This Week: The Climate Town Hall and Sharpiegate

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

The big event this week in the 2020 Democratic primary was the CNN Climate Town Hall. The first event of its kind, the town hall brought the top 10 candidates to the stage and gave them forty minutes each to respond to audience questions about their perspectives on climate change. The candidates did not interact with each other, but instead responded to questions in conversations moderated by CNN anchors. The event lasted seven hours in total. The candidates’ conversations were interspersed with live coverage of Hurricane Dorian, which was making its way up the Carolina coast, and wildfires in California to underscore the immediacy of the climate threat.

One highlight from the evening was Kamala Harris’ promise to abolish the Senate filibuster as president if Republicans do not cooperate to pass the Green New Deal. When he was asked the same question, Bernie Sanders said that he would keep the filibuster and instead work toward his climate goals using the Senate budget reconciliation process. Every candidate except Bernie Sanders explicitly said that they would support climate pricing, adopting  a much more progressive position than when they were surveyed earlier in the year. Many candidates also said they would advocate for environmental justice, noting that environmental hazards disproportionately impact people of color and low-income communities. Warren explicitly said that she would work with Native constituents to craft an informed and respectful climate response.

The candidates will face their next test when they meet for the third round of DNC debates on September 12. The same 10 candidates who discussed climate policy this week will face off in a debate in Houston. The fourth debate will have the same polling and fundraising requirements as the third, so it is likely that more candidates will appear onstage in October.

Also this week, state Republican parties announced that they will cancel primaries in Nevada, South Carolina, Arizona, and Kansas, as they consider holding a primary for an incumbent president to be an unwise use of funding.

The other big story of the week was “Sharpiegate,” which was kicked off on Sunday, when President Trump warned people to stay safe in states that would be affected by Hurricane Dorian, including Alabama. In fact, the storm did not threaten Alabama, and the National Weather Service corrected the president. On Wednesday, experts noticed that in a video of Trump discussing the hurricane, a map showing the storm’s path had been altered with a Sharpie to include Alabama in the map’s “cone of uncertainty.” Throughout the remainder of the week, Trump continued to insist that he had reported the path of Dorian correctly, dominating the newscycle with increasingly insistent claims that the hurricane was originally predicted to hit Alabama and anger at news outlets for propagating “fake news.”