Clinton and Sanders Just Came Out Hard on the Issue Republicans Refuse to Talk About

During the first Democratic debate in Las Vegas, climate change roared into focus.

Democratic candidates squared off during Tueday night's debate in Las Vegas.John Locher/AP Photo

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Republicans are largely silent on climate change. Democrats shout it loud. That’s the message from tonight’s debate in Las Vegas that was broadcast on CNN. Climate change was an awkward, 11th-hour topic in the second GOP debate last month that nobody seemed to want to talk about, in an exchange that lasted for only about four minutes. On Tuesday night, climate change roared into focus. Global warming was introduced as a big, banner election theme for the Democrats onstage. All but one spoke about it during opening remarks.

“I want to address climate change, a real threat to our planet,” said former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee in the opening minutes of the debate.

“We must square our shoulders to the great challenge of climate change and make this threat our opportunity,” former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley told the audience. “The future is what we make of it. We are all in this together. And the question in this election is whether you and I still have the ability to give our kids a better future.”

Then, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, went even further. “Today, the scientific community is virtually unanimous,” he said. “Climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and we have a moral responsibility to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy and leave this planet a habitable planet for our children and our grandchildren.” Later, Sanders described climate change as the greatest national security threat.

Hillary Clinton, the current Democratic front-runner, framed climate change as an economic opportunity. “I’ve traveled across our country over the last months listening and learning,” she said. “And I’ve put forward specific plans about how we’re going to create more good-paying jobs: by investing in infrastructure and clean energy, by making it possible once again to invest in science and research, and taking the opportunity posed by climate change to grow our economy.”

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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