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Climate change's partial 2020 breakthrough

Some of the 2020 candidates during the first round of primary debates
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The climate plans and views of 2020 White House hopefuls will soon get much more TV coverage — but not yet the way that many activists want.

Driving the news: CNN announced yesterday that it's holding a candidate forum "focused on the climate crisis" on Sept. 4 in New York. And MSNBC said it will be the media partner for a Sept. 19–20 candidates event on climate in D.C., hosted by a Georgetown University policy institute and the news site Our Daily Planet.

Why it matters: The twin announcements yesterday are the strongest sign yet that climate change, once an afterthought in national election cycles, has broken into the political mainstream.

But, but, but: The events won't be what climate activists and a bunch of candidates themselves — led by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee — have been pushing for: An actual debate where the 2020 hopefuls are onstage together.

  • Instead, in these looser "forums," candidates take questions in separate appearances onstage.
  • The Democratic National Committee has rebuffed calls for a climate debate. And under their rules, candidates who appear in unsanctioned debates can be barred from the formal prime-time network contests.

How it works: CNN is inviting only candidates with at least 2% support in 4 major polls by Aug. 28, which is the DNC's threshold for the September debates.

  • Right now that's Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
  • The intrigue: That means that Jay Inslee, who has put climate at the center of his campaign, does not yet make the cut. Nor does Tom Steyer, who is also focusing on the topic. But they have a month to qualify.

Meanwhile, MSNBC said the Georgetown forum would be streamed live on NBC's website and featured over 2 nights on MSNBC's "All In with Chris Hayes," which airs at 8pm ET.