Oct 16, 2019

The Democratic climate debate that wasn't

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The total absence of energy and climate questions in last night's Democratic debate didn't prevent the topics from surfacing in noteworthy ways onstage and in the surrounding hubbub.

What happened: Some campaigns saw an opening. Bernie Sanders wove climate into several answers and attacked fossil fuel CEOs who "know full well that their product is destroying this world."

  • His campaign tried to make sure people noticed. Policy director Josh Orton tweeted about Sanders' "preemptively" raising it and argued, "Bernie is the climate candidate."

And billionaire activist Tom Steyer was clearly going to say something about climate — a big focus of his work — in the low-polling hopeful's first debate.During a stretch about Russia, Steyer pivoted to call climate "the most important international problem that we're facing."

  • Steyer noted the U.S. can't solve the crisis alone but will have to lead on several fronts. He said the U.S. needs to work with allies and "frenemies." (Checkmate on the youth vote!)

Between the lines: I doubt this was spontaneous. Moments after his comments, Steyer's campaign emailed around his international climate plan released last month.

  • Why it matters: There were scattered references from other candidates, too. Politically, the appeals signal the topic's importance to the primary base.

The backlash: Activists and some journalists bashed debate hosts CNN and the New York Times for asking nothing, given the extraordinary stakes.

  • Washington Post media analyst Erik Wemple said via Twitter: "Tonight's proceedings are sounding like a convincing argument that there really should be a dedicated climate-change debate."
  • This reopens the wounds over the DNC's rejection of calls to sanction a climate-specific debate.
  • The omission was surprising because the NYT is institutionally committed to climate coverage. CNN held a 7-hour candidate town hall on climate on Sept. 4, so maybe that lowered the odds.

Go deeper

Not a hoax or an emergency: What swing voters think of climate change

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Swing voters in three of America’s top battleground states say climate change is a concern, but not an urgent crisis.

The big picture: The results of focus groups in Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin suggest that some of America’s swing voters have views on climate change that are in between Democratic presidential candidates, who think it’s a crisis, and President Trump, who dismisses it altogether.

Go deeperArrowOct 21, 2019

Italy becomes first country to require students to learn about climate change

Students hold a climate march in Palermo, Italy, on Sept. 27. Photo: Francesco Militello Mirto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

All public schools in Italy will require students to learn about climate change and sustainable development starting the next academic year, the Washington Post reports.

The big picture: Italy is the first country in the world to mandate curriculum on climate change. Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and students in the U.S. — through the Zero Hour and Sunrise movements — have organized massive protests on climate change and called for politicians and other adults to take science on the issue seriously.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 7, 2019

New climate consensus moves forward without the U.S.

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos by Win McNamee, Alex Wong, Horacio Villalobos - Corbis/Corbis, Oliver Douliery/AFP, and Noam Galai Via Getty Images

The world's top economic institutions are going deeper in the fight against climate change, and central banks are re-evaluating policies and pushing new principles to integrate climate-related risks into financial supervision, leaving the U.S. behind.

On one side: The effects of climate change are everywhere, European Central Bank chief economist Philip Lane said during the IMF's fall meetings last week.

Go deeperArrowOct 22, 2019