“One of the embarrassments that goes on in this country today is that we have a major political party called the Republican Party that is rejecting what the overwhelming majority of scientists are saying,” Sanders told host Bill Maher on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.”
“That is, of course, climate change is real and caused by human activity,” said Sanders, a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate. “That’s an issue we’re going to talk about a whole lot.”
Sanders praised Pope Francis for writing an encyclical on that topic released Thursday.
In his formal statement of the church’s views on the subject, Francis argued climate change is real and that greater international efforts are needed for stopping its ill effects.
“This Pope has, dare I say, been a miracle for humanity,” Sanders said.
“He makes me very conservative on economic issues and that he spoke on climate change in as forceful a manner as he did is just extraordinary,” he said. “I think the fact that the Pope has spoken out will have a profound impact all over this world.”
Sanders also argued climate change is one of the key issues that will help him win young voters on the campaign trail.
“We are being very aggressive in reaching out to young people,” Sanders said. “What we want to do is tap, Bill, the idealism of the kids.”
“And what the kids are saying, for example, is that this country should lead the world in transforming the energy system and dealing with climate change,” he added.
The Vermont lawmaker touted his growing success with social media attention from potential supporters.
“I will tell you we have a very active social media effort,” Sanders told Maher.
“In the Senate, we have more people on our Facebook page than any other member of the United States Senate,” he added.
This level of interest stemmed from a growing dissatisfaction with income inequality among Americans overall, Sanders argued.
“The truth is that for 40 years, the middle class of this country has been disappearing,” he said.
“There has been a huge transfer of trillions of dollars in wealth from working families to the top one-tenth of 1 percent,” Sanders said.
“And what the people of this country are saying is, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” he added. “Our country and our government belongs to all of us, not just a few billionaires.”
Sanders formally launched his presidential campaign May 26 in Burlington, Vt.
He has made tighter regulations of wealthy special interests and fighting climate change key parts of his campaign platform.