him one extra bonus point. He is now left with points.
Kamala Harris: 14/22 points
Kamala Harris has been quite the zestful candidate. We saw her excitement and passion leap off the screen during the CNN Climate Crisis Town Hall and the recent debates. While she does meet the most basic criteria for a climate change plan, she lacks one very important criterion: protecting workers in the transition from fossil fuel jobs to clean energy tech jobs. This is a crucial part of the plan, and she always dodges the question when asked about her plan will help the workers.
She did do extra work for minority groups and “frontline” communities, as she calls it, with Ocasio-Cortez, but this does not merit extra points as she has not called to enforce her legislation and has not acted on it.
Kamala Harris has said that she does not fully support the building of new nuclear power plants. But the question is how is it even possible for our country to reach zero emissions and a completely carbon neutral condition by 2035 and also meet the country’s needs for energy? The science works against this.
Because Harris has failed to prove in her plan how she will meet the “workers” criteria, she looses two points.
Cory Booker: 22/22 points
Cory Booker has put many of his plans through the lens of the minority groups living in poor communities. He has focused a lot of his campaign on helping those of color and the underprivileged. He introduced something known as the Environmental Justice Fund for poor communities, which would use up to $50 billion annual investment to replace all lead drinking water pipes, clean up polluted sites around the country, and ensure proper wastewater disposal for households. For this he gains one extra point, as he is the only one to have brought this up in his campaign.
Cory Booker is also the only one to fully support nuclear energy. Here’s his argument:
When nuclear plants close, they’ve been replaced primarily by fossil fuels power plants that pollute the air and trigger asthma attacks among people living in the primarily low-income communities and communities of color that surround such facilities. Those illnesses, he said, is the number one reason kids end up going to the hospital or staying home sick from school. (Grist)
Booker’s stance on nuclear energy is unique, brave, and smart. During his first Senate term, Booker has voted to support nuclear research and innovation and in the previously mentioned speech he argued the country will need the controversial technology to stem carbon emissions. “For me this is not a time to hesitate, to dilly dally, to equivocate pathways before us — if we boldly march down them we can accomplish something great,” he said. “It can’t be done with wind and solar alone. We have to be a country that steps up and says it has to be renewable, new advanced nuclear energy.”
He promises to invest money for more research to go into finding new, clean, and safe ways to use nuclear energy. In addition, he has openly talked about restoring the power of the EPA and increasing government transparency. He is the only candidate to meet all of the criteria.
Elizabeth Warren: 16/22 points
Warren has been repeating the words of Sanders and Jay Inslee to support her own plan for climate change. She fulfills all of the needed criteria for an effective plan, but she has nothing unique to bring to the table.
She does not support the further use of nuclear energy, and she advocates for an unrealistic plan.
She has never brought up the EPA and talked about restoring its power. Her plan to increase government transparency is nonexistent, even though she seems to have an endless arsenal of plans to support her campaign.
Pete Buttigieg: 14/22 points
Buttigieg has introduced many of his plans for rural America and for healthcare, but he has really disappointed the American people on the climate change aspect of his campaign.
His plan does not include anything about holding polluters accountable, and that cost him two points. He also does not get any bonus points, because he does not present anything unique in his plans for America and the climate.
He is missing so many crucial points, so he is left with 14 points.
Bernie Sanders: 15/22 points
Bernie has been saying the same thing for the last four years. He has not changed his plans since the 2016 election, and he does not plan on changing it.
Bernie has preached to the public for quite a long time, but he has not been able to keep up with the times. He has brought up the power of the EPA and how it is diminishing ZERO times while on the campaign trail!
Out of all of the candidates, his plan costs a whopping $16.7 trillion dollars. Other candidates promise the same things as he does but for a lower cost, so for this fact, Bernie loses a point.
After extensive research on every single candidate, I can finally disclose the overall leaderboard for the 2020 Election Climate Change debate:
Cory Booker! Who would’ve thought? The “best” climate plan includes many criteria, each focusing on difference aspects of our country: the economy, the workforce, the government, and the environment. Cory Booker, based on the research and evidence, is the best candidate to lead our country into a new age, where our country will not be consumed by the effects of climate change.
After so much research, I’ve realized one thing: what the candidates say on TV and what their plan actually says are two completely different things! It’s so hard, especially in this day and age, to know what the truth is. The best we can do is perform our own research and seek the evidence ourselves.
Hopefully you found this article helpful.
I’ll leave you with this thought:
Never take things as they are. Seek the knowledge yourself.
If we all follow this advice, we can truly call ourselves part of a democratic society.