Democratic candidates engage in lengthy debate over climate change

Democratic candidates engage in lengthy debate over climate change
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Democratic presidential candidates discussed climate change at length on the debate stage Wednesday night, addressing energy sources ranging from natural gas to lithium batteries.

White House hopefuls fielded questions on the topic for 15 minutes, dwarfing the amount of time devoted to environmental issues at earlier debates.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Democratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging Democratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men MORE (D-Mass.) slightly walked back from her pledge to stop mining and oil and gas drilling on public lands.

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“You got to have lithium, you got to have copper for renewable energy. How do you do that?” moderator Jon Ralston asked her, referring to minerals needed to make batteries.

“If we need to make exceptions because there are specific minerals that we've got to have access to, then we would locate those. And we do it not in a way that is just about the profits of giant industries, but in a way that is sustainable for the environment. We cannot continue to let our public lands be used for profits by those who don't care about our environment,” Warren replied.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Poll: Trump, Biden in dead heat in 2020 matchup Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers, state governors talk coronavirus, stimulus package and resources as pandemic rages on MORE (I-Vt.) touted his recently introduced bill that calls for a ban on fracking for both oil and gas.

While discussing natural gas, both Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Democratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging MORE (D-Minn.) and former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergFormer Bloomberg staffer seeks class-action lawsuit over layoffs Bloomberg spent over 0M on presidential campaign The Hill's Campaign Report: Officials in spotlight over coronavirus response MORE cited the fuel as a bridge to renewables.

“We're not going to be able to pass this unless we bring people with us,” Klobuchar said, referencing the numerous climate plans from candidates.

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Warren, however, accused Klobuchar of “thinking smaller,” arguing that anti-corruption measures and ending the filibuster would also be needed to battle climate change.

“If you’re not willing to roll back the filibuster, then you're giving the fossil fuel industry veto over all that we work on,” Warren said.

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegReuters poll finds Sanders cutting Biden national lead to single digits Biden says he'll adopt plans from Sanders, Warren Buttigieg guest-hosts for Jimmy Kimmel: 'I've got nothing else going on' MORE argued that the differences between plans to achieve carbon neutrality are less important than taking action of some kind on climate.

“Let's be real about the deadline. It's not 2050, it's not 2040, it’s not 2030. It’s 2020, because if we don't elect a president who actually believes in climate science now we will never meet any of the other scientific or policy deadlines we need to,” he said.

The extended focus on climate change during the debate comes after environmental groups have repeatedly argued for a climate-themed debate after the topic was given short shrift in earlier debates.