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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The climate chatter in last night's Democratic primary debate lacked a narrative through-line but produced interesting moments nonetheless.

The big picture: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg made an agriculture pitch ahead of Iowa. He's the frontrunner in a closely watched recent poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers.

  • And he didn't pass up the chance to emphasize his ideas around the climate-agriculture nexus, which, to be sure, had been revealed before last night.
  • "I believe that the quest for the carbon-negative farm could be as big a symbol of dealing with climate change as the electric car in this country," Buttigieg said in redirecting a question about farm subsidies.
  • His plan would, among other things, pay farmers for soil management practices that store carbon.

Nobody would complain it was too granular (or revealing). MSNBC's Rachel Maddow asked the lone question.

  • It wasn't structured to draw out policy specifics. And it didn't. She asked how candidates would "secure leadership and bipartisan support" for a multidecade effort.

What they're saying: FiveThirtyEight's Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux observes that climate discussion in the debates thus far hasn't been especially specific.

  • "Maybe that’s partially because of the questions that are being asked? It’s obviously a hugely important topic, but one where it seems difficult to have a substantive back-and-forth in a debate," she wrote on their liveblog.

Bookmark this: "I think it is the existential threat to humanity. It's the Number One issue," Joe Biden said (emphasis added).

  • Quick take: Let's say Biden wins the White House and Democrats somehow eke out a small Senate majority.
  • He'll face a near-term decision about where to spend his political capital and which major legislation to push first if a narrow window opens. If it's the "Number One issue," does that mean it's first in line?

The Bernie Sanders-Pete Buttigieg contrast: Sanders was aggressive, noting at one point that "the fossil fuel industry is probably criminally liable" because they "lied when they had the evidence" and deserve prosecution (it's an idea in his wider plan released in August).

Buttigieg at one point talked up outreach to "conservative communities where a lot of people have been made to feel that admitting climate science would mean acknowledging they're part of the problem."

  • Those concepts are not mutually exclusive. Both have wide-ranging climate plans, though Sanders' $16 trillion is the most aggressive (and rather controversial).

Tom Steyer made an important point by saying that housing policy is climate policy, noting "how we build units, where people live has a dramatic impact on climate and on sustainability."

  • A Biden-Steyer exchange produced some minor fireworks, which the Washington Examiner unpacks here and The Los Angeles Times describes here

Climate surfaced repeatedly in answers even outside the lone direct question, which shows how the topic is now stitched into the fabric of Democratic politics.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

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