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The 2020 climate politics moment

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The conversation about climate change picked up steam in the 2020 election when billionaire Democratic activist and environmentalist Tom Steyer launched his White House run yesterday with an emphasis on climate change.

What he's saying: "Steyer's campaign will focus on solving two major crises — reforming our broken political system and saving our planet from the ravages of climate change," the announcement stated.

Why it matters: Steyer has lots of money to throw around. He's reportedly planning to spend $100 million on the race.

  • So if he indeed emphasizes heavily on global warming, it will further raise the profile of a topic that's unexpectedly become a big political focus, in stark contrast to prior cycles.

The state of play: On climate, Bernie Sanders is big on ambition and short on details (for now).

What he's saying: Yesterday the Democratic 2020 hopeful spoke to reporters about his new resolution to declare a "climate emergency" that demands a massive mobilization.

The intrigue: Sanders deflected questions about the specifics and substance of his yet-to-surface climate platform.

  • Sanders, who has released major climate legislation is past sessions of Congress, said only that he believed his plan would be the "strongest" among the candidates.
  • It will involve "massive" investments in sustainable energy and efficiency, he said, but did not offer details.
  • Among the top-tier of Democratic hopefuls, neither Sanders nor Sen. Kamala Harris has yet released a detailed policy.

Speaking of Harris, she's a co-sponsor of the climate "emergency" resolution, along with 4 other senators running for president: Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar.

One more 2020 thing: The head of the United Mine Workers of America tells Reuters that at least half the Democratic field has expressed interest in his invitation to tour mines and speak with miners about the future of coal.

  • "The invitation could heap pressure on the nearly two dozen Democrats vying for the White House to explain how their plans to combat climate change — most of which call for an end to fossil fuels use — will impact mining jobs," Valerie Volcovici reports.

Go deeper: America's new era of climate politics