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Here’s where the Democratic presidential candidates stand on climate

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So far, 18 Democrats have announced bids to tussle with Donald Trump for the presidency in 2020, with more expected to throw their caps in the ring. In such a crowded field, it’s hard to decipher where each candidate stands on any issue, including climate change — a topic that was conspicuously absent in the 2016 election but appears will be front and center this time around. Luckily, the New York Times sent around a survey to each of the 18 declared Democratic candidates and got them all on the record about everything from a carbon tax to nuclear energy to renewables.

There are a few things that all of the candidates seem to agree on: The U.S. should stay in the Paris climate accord, reinstate President Obama’s climate legacy (which has suffered under Trump’s deregulation push), and invest in renewable energy. Some candidates said they would go even further in one or more of those issue areas, by adding their own flourishes to Obama’s Clean Power Plan or promising to work with the global community to strengthen the Paris pact.

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Taking a look at where the candidates diverge yields a much more interesting analysis. Though there are many small distinctions between the 18 presidential hopefuls on climate policy, there are two issues where there is meaningful daylight between candidates.

A carbon tax
A carbon tax is still controversial in the United States, despite its prominence in countries like Sweden and Norway, and the success of carbon-trading schemes in the state of California and the multi-state coalition named the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative on the opposite seaboard. That’s in part because politicians don’t agree on what to do with the money generated by the tax — though most of the candidates said they’d at least be willing to consider a price on carbon.

Cory Booker, in his response to a survey question on whether he supports a carbon tax, said he would like to see the money from the tax go toward alleviating inequality. That progressive approach clashes with Pete Buttigieg’s response. The South Bend, Indiana, mayor said he supports a tax but advocates for returning the money generated by the fee to American families — a scheme favored by some Republicans.

Both the progressive and conservative versions of a carbon tax failed to pass in Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s deep-blue state. The self-described climate candidate has watched many iterations of such a tax fail, in spite of his state’s liberal voter base. Perhaps that’s why Inslee is still in the undecided camp when it comes to pricing emissions — there’s only so many times you can bang your head against the same wall.

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Nuclear energy
Like it or not, nuclear energy will likely have to play a role in weaning the United States off of its oil and gas addiction. Any candidate who supports the Green New Deal (five senators and counting) will have a hard time achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 without leaning on nuclear, at least in the short-term.

Regardless of that inconvenient truth, the question on nuclear energy was the most divisive in the survey, according to the Times. Seven out of the 18 were in favor of new nuclear development, including Booker, Inslee, John Hickenlooper, and Amy Klobuchar. Bernie Sanders, one of the earlier proponents of the Green New Deal and the emissions target it centers around, is not in favor of new nuclear. Eight of the candidates either didn’t respond or had “strong reservations.”

“Nuclear energy is not ideal, by any stretch,” said Marianne Williamson, the spiritual healer who famously counseled Oprah Winfrey and is one of those with reservations. “But it is still head and shoulders above coal and natural gas.”

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In such a crowded field, it’s these minute differences between candidates that will help climate-conscious voters decide who’s serious about tackling rampant warming, among the many other issues facing the nation. As a presidential candidate, it’s easy enough to say you’ll reenter a climate agreement that nearly every other global leader supports. It’s much more difficult to speak with literacy about controversial topics like nuclear energy, or thorny emission reduction plans like a federal carbon tax. As election season heats up, these candidates will have to expound on the ways they aim to cool the planet down.

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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2020 Election

Ex-Trump official bashes White House ‘apologists’ who haven’t quit yet: ‘There’s not much hope for them’

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A report on the silence coming from first daughter Ivanka Trump and her White House advisor husband Jared Kushner after Donald Trump attacked American Jews turned to the future of White House aides who are either complicit in the president's policies or stand idly by as he lurches from controversy to controversy.

In an interview with CNN's Brianna Keilar, former Trump adviser J.W. Verret pointed out there are still some "adults in the room" with Trump, but CNN's Kaitlan Collins first pointed out that -- as of late -- Ivanka and Kushner are not among them.

"This fits a pattern that we've seen from Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump at times during times when the administration tried to repeal parts of Obamacare, and of course, the big one the president has made about Jewish people who are supporting Democrats," Collins explained. "Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are both Orthodox Jews. They've been involved with the president on many things. but neither of them have said anything publicly about the president's comments. and when we asked the white house have they been advising the president privately on this, the White House did not get back to us."

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2020 Election

‘Unhinged, erratic and nuts’: Conservative warns Trump’s ‘chosen one’ outburst should set off alarms

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In her column for the Washington Post, conservative never-Trumper Jennifer Rubin implored Republicans to look deep down inside themselves and stop defending Donald Trump after the president bizarrely declared himself the "chosen one" while speaking to the press on Wednesday.

Under a headline, "Trump’s unhinged display should frighten everyone,"Rubin ticked off comments made by the president in the past week since he returned from vacation including expressing a desire to buy Greenland, proposing -- then backing off -- new tax policies and calling Jews "disloyal" and wondered what it will take for people to see that the president is "nuts."

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2020 Election

How Elizabeth Warren works the political system

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She has an approach that involves identifying ways to make progress and focusing relentlessly on achieving them.

I get a little annoyed by trendy, overused terms like “theory of change” that always seem to me more like after-the-fact justifications for how leaders manage to succeed than a premeditated idea. But you can build that thread with Elizabeth Warren, and take some lessons from her approach to politics, a combination of quiet bureaucratic skill, persistence, and the leverage of grassroots coalitions as outside muscle.

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