Election 2020

Sanders and Steyer Call for a 'State of Emergency' on Climate Change

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Businessman Tom Steyer and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Democratic presidential candidates, vowed to declare climate change a state of emergency.

“Look, I am hoping that we, in fact, will do what I’m suggesting, which is declare a state of emergency on day one of my presidency. I have made this — I believe I’m the only person here who will say unequivocally this is my number-one priority,” Steyer said during the final Democratic presidential primary debate.

“I know that we have to deal with this crisis. I know that we have to deal with it from the standpoint of environmental justice. I’ve been working on this for more than a decade. I’ve taken on oil companies and beaten them on environmental laws. I’ve pushed clean energy across this country. I’ve prevented pipelines and I’ve prevented fossil fuel plants,” he added.

Steyer continued, “But what I know is this: Not only can we clear up the air and water in the black and brown communities where our pollution is concentrated, this is also the opportunity to create literally millions of middle-class union jobs, well-paid, across the United States of America.”

Steyer said the nation’s “biggest crisis is our biggest opportunity.”

“And if we don’t declare a state of emergency on day one, I don’t understand how we go to the people around the world to lead the coalition that has to happen and that only America can lead,” he said.

Sanders said the federal government should dedicate more resources to fight climate change, which he referred to as a “common enemy” of nations around the world.

“We have got to — and I’ve introduced legislation to do this — declare a national emergency,” he said. “The United States has got to lead the world and maybe, just maybe, instead of spending $1.8 trillion a year globally on weapons of destruction, maybe an American president, i.e. Bernie Sanders, can lead the world, instead of spending money to kill each other, maybe we pool our resources and fight our common enemy, which is climate change.”

Steyer called on former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 37, to “prioritize” climate change “higher” as a campaign issue.

In response, Buttigieg said, “I’ve made clear that this will be a topic of day one action and this is not theoretical for me. I live in one of those river cities that you’re talking about. Not only that, I live right by the river. My neighborhood flooded in the second of two once-in-a millennium floods that we had in two years. Do the math on that. So I know what’s at stake.”