Democrats Participate in Climate Town Hall

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN


We ran the numbers: There are 1071 news articles covering this topic. 64% (688) are left leaning, 26% (276) center, 10% (107) right leaning.

On Wednesday, the top ten Democratic candidates participated in the CNN Climate Town Hall. The first of its kind, the town hall invited candidates to the stage one at a time to discuss how they would tackle the existential threat of climate change if they were elected president. The candidates’ segments were interspersed with coverage of Hurricane Dorian and wildfires in California, underscoring the urgency of the issue. The candidates who participated were Julián Castro, Andrew Yang, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, and Cory Booker. 

With forty minutes to speak with the town hall audience, the candidates had much more opportunity to discuss their specific policies than in previous debates. Castro avowed his determination to rejoin the Paris Agreement if elected and said that he would spend $10 trillion to invest in a carbon-neutral economy. Yang emphasized his freedom dividend, which would provide citizens with a universal basic income which would, in part, help them cope with the effects of climate change. Yang also has a $5 trillion plan to reduce emissions. Harris vowed to abolish the Senate filibuster if Republicans refuse to pass a Green New Deal. Klobuchar supported a moderate carbon tax. Biden emphasized that his previous political experience would allow him to negotiate with international leaders on climate issues. Sanders touted his $16 trillion proposal to fight climate change. Warren explained the specifics of her detailed plans to eliminate fossil fuels but differentiated herself from Sanders by saying she opposes public ownership of utilities. O’Rourke came out against a carbon tax, choosing instead to support the less intense measure of cap-and-trade to reduce carbon emissions. And Booker discussed the opportunity presented by climate change to create jobs in new industries.

Left-leaning analysis leading up to the town hall by the Washington Post emphasizes the unprecedented nature of the event. The article begins by noting that the candidates spent all of 6 minutes discussing climate change in the 2016 presidential debates, but in this round, every leading candidate has embraced the Green New Deal and most have released detailed climate plans. The article also emphasizes the presence of Jay Inslee’s ideas in the candidates’ discussions on climate. Although Inslee dropped out of the race, he was the one candidate who founded his entire campaign on combatting climate change, and others (most notably Warren) have adopted his policies as the gold standard.

A right-leaning article from Fox News focuses on Biden’s time in the town hall, noting his promise that he would reenter the Paris climate accords on his first day in office and call a meeting of all the nations who signed the accord. The right-leaning Washington Examiner also focuses on Biden’s time on the stage, but hones in on an apparent physical issue that Biden had onstage, as his left eye filled with blood during his time onstage. The article notes that Biden has dealt with a string of health issues in the past, including an aneurysm in 1988. However, Biden continued to speak during the town hall despite the burst blood vessel.

Centrist coverage from USA Today emphasizes Inslee’s continuing presence in the Democratic primary in the form of his climate policies. The article reads “During Wednesday's CNN marathon of climate change town halls, several candidates mentioned Inslee's policies and his influence on the climate debate.” According to the article, Inslee himself has noted that the candidates are now engaged in an arms race of sorts to compete for whoever has the best climate plan. Instead of continuing his run for president, Inslee will be seeking another term as governor of Washington.

From the right

Joe Biden describes his first day as president, and climate action's part of it

Fox News