Here’s where the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates stand on climate change

2020 Democratic presidential candidates
Aishwarya Jayadeep/Staff

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If there’s one political issue that truly affects and will continue to affect every person, it’s the climate crisis. And although there is agreement among the Democratic presidential candidates that actions must be taken, their climate plans represent a diverse set of goals, budgets and policies — all of which tackle the crisis differently. 

March 3 is California’s Democratic primary, and as you begin to weigh your options on whose bubble to fill on the ballot, considering each candidate’s climate plans may make the decision a little easier.

Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden was the first senator ever to introduce a climate bill to Congress, called the Global Climate Protection Act of 1986. Twenty-four years later, Biden, proclaimed as a “climate change pioneer” on his campaign website, wants to “ensure the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050.” His plan, called the Clean Energy Revolution, includes $1.7 trillion in spending over the next 10 years. Although that’s a big number, Biden’s plan remains one of the least expensive compared to the other candidates. Despite his goals, Biden has also accepted large sums of donations from wealthy donors, like oil businessman Len Blavatnik, as reported by POLITICO. Currently, Biden has an 83% lifetime voting score according to the League of Conservation Voters, or LCV, an organization that records politicians’ votes on environmental policy decisions. And, he remains 17 points short of an A+ for voting against increasing fuel economy standards in 2003 and 2005.

Bernie Sanders

Joe Biden may be a self-proclaimed “climate change pioneer,” but Sen. Bernie Sanders’ game plan for the climate crisis remains the most radical and the most expensive of all the leading Democratic candidates. According to his campaign website, Sanders’ Green New Deal will “transform our energy system to 100 percent renewable energy and create 20 million jobs needed to solve the climate crisis.” This requires a $16.3 trillion investment, the most expensive plan yet. This, of course, has been met with criticism, as many claim that although the plan is ambitious and probably necessary, it will never pass in Congress. In response, the senator has claimed that his Green New Deal will “pay for itself,” as reported by the New York Times, arguing that the plan’s goals to completely electrify and decarbonize the transportation industry will create jobs and boost the economy. Sanders also plans to establish the Climate Justice Resiliency Fund, which would support vulnerable communities suffering from climate change. Currently, Sanders has a 92% lifetime score, according to the LCV.

Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has claimed to be one of the original co-sponsors of the initial Green New Deal since its release by Sen. Edward Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Feb. 7, 2019. This means that many of Warren’s plans adopt similar strategies and goals of that Green New Deal, and according to her campaign website, Warren “commits the United States to a ten-year mobilization to achieve domestic net-zero emissions by 2030.” In this plan, which would cost $3 trillion, Warren combines plans like the Blue New Deal, a green manufacturing plan and Democratic candidate dropout Jay Inslee’s climate plan. Warren’s plan also emphasizes investing in vulnerable communities that are and will continue to be affected by climate change. According to the LCV, Warren currently has a 99% lifetime score, proving a pro-environment voting record since 2013.

Pete Buttigieg

Polling at an 8% national average according to the New York Times, Pete Buttigieg has avoided the shadow of his (much older and experienced) fellow candidates by appealing to a local-centric climate plan. When speaking on behalf of the climate crisis, Mayor Pete often evokes his experience with the floods in South Bend, Indiana. According to his full climate plan, he has “had to order the activation of the emergency operations center for 1,000-year and 500-year floods that came less than two years apart.” Unlike other Democratic candidates’ claimed experiences in supporting and passing climate-related bills in the U.S. Senate, Buttigieg stresses that he values the roles of cities and small communities to enact climate action, adding religious elements into his climate discussion, as reported by CNN. According to his campaign website, Mayor Pete’s $2 trillion plan seeks to reach zero emissions no later than 2050, emphasizing a clean economy, resilience and American leadership.

Michael Bloomberg

Three-term New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has been outspoken about his climate commitments since he announced his presidential run. According to his campaign website, he “commits to propelling the country to full decarbonization as soon as humanly possible and before 2050, and slashing emissions by 50% across the entire U.S. economy in ten years.” The mayor plans to end the rush to build more natural gas plants and wants to replace coal with clean energy by 2030. Bloomberg’s history of climate action and philanthropy undeniably back his claims. For example, he has donated over $100 million to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, and he has also donated to other environmental action groups for decades. However, as one of the wealthiest people in the United States, Bloomberg has faced criticism for gaining support through his donations, especially from Sanders, who criticized Bloomberg’s inability to form a grassroots campaign, as reported by CNBC. According to The Atlantic, Bloomberg has spent $261 million on his three campaigns for mayor.

Amy Klobuchar

Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s climate plan is to restore the environmental policies that have been rolled back over the past three years of the Trump presidency. With the goals of restoring the Clean Power Plan, rejoining the Paris Agreement and bringing back fuel economy standards, Klobuchar approaches her climate plan rationally and wants to bring back many of the Obama administration’s environmental policies. Backed by her experience in serving the U.S. Senate’s Climate Action Task Force and her early career legislation that tracked carbon emissions in big industry, Klobuchar currently has a 96% LCV lifetime score. However, although a co-sponsor of the 2019 Green New Deal, Klobuchar has faced criticism for not taking the proposed legislation literally but rather as a guide. She has also faced criticism for her stance to not ban fracking, along with Biden, Buttigieg, Bloomberg and Yang, according to InsideClimate News and the Washington Post.

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang’s climate plan consists of a few never-before-seen policies, as opposed to some of his fellow running mates. According to his campaign website, his plan includes five categories: build a sustainable economy, build a sustainable world, invest in researching carbon removal techniques, enforce both federal and state governments to become stewards and move people to higher ground. According to POLITICO, his $4.87 trillion plan seeks to achieve zero emissions by 2049. Although his goals are similar to those of other candidates, Yang has offered some creative policy to help him achieve them. For example, he introduced a policy called “Democracy Dollars,” which gives every American $100 to give to a campaign candidate. Through this policy, Yang hopes to put an end to major campaign funders, specifically attacking the fossil fuel industry. Yang has also backed nuclear investment, calling for $50 billion of his $4.87 trillion budget to be allocated for research and development of nuclear energy, according to POLITICO. Despite these unique solutions, sources like The Atlantic have questioned his pessimistic arguments toward irreversible climate damage. 

It’s a hard call — where do you think you stand? Remember to register and vote on March 3!

Contact Emily Denny at [email protected] .