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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6:23 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Yang wants US's economic scorecard to include environmental impacts

From CNN's Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir

Businessman Andrew Yang said that is he's elected president, he'll eliminate gross domestic product as a measure of national success and "upgrade" it to a score card that includes environmental factors.

"As your president, I will go down the street to the Bureau of Economic Analysis and say, 'Hey, GDP, 100 years old, kind of out of date.' Let's upgrade it with a new score card that includes our environmental sustainability and our goals — the carbon footprint that companies are putting out there. But also our kids' health, which is tied to the climate, health and life expectancy, also tied to the climate, mental health and freedom from substance abuse, all things we can tie to our economic measurements," he said.

At least one other country already has a similar system. Bhutan, the tiny Buddhist kingdom wedged between China and India, is driven by a policy of Gross National Happiness.

That system takes into account every citizen's mental health and job satisfaction, bans smoking and plastic bags nationwide and refuses to develop almost half of their pristine wilderness.

But some context: Bhutan is a homogenized society with the population of Seattle. 

6:19 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Yang wants a carbon tax of $40 to $100 per ton

From CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

CNN's Wolf Blitzer just asked Andrew Yang if he supports a carbon tax.

"I do support a carbon tax — if you went to my website, Wolf, you would know this," Yang said as the audience laughed.

Yang said his carbon tax would start at $40 per ton, and go up to $100 per ton.

How does a carbon tax work, anyway? Many people think the most effective way to drastically cut carbon emissions would be to set a price on them — essentially, to tax them. 

In 2010, Democrats in the House of Representatives passed a so-called "cap and trade" bill. It would have capped carbon emissions for businesses and forced emitters to buy credits for emissions from other businesses — that’s the trade part — but it never went anywhere in the Senate.

5:58 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Yang defends calling for the federal government to move people in low lying areas

From CNN's Dan Merica

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang defended his plan to move Americans living in low lying areas to higher ground on Wednesday.

Asked about the plan by a New York resident who lives at sea level, Yang said he would “100% make funds available” to move people to higher ground and pay for it by ending fossil fuel subsidies.

“Now it’s time to take some of that money and channel it to the needs of the American people,” Yang said. “There are already climate refugees in the United States of America, people that we relocated from an island that was essentially becoming uninhabitable in Louisiana and we moved those people.”

Yang added: “None of this is speculative anymore. We need to wake up and let you know that you’re not on your own. This is not a you problem, this is an us problem. What do sophisticated, advanced societies do? We solve the problems on the ground.”

Yang has not shied away from this position and brought it up during CNN’s Democratic debate in July.

“We need to do everything we can to start moving the climate in the right direction, but we also need to start moving our people to higher ground,” Yang said at the debate. “And the best way to do that is to put economic resources into your hands so you can protect yourself and your families.”

5:48 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Andrew Yang's town hall just kicked off


Businessman Andrew Yang just took the stage in New York for CNN's climate crisis town hall.

He's the second of 10 2020 Democrats to take questions at the event.

5:59 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Castro wants to set aside half of US land for biodiversity — but where would that land come from?

Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro just took a question from CNN's Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir.

"You propose setting aside half of American land and oceans for wildlife for biodiversity. Where does that come from?" Weir asked

Casto said the US needs to "undo the damage that this administration has done" — and then "expand the lands that we're protecting in our country."

Casto said his climate plans calls for preserving more lands. Here's how he put it:

"In that plan and in my climate plan I've connected the dots of actually preserving more of our lands both for the benefit of wildlife and for our benefit to combat climate change. So we would go back and reclassify places like Bear's Ear and other land that this administration has gone backward on and then look for other land that we can also protect and preserve.

Weir said Castro's policy is in line with with the "half earth" theory of renowned biologist E.O. Wilson — that theory says that to preserve life as we know it, half of the planet must be returned to the wild.

But the federal government already owns around 30% of US land, Weir said. And Casto's vague answer did not lay out where the other 20% of hopeful wilderness would come from.

5:44 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Castro says he would not push federal fracking ban

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Julián Castro would not commit to a federal ban on fracking after being asked about the practice at a CNN town hall on Wednesday

Castro supported fracking, which produces natural gas and often leaks methane into the atmosphere, when he was mayor of San Antonio, saying on Wednesday he believed there were “opportunities to be had” in a transition away from fossil fuels.

According to data from the Environmental Defense Fund, methane is “84 times more potent (in warming the atmosphere) than carbon dioxide,” despite lingering for shorter periods of time.

“I support local communities and states that want to ban fracking,” the former Housing and Urban and Development secretary said. “I have not called for an immediate ban on fracking. What I am doing is moving us away from fracking and natural gas, and investing in wind energy, solar energy, other renewables, to get us to net zero by 2045.”

Recalling the initial pitch around natural gas, Castro argued that the rationale was running down.

“We had been saying that natural gas was a bridge fuel,” he said. “We’re coming to the end of the bridge.”

Castro’s campaign has already pledged to end the leasing of public lands for energy extraction and exploration.

5:38 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Castro: Addressing environmental racism is a part of climate fight

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Julián Castro said that “new civil rights legislation” to address environmental racism -- minority communities facing the brunt of the climate crisis -- is part of his plan to combat global warming.

The former Housing and Urban Development secretary and Democratic presidential candidate said individuals should be able to file lawsuits against polluters.

He said that under President Donald Trump’s administration, “You can’t rely on the government” to stop polluters, and said he would “invest that power back in the people.”

Castro also pointed out that he launched his presidential campaign with a visit to Puerto Rico, which was recovering from Hurricane Maria, before he visited any of the early-voting states.

“I connect the dots to places like Flint, Michigan, and I know that too often times it’s people that are poor, communities of color, who take the brunt of storms that are getting more frequent and more powerful,” he said.

5:24 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Castro outlines climate change plan

From CNN's Dan Merica

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

Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro outlined his plans to combat the climate crisis on Wednesday, kicking off his town hall by touting a plan that would lead to $10 trillion in spending.

“My first executive order that afternoon will be to rejoin the Paris climate accord so that we lead begin on sustainability, but it’s actually what comes next after that that is the most important,” Castro said, before outlining how he would get the United States to net zero carbon emissions by 2045.

Castro said he would “incentivize wind energy production, solar energy production, invest in renewables” and would “challenge the rest of the world at latest to get to net zero by 2050.”

Castro would also raise taxes on polluters by implementing a carbon pollution fee to “help make the investments that we need to make.”

And Castro said he, as president, would end fossil fuel exploration – including fracking – on public lands. Castro does not plan to outright ban fracking.

5:20 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Castro gives a shoutout to Jay Inslee and his climate-focused campaign

From CNN's Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir

In his first moments on stage, Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro gave a nod to Jay Inslee's climate-focused candidacy.

"I also want to give a shoutout to governor Jay Inslee who did a fantastic job of bringing this issue to the forefront of this campaign," he said.

The Washington Governor dropped out out of the race last month.