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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9:10 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Sanders on rolling back Trump climate change actions: "Duh!"

From CNN's Dan Merica:

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was asked on Wednesday whether he would roll back Trump administration plans to overturn requirements on energy saving lightbulbs. He delivered an emphatic answer.

“Duh,” the senator explained with a slight smile.

Sanders added: “Look, one of the great things that’s happening and gives us some hope is that there has been an explosion in technology in many, many areas that if we have the political will to utilize that technology, we can maybe save the planet.”

Donald Trump’s administration lifted energy efficiency regulations for several common types of light bulbs on Wednesday, which critics believe is the administration’s latest assault on efforts to combat climate change and energy use.

Sanders pivoted from the lighthearted answer and made the case for making climate change an international issue.

“Maybe, just maybe, instead of spending a trillion and a half dollars every single year on weapons of destruction designed to kill each other, maybe we pool those resources and we work together against our common enemy, which is climate change,” Sanders said.

9:25 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

It's time for Bernie Sanders' town hall

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

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is now taking questions from voters about the climate crisis.

He's the sixth Democratic candidiate tonight to participate in the 7-hour event.

9:05 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Biden: "We can take millions of vehicles off the road if we have high-speed rail"

Former Vice President Joe Biden said he's been a "champion" for rail and mass transit.

"I've been pushing really hard for mass transit and for rail. We can take millions of vehicles off the road if we have high-speed rail," he said. "I've been the champion of that for 25 years."

Biden added that in order for new rail lines to be successful, they have to be as fast and as cost efficient as driving.

"It would literally take millions of vehicles off the road. But you have to have a rail system that makes people say, 'If I get on that rail, I will get there as fast as I would have gotten had I driven and I can afford to do it relative to the coast of my driving.'"

8:50 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Biden explains why he doesn’t support a nationwide fracking ban

From CNN's Dan Merica

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

Former Vice President Joe Biden said he would not support a nationwide fracking ban on Wednesday -- in part because he doesn’t believe any measure banning fracking could pass -- but the Delaware Democrat said he does support stopping all “oil drilling or gas drilling on federal lands.”

Biden’s position is the most common Democratic position, but other candidates in the race -- like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker -- have pushed for a nationwide fracking ban.

Biden, in response to a question about fracking in Pennsylvania, said on Wednesday that the federal government has “less latitude in what we say we can and cannot do” on state lands.

“I think we should in fact be looking at what exists now and making a judgment whether or not the those in fact that are there, those wells that are there, whether or not they are dangerous, whether or not they have already done the damage,” Biden said.

Biden said the federal government “could pass national legislation” but that he doesn’t believe there are enough votes “to get it done.”

8:57 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Biden to "look at" fundraiser’s background after being confronted

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Former Vice President Joe Biden suggested he might reconsider a fundraiser scheduled for Thursday after being confronted and told about its host's connections to the energy industry.

Andrew Goldman is a co-founder of Western LNG, a company whose biggest project is a floating liquefaction facility for natural gas off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. He does not have day-to-day responsibilities with the company, but an audience member asked Biden if his willingness to accept Goldman’s help would compromise his pledge to fight climate change.

Goldman also worked a Biden adviser before the former vice president took that office in 2009.

"I didn't realize he does that," Biden said after being asked initially about Goldman’s role and said, citing SEC filings, that he did not believe attending the fundraiser would be in violation of a pledge to refuse fossil fuel energy executive donations. "I'm going to look at what you just told me and find out if that's accurate."

Immediately after the exchange, Biden spokeswoman Symone Sanders disputed the description of Goldman, claiming he "isn't a fossil fuel executive. He's not involved in the day to day operation. He's not on the board of the company, nor the board of the portfolio company."

She also echoed Biden, in a subsequent tweet, denying that the former vice president has not violated his pledge to reject donations from fossil fuel executives.

“What I was told by my staff is that he did not have any responsibility related to the company,” Biden said later. “He was not on the board, he was not involved at all in the operation of the company at all.

But he said his campaign would review its information to be sure.

“If that turns out to be true, then I will not in any way accept his help,” Biden said. “We go through every contribution make sure that we are not accepting money from people we said we wouldn't, or we shouldn’t.”

8:54 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Biden promises "there would be no empty chair" in climate talks

From CNN's Eric Bradner

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

Former Vice President Joe Biden said “there would be no empty chair” in leading climate talks among the world’s most powerful nations if he is elected president.

His comment, at CNN’s town hall on the climate crisis Wednesday, was a shot at President Donald Trump, who skipped last month’s G7 Summit climate meeting.

He said since Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord, “there is no leadership” on climate matters.

“There would be no empty chair. I would be pulling the G7 together. I would be down with the president of Brazil saying, enough is enough,” Biden said, referring to the burning Amazon rain forest.

The former vice president pitched himself as an experienced deal-maker on the national and international stages.

“What we have to do is we have to understand that you need to be able to bring people and countries and interests together to get anything done. Plans are great, but executing on those plans is a very different thing,” he said.

8:27 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Biden tells 19-year-old he's never put big businesses above young voters

Katie Eder and Biden
Katie Eder and Biden CNN

A 19-year-old activist asked former Vice President Joe Biden how young voters can trust him to to prioritize their futures.

She asked: "Older generations have continued to fail our generation by repeatedly choosing money and power over our lives and our futures, so how we can trust you to put us — the future — over the wants of large corporations and wealthy individuals?"

Biden quickly responded: "Because I've never done it."

He continued: 

"I've never made that choice. My whole career. Simple. I mean, look, I got involved back in 1986. I introduced a climate change plan that was said to be a game changer. I've been involved in everything from making sure we go with back in the '90s, everything I've done has been done to take on the polluters and take on those who are, in fact, decimating our environment. I mean, it's been my career." 

A little context: Earlier this year, before Biden released a climate plan, Biden faced criticism from progressives who argued the former vice president would not go far enough to combat climate change.

They were citing a Reuters report that quoted a Biden adviser who touted the need to find a "middle ground" approach as progressives push the Green New Deal.

8:02 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Joe Biden is up now


Former Vice President Joe Biden is now taking questions at CNN's climate crisis town hall.

At total tonight, 10 Democratic presidential candidates will take the stage.

7:59 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

How Klobuchar wants to tap into American's competitive spirits to get them to use less energy

From CNN's Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir

Sen. Amy Klobuchar said said that one way to get people to use less energy is to send out electric bills with a neighborhood ranking because it comes with a sense of competitive accomplishment. 

"What really worked to get people to get their energy usages down and turning off the lights off — not necessarily the total, when they saw what their neighbor did, they're real competitive. Now, they don't see the names of the neighbor, but they see the averages are and they think, 'Well, I can do better than this,'" she said.

This is right out of environmental lawyer's Cass Sunstein school of thought: that government should harness human nature to "nudge" better social behavior. It seems quaint but a massive retooling of world consumption might never happen without some of this kind of psychology.