Asked if he would commit to ending the use of fossil fuels and fracking during his presidency, Joe Biden hesitated before saying he would “work it out” of the American economy.
"We would make sure it's eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those," the former vice president said of coal. "Any fossil fuel."
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who began his run as a one-issue candidate focused on climate change, challenged Biden, saying he didn’t seem to understand the urgency.
“We cannot work this out. The time is up,” Inslee said. “Our house is on fire. We have to stop using coal in ten years and we need a president to do it or it won't get done. Get off coal. Save this country and the planet."
Inslee, who has released a comprehensive plan backed by leading climate activists, told Biden that his “argument isn’t with me, it’s with science” and claimed the former vice president’s plan took a “middle ground” approach.
Biden denied it, then talked about his plan to rejoin the Paris climate pact and push for the alliance to adapt more aggressive goals.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand made a similar promise, but with some extra mustard.
"The first thing that I'm going to do when I'm president is I'm going to Clorox the Oval Office,” she said. “The second thing I'm going to do is I will reengage on global climate change and I will not only sign the Paris Global Climate Accords, but I will lead a worldwide conversation about the urgency of this crisis.”
“The greatest threat to humanity,” Gillibrand said, “is global climate change."
Still, such promises were criticized.
“Nobody should get applause for rejoining the Paris climate accord,” Sen. Cory Booker said. “That is kindergarten.”
Businessman Andrew Yang offered an even more dire portrait of what’s to come – without or without immediate, urgent action.
“We are too late. We are ten years too late,” Yang said. The entire world needs to take action to reverse the damage, he added, but “we also need to start moving people to higher ground.”
Watch the moment: