Presidential candidate Steyer tells Snowmass Village crowd that 2020 election is last chance on climate issues
The Aspen Times
Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer told an audience in Snowmass Village on Friday night that the 2020 presidential election is a last desperate chance to reverse climate change.
Steyer made the claim during an emotional presentation at the 16th annual American Renewable Energy Day, which he has participated in numerous times in the past. He delivered a brief keynote address, then was interviewed by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold.
Steyer said his goal is to “take over the most powerful government in the world and on day one, declare a climate emergency.”
“That’s not a political statement,” he said. “That’s a statement about what we need to do.”
Declaring a climate emergency would open up a “ton” of powers that the president can use, just as President Donald Trump declared an emergency at the U.S. border with Mexico this year, he said.
He would give Congress 100 days to pass a Green New Deal. If they didn’t achieve it, he would exercise the emergency powers of the presidency.
Steyer acknowledged he was preaching to the choir at the environmental summit. Steyer dressed to the audience as well, in jeans, a shirt unbuttoned at the collar and a jacket. He received enthusiastic applause from a sold-out crowd numbering in the hundreds.
He is among the lesser-known candidates in a crowded Democratic field, struggling to reach the second round of debates in September. Steyer has reached the threshold of collecting donations from 130,000 separate contributors prior to Aug. 28. He also must draw at least 2% support in four “acceptable” polls.
“We have three polls. We need another one,” he said.
Steyer is a billionaire who left his successful investing business seven years ago to devote his money and energy fighting for progressive causes. He said he has been spending 10 years trying to figure out “how to win” on the climate issue.
I’m not interested in the old college try,” he said. “I’m interested in winning.”
It’s not for his own personal, political gain, he insisted. He is running out of desperation to reverse the effects of a warming planet.
Getting the U.S. government to act is the critical first step. On Thursday, Steyer’s campaign announced that he was the first candidate to sign the 350.org Day One Pledge.
“In taking the pledge, Steyer will reject new federal fossil fuel permits; phase out drilling and fracking on our public lands, coasts, and offshore; call on Congress to investigate the fossil fuel industry for misleading the public; stop drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge; and rejoin the Paris Climate Accord,” said a statement from his campaign.
At AREDAY, he expanded on his plan. The first step would be setting a carbon reduction plan. Next he would build a grassroots coalition to take action, relying on poor communities that have felt the greatest brunt of climate change. Next he would transition from an “extractive to regenerative” economy that creates living wage jobs. He would build a “climate-smart infrastructure.”
“We’re going to change the way we do business here,” he said.
Steyer acknowledged that the top question among most Democrats is, “Can you beat Trump?” with the second being can you avoid screwing up the economy.
But he remains confident he can get voters to focus on his climate message. He stressed that defeating Trump in 2020 is a critical part of the battle — but it must be by a candidate that understands the importance of the climate battle and will take decisive action. That’s why he thinks he is the best choice.
“Everybody in those (Democratic) debates is a million times better than the criminal in the White House,” Steyer said. But none of them understand the ramifications of climate change like he does, he said. And there isn’t time to work on a plan that will be implemented several years down the road.
Global warming threatens to force nearly 2 billion people around the globe to move, roughly one quarter of the population, Steyer claimed.
“It’s a level of chaos that’s hard for anyone to understand,” he said.
Once the U.S. takes definitive steps on climate change, it can resume its role as a world leader, Steyer said.
“Who in the world wants to listen to us after four years of Trump?” he asked.
Republicans and the corporate powers that have them in their pockets will fight to retain power, he said, so the key to winning in 2020 will be getting out the multitudes that have so much to lose if Trump remains in office for another term.
“People are going to understand that everything is on the table,” Steyer said.
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