2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum

2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum
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Democratic presidential hopefuls were eager to showcase their environmental bonafides in front of young voters at MSNBC’s two-day climate forum this week as protesters across the globe demand action on climate change.

The hourlong sessions gave candidates a chance to try and fill the void left since Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert Inslee121 University of Washington students test positive for coronavirus Barr praises Seattle police chief as officers clear protest zone OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 | Commerce Department led 'flawed process' on Sharpiegate, watchdog finds | EPA to end policy suspending pollution monitoring by end of summer MORE, who centered his campaign on addressing climate change, dropped out of the race.

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Hosts Chris Hayes and Ali Velshi asked most of the candidates how they would prioritize climate change if they occupied the Oval Office given they have spent months focusing their campaign on a broader set of issues.

“Climate change is at the top of that list. It’s the greatest existential threat to our way of life and our species. You have to have it as threat 1A,” said former tech entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangBiden campaign to take over 'Supernatural' star's Instagram for interview Hillicon Valley: Justice Department announces superseding indictment against WikiLeaks' Assange | Facebook ad boycott gains momentum | FBI sees spike in coronavirus-related cyber threats | Boston city government bans facial recognition technology The Hill's Campaign Report: Progressives feel momentum after primary night MORE

Yang also sought to link his better known position on tackling the effect of job automation with climate change.

“The reason why I think I’m more known for being more concerned about automation of jobs and artificial intelligence is that they are very much tied together,” Yang said. “To me 1A is climate change and 1B is economic inequities.”

Some environmental groups have praised Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTammy Duckworth is the epitome of the American Dream On The Money: Deficit rises to record .7 trillion amid pandemic: CBO | Democrats sidestep budget deal by seeking 0B in emergency spending | House panel advances spending bill with funding boost to IRS Biden-Sanders unity task force calls for Fed, US Postal Service consumer banking MORE's (I-Vt.) position for being the most aggressive and robust, though his response also sought to bring attention to the decades he’s spent talking about income inequality and human rights.

“Obviously, there's nothing more important than saving the planet. But we do need to make sure that every American has healthcare as a human right. We need to make sure that you guys can go to college without coming out deeply in debt,” Sanders said. “Call me old fashioned, call me optimistic, but I think government can do both at the same time.” 

Most candidates were eager to show how seriously they take climate change.

“Lots of things are actually getting better every single day, except for one that’s getting so much worse, and it's this one. So it’s got to be a top priority. Again what’s our job? To leave the world better than we found it,” said former Rep. John DelaneyJohn DelaneyCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney Davis Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremmer says Trump right on China but wrong on WHO; CDC issues new guidance for large gatherings The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what 'policing' means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight MORE (D-Md.).

Former Housing and Urban Development head Julián Castro explained how he would prioritize climate change by saying he, like other candidates, would recommit the U.S. to the Paris Climate Accord, and from there would set out to work with Congress to pass the Green New Deal.   

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg's new book, 'Trust,' slated for October release Biden hires top aides for Pennsylvania Democratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights MORE referred to his youth to explain his drive for addressing the topic.

“Well, I hope to be around in 2050,” the 38-year-old said. “So to me this is not an abstract ‘my grandkids’ kind of thing.”

“That means I will be, for one thing, held accountable. And I think my generation will be held accountable because it will be on our watch that this thing played out.”

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerData shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs New Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Amy Kennedy wins NJ primary to face GOP's Van Drew MORE (D-N.J.) described climate change as being at the nexus of many issues.

“Everything we do must be done through the lens of the climate crisis,” he said.

Self-help author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonMarianne Williamson touts endorsements for progressive congressional candidates The Hill's 12:30 Report: Warren becomes latest 2020 rival to back Biden The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden looks to stretch lead in Tuesday contests MORE also said climate change would get high billing in her administration.

“It would have to get top priority. We’d get no choice,” she said. “But at the same time climate change is connected to so many other issues and the president has to pull the whole picture but you cannot in any way peripheralize the issue of climate change.” 

Miranda Green contributed reporting.