David Roberts+ Your Authors @drvox Seattleite transplanted from Tennessee; now blogging for vox.com/ about energy politics. Climate hawk, deficit dove. Not a doctor. Sep. 04, 2019 12 min read + Your Authors

ALL RIGHT! I have found a stream of CNN that works -- speaking of which, screw CNN for making this a pay-to-watch event -- and will now begin what is likely to be the longest, most boring tweet thread in all of history. CNN CLIMATE TOWN HALL HERE WE GO.

So I missed most of Castro. I'm sure he was great. One thought: it irritates me that we are all so wantonly conflating climate change & local air/water/environment issues. They are not (always) the same!  https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/1/27/16935382/climate-change-ugly-tradeoffs 

No, Wolf, there will not be any "tipping point" at 1.5 degrees. Nothing sudden or different will happen in 11 years. That's just the point at which scientists believe dangerous/catastrophic change effectively becomes unavoidable.

Bang up first answer from Yang!

All right so far I've heard two audience questions and both of them were better than any question I've ever heard from any cable news moderator ever.

Eh ... this constitutional amendment thing is gimmicky & dumb. And no matter how he tries, he can't make the "guaranteed income would help adaptation" point sound good.

Isn't this like the third question Yang has gotten on adaptation? Kinda weird. Really interesting answer though.

I will say: I totally get Yang's appeal. He sounds like a smart human being, not a politician. I don't have his boundless faith in UBI, but it's an IDEA, just the kind of thing it's worth building a campaign around.

I mean honestly, these audience questions are HILARIOUSLY superior to moderator questions.

Aaaand my crappy pirate stream goes out just as Yang answers the most interesting question yet. This sucks, @CNN.

Jesus, Wolf, this is so so stupid. "Have to" drive electric cars? Do we now "have to" drive ICE cars? Every time the audience speaks, it's brilliant. Every time Wolf opens his mouth it's embarrassing.

Another thing I like about Yang is that he still makes occasional wry, deadpan jokes -- exactly the kind of easy-to-misunderstand jokes that most politicians are trained never ever to use in public. Irony doesn't really work in politics. I f'ing love it though.

Roughly 9/10 of Wolf's questions are framed around customer or voter sacrifice -- all the things they will have to give up. Over and over. This is how VSPs think about anything "environmental," because they haven't learned a new thing since the 90s.

I mean, PFAS is a thing, clean drinking water is a thing, but ... how are they about climate change?  https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/14/health/what-are-pfas-chemicals/index.html 

Sabin Center woo!

I'd say Yang acquitted himself pretty well. He's got some Silicon Valley bro-ish qualities but I find him generally benign and he's bringing some different ideas to the table.

And we lead with a stupid question about an action that would have almost entirely symbolic effect.

OK, this is exactly the kind of politician-y stuff that Yang doesn't do. It's a substantive question and she's wasting a full minute on a sappy story about how she cares about her nieces.

OK, that answer on the filibuster ... all is forgiven.

This was a question about bipartisan outreach and she's responding with an answer about fighting powerful interests, and I am here for that.

Here's a piece on Harris's climate plan, which prominently features holding fossil fuel companies accountable via lawsuits.  https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/9/4/20847387/kamala-harris-2020-climate-change-policy 

I doubt that will be the last @JayInslee shoutout tonight.

Why are @CNN moderators so obsessed with personal sacrifice? Why are they obsessed with the notion that we'll "have to" drive electric cars? WTF is going on over there.

The president cannot implement a federal ban on fracking, on any day in office. That is something only Congress can do. Yet I was told earlier today that no one is confused about this!

Again, what do plastic bags have to do with climate change? The climate town hall is smearing into a general "environmental" town hall which drives me craaaaaazy.

Great, and now we have a dumb headline: Harris endorses plastic straw ban. 🤦‍♂️

It seems pretty clear to me that Harris doesn't want to be here.

Once again, every single audience question so far has been better than every single moderator question. And they're *tougher*, too, but tougher in a substantive way, not a gotcha way.

And here we go again: "won't you raise taxes on people?" Honestly if CNN does this all night I'm going to have a heart attack.

This is ... really not a great answer on nuclear.

Really good but really tough question on climate's specific effect on people w/ disabilities. I'm so damn impressed with this audience.

Up next: Klobuchar, who is offered the softest of softballs as a first question.

Honest to god I can't get over how good these audience questions are. That was a *perfectly* articulated question about the Green New Deal. (Klobuchar is responding w/ a weak list of executive actions.)

Yet another great audience question, specifically about nuclear & clean coal. Klobuchar has a surprisingly good answer! "No, no new coal plants."

ftw there, with the best shirt of the night and also a question about ag and climate change. Klobuchar has some receipts!

"A fridge to the next century!" I am the target of that joke and it struck a 🎯

Another fantastic question, specifically about using less energy. Lots of good policy answers about efficiency -- notably nothing about conservation or behavior change.

I would very, very, very much like to see some public polling on Klobuchar's "natural gas as transition" message vs. the Sanders' "immediate ban on fracking" message.

For the record, natural gas is not a transition fuel -- it's gotta go ASAP if we want to hit our climate targets.  https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/5/30/18643819/climate-change-natural-gas-middle-ground 

Here we go with Joe Biden! First question: is your plan strong enough? His surprising answer? Yes!

Biden states categorically that he has NEVER put powerful interests ahead of the public interest.

Q: Would you pass a carbon tax? A: We need to bring people together. It's an existential threat. The rest of the world is most of the problem. I can lead.

Biden's saying that when Trump withdrew from Paris, all the other countries lost their will to act & they're adrift, without leadership. I ... doubt most participants in the UNFCCC process would agree with that.

That audience question just nailed Biden -- he's going to a high-dollar fundraiser with hedge fund & FF executives tomorrow night. And his response is not that convincing, honestly.

Another fantastic audience question: Obama put health care before climate. What would you do? His answer is, again, rambling and unconvincing.

His objection to the Green New Deal is that it's ... not specific enough?

Biden's climate plan does actually rate pretty well, for the record.  https://www.vox.com/2019/6/25/18715447/green-new-deal-climate-change-first-democrat-debate 

I will say, Anderson Cooper is by far the best moderator so far.

That is the straight-up "moderate" answer on natural gas -- no new wells on public lands, somewhat tougher methane regs.

Worth shouting out @BillWeirCNN -- he's done a great job all night, some really great questions.

Every second Biden spends talking about this fundraiser is ... well it's bad. Just bad.

Here we go with Bernie Sanders. Obviously a crowd favorite! And a question from a large-footed fellow (I feel seen).

Wow, the contrast between Biden & Sanders is so stark. Sanders, whatever you think of his plans, know his stuff & reels it off with focus & intensity. Biden was rambling and drifting.

Nooooooo Bernie's answer on the filibuster is NOT GOOD. Not, not good. How is torturing the budget reconciliation process any better than just reforming the filibuster out in the open?  https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/5/28/18636759/climate-change-budget-reconciliation-democrats 

Nooooo his answer on nuclear is not good either. @BillWeirCNN pushes him on it and he is uncharacteristically subdued. Not good for him that they started with his worst two topics.

Oh jeez, the population question. This is just a bad question. If you want to offer family planning & educate women & girls, why not just ... do those things? Why bring population into it? Sanders is making the best of it though.  https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/9/26/16356524/the-population-question 

Genuinely great, compassionate answer on fossil fuel workers from Sanders. He brings some credibility on the issue of workers that is unique.

Not to be That Guy, but ... we are not actually fighting "for the survival of the Earth."

That is the first truly goofy audience question of the night. "Won't small businesses have to do stuff?" Sanders dealt with it well.

The annoying "sacrifice" question is back -- Sanders is the first not to dodge it.

All right, snap judgment: Sanders is the clear winner so far. Sharp, straightforward, good on substance. His answer on the filibuster was garbage, but overall, an A. He's good in this format.

Here we go with Warren. Right out of the gate, a strong question on carbon taxes. And Warren is saying yes to a carbon tax. But she's also adding crucial context -- saying her plan is *stronger* than just a carbon tax. That is the correct answer.

Another great, direct audience question on nuclear. And whoa, Warren is going much more anti-nuclear than expected. Flatly says "no new nuclear plants." (Even thorium, etc.?) And "weaning off" existing plants.

My guess is that "no new nuclear plants plus gradual exit of existing nuclear plants" is what is *going to happen*, whatever candidates say.

But that's perfectly commensurate with keeping existing plants open as long as safely possible, with boosting research in next-gen nukes, and with *not pointlessly prohibiting* nuclear.

YES! I have been wanting someone to make this point. The Green New Deal is *all about* taking care of workers through the transition. It's a giant rural-development / training / employment program. It is hugely pro-worker.

Another YES: Warren is the first to directly challenge the premise of the ridiculous light bulb/sacrifice/big gov't questions. She points the finger back at a few big industries. Best handling of that kind of question yet.

Oh god that question -- and Bernie's whole schtick here -- is soooo confused. "Call out capitalism"?" In the utility sector, the most Soviet, tightly regulated, quasi-monopolistic sector in the entire economy? As though "profit motive" is the problem in that sector? Yeesh.

If "nationalize utilities" becomes a leftie purity test I swear to god I'm gonna jump out a window.

Stellar answer from Warren on tribal lands & issues. You can tell she's thought about this.

Great audience question on a "Blue New Deal." On that score, check out this new report from @DataProgress on "blue jobs and the green new deal."  https://www.dataforprogress.org/memos/blue-jobs 

"Total price tag" is not a great metric by which to judge a climate plan.

I'm old enough to remember when this town hall started.

Oh, I guess I owe you a Snap Judgment on Warren. Uh, she was great! She's always great. She knows the material, thinks in smart ways about changemaking, is good-humored. I mean what do you say.

I have never really understood the Mayor Pete backlash. The whole McKinsey/neoliberal/whatever accusation just seems so overblown on such little evidence. He's smart and thoughtful! Just an appealing guy.

This is obviously not a determinative issue, but I really think Buttigieg has a talent for going after the other side in a way that sounds smart rather than mean. Good talent for, say, a VP to have.

And a talent for going after them specifically on religious and moral issues!

Polluting the atmosphere is a sin. I'll have to sit with that a bit.

I 100% agree with Pete that the primary issue here is not differing targets but *how to get anything done at all*. I would have liked a lot more questions on that.

One indicator of America's social health will be when public officials no longer have to swear fealty to f'ing cheeseburgers before they say anything about agriculture policy.

That question was so good it made me laugh out loud. And Beto just came out squarely for cap-and-trade. Is that in his plan?

I guess Beto and I are the only two people left with any love for cap-and-trade.

Ooh and now Beto is talking up the two senators Puerto Rico would get if it became a state. Music to my ears.

Beto seems like he's doing great but I'm losing my ability to pay attention. Gonna go walk around the block.

This is true, and strange:

Don't suppose I missed any great/exciting Beto answers?

Second this. It's really remarkable when you think about it.

Booker: climate is the lens through which we must do everything we do. Every cabinet official must develop a plan.

That is the correct answer.

Quite a contrast being drawn between the parties tonight, no?

Booker finally making the point that the *current* American diet is shaped by a whole network of subsidies and unjust rules -- not like we're all just making free, unburdened food choices now!

Booker is delivering BY FAR the best answer of the night on food and agriculture issues. Really impressive.

Oh man Booker is calling out the Congressional GOP and I am here for it.

Oh, man, the Chinese opportunity/danger symbol thing is a myth. Why would you do this Cory.  http://www.pinyin.info/chinese/crisis.html 

I wish I could make a Voltron out of these candidates.

Well I mean hot damn, where has this Booker been?

That is the first question squarely about geoengineering, isn't it? Good of Booker to just admit that he doesn't know much about it.

It's over! Gut reactions:

Best of night: tie, Warren & Sanders
Most exceeded (my) expectations: Booker, honorable mention Yang
Only performance I would rate a C or worse: Harris
And yet my favorite answer of the night: Harris on the filibuster

IMPORTANT ADDENDUM: I literally forgot Biden happened. He was easily the worst of the night on both substance and delivery.

Final note before I do Real Work: @CNN, despite my griping about this or that question, deserves enormous credit for the time they gave this & for the amazingly informed, on-point questions from the audience. The whole thing was 1000X better & more substantive than I expected.

Actually, one other thing that just occurred to me: I don't think I heard a single direct attack by one candidate on another over the course of that entire seven hours, even though moderators tried to bait them a few times. It was 100% positive and forward-looking.

You can follow @drvox.


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