99 at the beach: Candidates to debate climate change after all

Ana Bermudez, 16, at a global warming protest earlier this month in Miami. (Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP)

With record-high temperatures across much of the Northern Hemisphere — from Long Beach, Calif., at 99 degrees to Paris, France, which reached 108 — global warming was on the minds of voters this week.

It was also on the minds of the candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, who will have the opportunity to debate what to do about climate change after all.

Cable television networks MSNBC and CNN announced this week that they would each host a forum on climate change despite the Democratic National Committee’s initial refusal to devote a debate to that single issue.

CNN will hold its climate change town hall on Sept. 4 in New York, inviting the eight candidates polling above 2 percent for the Democratic presidential nomination who have at least 130,000 unique donors.

MSNBC, meanwhile, will hold a two-day climate forum on Sept. 19 and 20 in Washington, D.C., and all of the presidential candidates have been invited to participate.

For years, scientists have been sounding the alarm that the planet faces a climate change emergency that requires the immediate transitioning away from a fossil-fuel-based economy. Virtually every one of the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination has put forth a plan to deal with climate change. This week Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer released their own proposals.

President Trump, however, remains a staunch global-warming skeptic, pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, promoting the use of coal and rolling back automobile mileage standards.

In 2019 alone, record-setting floods have hit the Midwest. Unprecedented flash floods have occurred in New York, New Orleans and Washington, D.C. Huge swaths of the Arctic are now on fire, emitting a record-breaking amount of CO2 in the process. Overall, the Arctic continues to warm twice as fast as the rest of the globe, melting the polar ice caps and creating a feedback loop that leads to even higher temperatures and more ice melt. That melting, scientists warn, will result in dramatic sea level rise, threatening coastal cities around the world.

While no single weather event alone is proof of climate change, the prevalence of extreme events mirrors warnings issued by the world’s leading climate scientists. For those who have studied those findings, the effects of climate change are everywhere you look.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in its October report that in order to keep mean global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, humans would need to cut CO2 emissions by 45 percent by the year 2030. That 12-year goal, for which Green New Deal architect Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., was mocked by numerous Republicans, seems increasingly unlikely to be met. As countries like China and India continue to make economic strides toward the United States, their carbon emissions continue to accelerate.

Climate change remains a highly partisan issue. A CNN poll in April found it was the leading issue for voters who identified as Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, with 82 percent of those registered voters ranking it “very important.” By contrast, just 14 percent of Republicans said the same. But in a sign that the divide may not be permanent, longtime Republican consultant Frank Luntz testified this week at a Senate hearing on “Conservatives for Climate Change” (meaning, for action on climate change) and tweeted that his views have changed:


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