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Sat Sep 21, 2019, 05:40 AM

Bernie Sanders' climate change plan is radical and expensive -- which is why it could work

Forums are a good way for voters to separate the serious from the unserious and, so far, Sen. Bernie Sanders is emerging as the candidate with the most serious plan.

Sept. 21, 2019, 4:30 AM EDT
By Paris Marx


During the MSNBC forum on Thursday, Sanders highlighted the scale of the issue. He talked about the devastation that was wrought on Paradise, California, last year when fires tore through the town, and the tragedy that befell Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. He emphasized that “extreme weather disturbances hitting us more and more frequently with greater intensity” will cause an international humanitarian crisis, which is why the moderate push to be “realistic” won’t cut it. Bold action is needed.

In an ambitious, 13,000-word essay, Sanders’ campaign called the climate crisis “a global emergency” that would disproportionately impact the poor, the working class and people of color. Fighting back will require a mobilization not seen since World War II to radically transform U.S. society in less than 11 years — the deadline scientists have given before global warming in excess of 1.5º C can no longer be avoided. The essay also argued the president who takes on this task will need to “face down the greed of fossil fuel executives,” and during the MSNBC forum, Sanders suggested that could include criminal charges against executives who knew their actions were fueling climate change.

Sanders' more than $16 trillion plan may seem extreme, but there’s nothing small about this problem. America will need nothing less than a reorientation of the economy to accomplish this goal, which would be paid for by the sale of clean energy through public utilities, raising taxes on fossil fuel companies and reducing military spending. Such a pivot would also ensure that workers share in the benefits of the transition. As Sanders emphasized during the CNN town hall, no one wants their kids or grandkids to realize we had a chance to change course in 2020 and didn’t take it.

Ahead of the CNN climate town hall, Curbed’s Urbanism Editor Alyssa Walker wrote that only Sanders has a transportation plan that goes into detail on measures beyond electric vehicles, including expanding public transportation, promoting transit-oriented development in cities and increasing residential density. Even Sanders’ plan doesn’t go far enough — but it goes much farther than anyone else’s.


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