Climate change: Where do the Democratic 2020 candidates stand?


Graphic by Isabel Jenkins

Claire Hilbrecht

As the 2020 presidential election draws nearer, it is important that we as students educate ourselves on the presidential candidates’ platforms. One issue that is of particular importance this election cycle is climate change.

Although not inherently a political issue, climate action must be taken by government officials so that they can guide us in the universal fight against climate change. It is crucial that voters are made aware of the stances that our 2020 presidential candidates take on climate change so that we can make informed decisions about how our vote will affect this very serious global issue.

Donald Trump has made it clear that he will not be taking a proactive stance on climate change but will rather be perpetuating the issue. For Democrats, climate change is at the forefront of debate, which requires that each candidate develop his or her own climate action platform.

While several candidates view climate action with a social justice lens, some are attacking it from a national security perspective and others consider it a legal issue. Each candidate, regardless of stance, has developed a plan regarding green infrastructure and carbon emissions.

To help student voters better understand these nuances, I have summarized each of the democratic candidate’s plans to address climate change.

Kamala Harris

As well as calling for investment in clean energy infrastructure, California Sen. Kamala Harris suggests that the key to combating climate change is through the legal system. She promotes increasing public access to the legal system so that the American people can hold greenhouse gas emitters legally accountable for their actions.

Bernie Sanders

Similar to Kamala Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont takes both a legal and fiscal approach by supporting fossil fuel taxes and taking a hard stance against fossil fuel energy. He calls for the prosecution of high profile greenhouse gas emitters and supports the Green New Deal as a model for climate action.

Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Vice President Joe Biden are also supporters of the Green New Deal, and support a general climate change agenda. Both Klobuchar and Biden are taking conventional measures to address climate change, such as setting a 2050 goal to reach zero net carbon emissions and investing in green energy infrastructure.

Elizabeth Warren

Rather than adopting a single climate action policy, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has incorporated climate change into her other policies. She thereby ensures that issues like public lands, the military, trade and manufacturing cannot be addressed without considering the overarching issue of climate change.

Andrew Yang, Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg

Andrew Yang, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Mayor Pete Buttigieg all view climate change as a national security issue. They emphasize disaster relief and planning, while also supporting plans like carbon taxes, zero carbon emissions and renewable energy research and installation.

Julián Castro, Cory Booker and Tom Steyer

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and businessman Tom Steyer are approaching climate action from a social justice perspective, calling for a national emphasis on aiding low-income and minority communities that are disproportionately affected by climate change.

Michael Bennet

Finally, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet takes a relatively weak stance on climate change, suggesting that this issue should be approached from a primarily economic perspective. He also advocates for the use of natural gas as a bridge fuel and supports the construction of more pipelines.