CNN Did A Democrat Climate Thing And It Was Pretty Good!

CNN held its great big Climate Change Town Hall last night, a SEVEN-HOUR marathon of detailed discussion about what the 10 Democrats who'll be in the next debate want to do about what they all agree is the greatest challenge we face. Considering how hard it is to do anything on TV for seven hours and keep people engaged (your own video game or streaming addictions excepted), it turned out to be pretty good! Especially with a nap during part of it. We won't try to summarize everything (here are some goodrundowns and takeawayses; the consensus seems to be that Jay Inslee won by getting the thing to even happen), so here are Yr Wonkette's Top Four impressions of the whole darn affair.

1: Everybody Agrees On Some Stuff

Every one of the candidates was clear about the fact that the science is clear and we need to drastically cut emissions of greenhouse gases; the only variations are on how we should get there -- and even on policy, there's a lot of agreement. As the New York Times put it,

If you are a Democratic candidate for president, you believe climate change is an existential threat not only to the United States but to human civilization. You believe the country needs to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the very latest. And there are certain policies you can't avoid if you want to get there.

Pretty much everyone wants a moratorium on oil and gas leases on public lands. Pretty much everyone wants to create incentives for more sustainable farming practices. And everyone wants to rejoin the Paris climate accord.

As for rejoining the Paris accord, we're absolutely with Cory Booker on that. He was frankly tired of anyone who considers that a sufficient selling point: "I'm sorry, [...] that is, like, a cost of entry even to run for president or talk about the presidency."

The disagreements were on issues of what to emphasize, and how much: Should nuclear power be part of the mix in moving away from fossil fuels? Booker and Andrew Yang both pointed out that nukes currently provide about 20 percent of US electric generation, and that there are promising nuclear technologies out there that wouldn't risk meltdown like today's aging reactors. But what the hell about the waste?

Similar arguments about natural gas: It produces CO2, but far less than oil or coal, so how does it fit into energy policy for the near future? Some candidates were clear on wanting a fracking ban right away, while others, like Julián Castro, would go a little slower. But again, broad agreement on where we have to go, probably put best by Castro:

"We had been saying that natural gas was a bridge fuel" a decade ago, he said. "We're coming to the end of the bridge."

In all, given how dire the situation is, the whole thing left us somewhat optimistic: We still have a chance to get this right, as Warren put it. But we have to stop delaying.

2: We Can't Be Distracted by Bullshit

Elizabeth Warren was just one of several candidates who rejected the premise of dumb questions that don't get at the reality of the climate crisis. Asked about a Trump rule that would roll back regulations requiring energy efficient light bulbs, she said that's some bullshit, because it's not about lightbulbs, it's about the big stuff, although of course we should all do what we can:

How many Democrats does it take to be distracted by a lightbulb? None, if we're smart:

Oh come on, give me a break [...] This is exactly what the fossil fuel industry hopes we're all talking about. This is your problem: They want to be able to stir up a lot of controversy around your light bulbs, around your straws and around your cheeseburgers. When 70 percent of the pollution, of the carbon that we're throwing into the air, comes from three industries.

And those industries are all far bigger problems than light bulbs: buildings and construction, electric power, and the oil industry. We can argue over compact fluorescents and LEDs as much as we want, but those suckers HAVE to be addressed.

3: The 'Liberal Media' Will Keep Asking About Bullshit

A surprising number of the questions were darn good. And an unsurprising number of questions, like the light bulb one, which CNN hosts kept returning to, were flat out bad faith distractions. Cory Booker's a vegan -- would he ban cows? Booker handled that one with aplomb: Cheeseburgers are a dumb distraction, and you can eat what you want. But factory farms are bad not just for the environment; they're also bad for the economy.

Thanks to the corporate lobby [...] we're incentivizing those kinds of farm practices and not the ones that represent our heritage and support family farming.

The hosts also had a real penchant for pressing the candidates on whether they'd "force" everyone to buy an electric car. Well yes, over time, sure, if we want to get to zero carbon emissions. But that won't happen overnight, and the transition will involve a boom of new industry and jobs, too. Andrew Yang floated the idea of a cash for clunkers program to help people get clean vehicles, for instance, while Pete Buttigieg pointed out that the auto industry somehow managed to meet mandates for higher fuel efficiency, and even resisted Trump's attempts to undo efficiency standards. We can do this shit, and we'll develop the details once we set the goals:

"We're not going to have politicians figuring out every aspect," he said, any more than President John F. Kennedy calculated rocket trajectories for the moon landing. "We set the goal and then we challenge Americans to live up to it."

Asked if he felt bad about traveling by airplane, Buttigieg again rejected the premise: Sure, individuals need to adjust how they live, but fuel efficient airliners won't happen through individual ticket purchases:

no individual can be expected single-handedly to solve this problem. It's going to require national action. This is why the human species invented government. It's for dealing with issues that are too big for each of us to deal with on our own.

That's exactly how the nominee, whoever she is, will have to handle the Republican bullshit machine and the stupid cable people who'll echo it.

4. Damn, We Have Some Smart People Running

We were impressed by the breadth of knowledge all the candidates brought to the discussion. There was very little flummery, sloganeering, or happy question-dodging. Buttigieg, Warren, and Booker struck me as having most thoroughly committed to making climate a central part of their platforms. Booker said climate is the "the lens through which we must do everything," and said every cabinet department in his administration would be required to submit a climate plan. Buttigieg managed to talk religion without making this atheist gag, even:

"If you believe that God is watching" as humanity spews pollutants, "what do you think God thinks of that?" he asked. "This is less and less about the planet as an abstract thing and more about specific people suffering specific harm because of what we're doing right now. At least one way of talking about this is that it's a kind of sin."

In conclusion, we better wrap this up because we were only going to do quick impressions. It wasn't boring like we thought it would be, and we're looking forward to MSNBC's upcoming climate forum, and a second CNN marathon on LGBTQ issues. In depth discussion: It's a thing we need more of!

[NYT / CNN / Vox / NYT]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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