CNN's climate crisis town hall

By Meg Wagner, Dan Merica, Gregory Krieg and Eric Bradner, CNN

Updated 3:25 AM ET, Thu September 5, 2019
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10:52 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Buttigieg: Let’s talk about climate as a "faith" issue

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Pete Buttigieg is the mayor of a liberal city in the middle of a conservative state. On Wednesday, he said that to connect with Republicans in places like Indiana on climate issues, Democrats would be wise to use the frame of faith.

“Let's talk in language that is understood across the heartland, about faith,” the South Bend, Indiana, mayor said. “You know, if you believe that God is watching as poison is being belched into the air of creation, and people are being harmed by it, countries are at risk in low lying areas. What do you suppose God thinks of that?

Buttigieg’s guess: That “it's messed up.”

“You don't have to be religious to see the moral dimensions of this because, frankly, every religious and nonreligious moral tradition tells us that we have some responsibility to stewardship, some responsibility for taking care of what's around us not to mention taking care of our neighbor,” he said.

By taking that route, Buttigieg argued, the stakes both become more clear and increasingly real -- to everyone.

“Eventually, it gets to the point where this is less and less about the planet as an abstract thing,” he said, “and more and more about specific people suffering specific harm because of what we're doing right now.”

10:33 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Buttigieg says Trump may be most remembered for "failure to act on climate"

From CNN's Eric Bradner and Annie Grayer

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Pete Buttigieg said the most-remembered element of Donald Trump’s presidency could be his failure to address the climate crisis.

“You could argue of all the horrible things this president has done, the one that will most be remembered 50 or 100 years from now will have to do with the failure to act on climate. At least, that's what it will be like if this goes down in history as the time we failed to get something done,” the South Bend, Indiana, mayor said at CNN’s climate town hall.

“I mean, Congress is like a room full of doctors arguing about what to do over a cancer patient,” he said. “And half of them are arguing over whether medication or surgery is the best approach, and the other half is saying cancer doesn't exist. Think of what a disservice -- this a life or death issue. The president is busy drawing with a Sharpie on a hurricane map. He's in a different reality than the rest of us. The problem is we don't have the luxury of debating whether this is an issue.”

Buttigieg was asked what question he would ask Trump in a debate about climate change, but said he doesn’t believe Trump can be reached on the issue.

“By asking him a question. I don’t think you can't get to him at all,” he said. “And it's not just him. It's all of the enablers in the congressional GOP.”

10:16 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Buttigieg: Combatting climate could be "more challenging than" winning World War II

From CNN's Dan Merica

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said Wednesday that successfully combating climate change might be “more challenging than” winning World War II.

The comment came early in Buttigieg’s town hall, when the South Bend, Indiana, mayor was seeking to explain how the country needed to be unified around the climate crisis in order to successfully combat it.

“This is the hardest thing we will have done in my lifetime as a country,” he said, “on par with winning World War II.”

Buttigieg then paused, and said, “Maybe more challenging than that.”

He added: “Does anybody really think we’re going to meet that goal if between now and 2050, we are still at each other’s throats? It won’t happen.”

Buttigieg, who often talks about the need to unite around difficult issues, said part of this unification may mean “bringing people to the table who haven’t felt they have been part of the process.”

10:11 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Pete Buttigieg just took the stage at the climate crisis town hall

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is next up at CNN's climate crisis town hall.

He's one of 10 Democratic candidates to take voter's questions tonight.

10:10 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Warren: Sanders’ spending doesn’t mean he is more dedicated to climate fight

From CNN's Dan Merica

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren rejected the idea that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, her fellow 2020 contender, was more committed to the climate change fight because he is willing to spend trillions more on the issue.

“No,” Warren said bluntly.

“I’ve got plans. I have a $2 trillion plan, I have a $1 trillion plan picking up how we are going to cut carbon emissions by 70% by 2035. But we have to use all the tools in the tool box. This is not a moment where we just say, you know what, we just need to put some money on it, and we’ll fix it.”

Warren and Sanders are the two top progressives in the race and, while they are close friends, it is expected that they will have to clash at some point in the coming months.

Warren admitted that combatting climate change “takes money,” but she added that it also takes more than that.

“We need to be willing to use regulatory tools. That’s important,” she said. “We have to use our position internationally.”

Warren said, for that reason, her trade and foreign policy includes climate elements.

11:13 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Here's what Warren would say to refinery workers who are worried about their jobs

CNN's Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren about what she would say to oil refinery workers, like the ones in Port Arthur, Texas, whose jobs depend on the oil industry.

"Even though they understand the problems, they would tell you, 'Please don't shut them down, because I will die of starvation before I die of pollution.' They're worried about jobs. What do you tell the pipe fitters and cafeteria workers in Port Arthur what will happen to them if these places go dark?" Weir asked.

Warren said she had two things she'd like to tell those workers.

"The first one is, that's not the only job in Port Arthur over the next 20 years," she said, adding that there will be union infrastructure in the city, which was hard hit by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Then she continued with her second point:

"Part two is who's making the real money off Port Arthur and those workers? Who's making that money? It's the investors, it's the Saudis who own this company. How is it in a democracy that we could have a handful of corporations that year after year keep dragging in bigger and bigger profits, while the oceans continue to rise, while your home disappears, while your children have asthma, while people die. That's not right."
10:03 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Warren wants "tough rules," not public ownership of utilities

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday rejected Sen. Bernie Sanders’ plan to move energy utilities toward public ownership.

Asked if she would back that piece of the Vermont senator’s climate plan, Warren questioned whether it would have the desired effect.

“Gosh, you know, I'm not sure that that's what gets you to the solution,” she said. “I'm perfectly willing to take on giant corporations, I think I've been known to do that once or twice. But for me, I think the way we get there is we just say (to fossil fuel companies), sorry guys, but by 2035 you’re done.”

Warren sought to redefine the problem, saying that she was open to enterprising private companies making money off innovative new technologies -- but not in a way that endangers public safety.

“If somebody wants wants to make a profit from building better solar panels and generating better battery storage, I'm not opposed to that,” Warren said. “What I'm opposed to, is when they do it in a way that hurts everybody else. You shouldn’t be able to externalize these costs. That's the problem with fossil fuels, right.”

But Warren also issued a warning to current energy producers and any other competitors with plans to enter the sector.

“We got to have tough rules,” she said. “And that means we have got to be willing to fight back against these giant industries. And that's where the whole thing starts for me, we put them on their back foot. Then we have a real chance to make the changes we need to make.”

9:53 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Warren: Fossil fuel companies want people focused on light bulbs, straws and cheeseburgers

From CNN's Dan Merica

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said Wednesday that conversations around regulating light bulbs, banning plastic straws and cutting down on red meat are exactly what the fossil fuel industry wants people focused on as a way to distract from their impact on climate change.

“This is exactly what the fossil fuel industry hopes we’re all talking about,” Warren said. “That’s what they want us to talk about.”

Warren said that fossil fuels want people to think “this is your problem” and to “stir up a lot of controversy around your lightbulbs, around your straws and around your cheeseburgers.”

The reality, Warren argues, is that “70% of the pollution of the carbon that we’re throwing into the air comes from three industries and we can set our targets and say by 2028, 2030, and 2035, no more.”

Warren has advocated, by 2028, mandating carbon free building; by 2030, mandating carbon free cars and light-duty truck production; and, by 2035, mandating carbon free electricity generation.

9:48 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Warren on Trump: "Where he is right now is a nightmare"

Sen. Elizabeth Warren — asked about if the reality of the Green New Deal — said Trump's climate plans are a "nightmare."

CNN's Chris Cuomo asked Warren to envision a possible 2020 debate with her up against President Trump.

"You're on the debate stage. You're across from the President, and he says the Green New Deal is a dream because we're 60% right now on fossil fuels," Cuomo said.

Warren quipped: "I'm just saying, where he is right now is a nightmare."

Warren went on to say that we need to "dream big" now, since the US only accounts for about 20% of the climate crisis.

"We're only 20% of the problem. That's a big hunk of the problem, but there's another world out there that's 80% of this problem. So you bet that this is a moment where we better dream big and fight hard because that's how it is that we're going to make the changes we need to make," she said.