Students on strike for the climate
Youth holding signs at the School Strike on Friday at the National Mall in support of taking action to reverse climate damage (Photo: Earth and Main, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

Three Demo­c­ra­t­ic U.S. Sen­a­tors have released a let­ter call­ing on NBC News to make cli­mate jus­tice the focus of the first pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry debate.

Sens. Bri­an Schatz (D‑HI), Shel­don White­house (D‑RI) and Mar­tin Hein­rich (D‑NM) pre­sent­ed NBC’s News Chair­man, Andy Lack, with two strong argu­ments for their rec­om­men­da­tions: first­ly, polling among young vot­ers shows their huge con­cern about the issue, and sec­ond­ly, the impacts of cli­mate change are being felt across the coun­try in the same way that health­care and eco­nom­ic issues are.

“Accord­ing to a recent nation­al poll, near­ly all Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers – 96 per­cent – named cli­mate change as a top issue when choos­ing a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date for 2020. In a poll of young vot­ers, a major­i­ty of both Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats view cli­mate change as a prob­lem, includ­ing a clear major­i­ty of Repub­li­cans and 82 per­cent of Democ­rats. They are look­ing for a can­di­date who will take mean­ing­ful action, and cur­rent­ly 73 per­cent of young vot­ers dis­ap­prove of the approach Don­ald Trump has tak­en on cli­mate change,” the let­ter says.

“This should not be sur­pris­ing,” the Sen­a­tors add.

“The impacts of cli­mate change are hap­pen­ing now — from wild­fires in Cal­i­for­nia, to flood­ing in the Mid­west, to sea lev­el rise on the coasts. It is an issue that is impact­ing people’s dai­ly lives and endan­ger­ing their future safe­ty and pros­per­i­ty. It is as real as their con­cerns about health care and the econ­o­my, and peo­ple deserve to hear how their poten­tial can­di­dates will address this problem.”

These three sen­a­tors are only the lat­est in a series of actors to call for a cli­mate focused debate to show vot­ers where all the can­di­dates stand on the issue.

In the mid­dle of last month, Washington’s gov­er­nor Jay Inslee (who is run­ning on an entire­ly cli­mate-focused plat­form) called for a cli­mate focused debate.

In an email to his sup­port­ers, Inslee wrote:

“This can’t be a one-off ques­tion where can­di­dates get to give a sound­bite and move on: Cli­mate [jus­tice] is at the heart of every issue that mat­ters to vot­ers, and vot­ers deserve to hear what 2020 pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates plan to do about it.”

Kirsten Gilli­brand – the junior Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor from New York who is also run­ning for pres­i­dent – endorsed Inslee’s call, com­par­ing the cli­mate chal­lenge to Pres­i­dent Kennedy’s “moon­shot” in the 1960s.

As well as elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives, many activists are call­ing for the Democ­rats to tell vot­ers about their plans for address­ing and revers­ing cli­mate damage.

Students on strike for the climate
Youth hold­ing signs at the School Strike on Fri­day at the Nation­al Mall in sup­port of tak­ing action to reverse cli­mate dam­age (Pho­to: Earth and Main, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

The Sun­rise Move­ment – a youth-led polit­i­cal move­ment that gained nation­al atten­tion when activists protest­ed out­side Demo­c­ra­t­ic House Leader Nan­cy Pelosi’s office – has called for mas­sive youth mobi­liza­tion in Detroit at the end of July to coin­cide with the sec­ond Demo­c­ra­t­ic debate.

The Sun­rise Move­ment has three demands for pres­i­den­tial candidates:

  • that they sign the no fos­sil fuel mon­ey pledge;
  • that they make the Green New Deal a day-one pol­i­cy pri­or­i­ty if elected;
  • and last­ly that they all com­mit to a pres­i­den­tial debate on cli­mate justice.

As more and more Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates sign onto the Green New Deal or ver­sions there­of, and as the Par­ty lead­er­ship has become increas­ing­ly assertive about the man­age­ment of their debates (they recent­ly reject­ed Fox’s bid to host a debate, decid­ing that the far-right net­work couldn’t be trust­ed), it seems like a safe bet that we will be see­ing the over 20 can­di­dates set out their vision for the USA’s reac­tion to the glob­al issue of cli­mate change.

The first Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial debate will be held in Mia­mi over two nights, June 26th and 27th. On both nights the debate will start at 9 PM East­ern and can be viewed for free on, and Telemundo’s online services.

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