Bernie Sanders on Climate Change

“Climate change is not a problem we will have to worry about 50 years from now. Overwhelming scientific consensus indicates that climate change is already exacerbating extreme weather events like heat waves, wildfires, droughts, floods, and hurricanes. Climate change is already negatively impacting real estate values due to sea level rise and global agriculture and food security through changing water availability, flooding, and drought. These trends will only continue as global temperatures and sea levels continue to rise.” – Bernie Sanders, 2019

Bernie strongly believes climate change is real, largely caused by human activities, and poses an existential threat to the entire planet. Emission of greenhouse gases and other pollutants are affecting the quality of our water and air. The temperature of the planet is rising and we are now experiencing the effects in extreme weather: droughts and heat waves, wildfires, intense hurricanes, tornadoes, crop failures, melting of ice glaciers, and rising sea levels.

Bernies believes that the time for incremental half measures have long passed.  We must act now with aggressive, immediate action and prioritize our efforts to address the climate crisis. He often refers to it as the “great planetary crisis we now face.” Bernie stands behind the scientific findings of the National Climate Assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) fifth assessment report, and the IPCC’s special report on global warming of 1.5℃.

Combating Climate Skeptics in Washington: It is imperative that our elected officials acknowledge that climate change is real and caused by human activities.

Climate Record: Bernie believes climate change is a global crisis that must be immediately and vigorously combated. He has been calling for Green New Deal measures since 2016 and cosponsored 2019 Green New Deal legislation in the Senate.

Combating Climate Skeptics in Washington

“We say to Donald Trump and the fossil fuel industry that climate change is not a hoax but is an existential threat to our country and the entire planet – and we intend to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy and, in the process, create millions of good paying jobs. All of us have a moral responsibility to make certain that the planet we leave to our children and grandchildren is healthy and habitable.” – Bernie Sanders, 2019

Bernie has spent hundreds of hours vigorously debating and combating climate skeptics in Washington. He has long been unsettled by some of his colleagues’ denial of the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is real and caused by human activity. Furthermore, he strongly believes the influence of lobbying is to blame for much of the climate change skepticism in Washington.

How has Bernie responded to climate change denial in Congress?

Bernie has repeatedly called climate skeptics out on their rejection of science. During a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in 2014, Bernie said:

 “For the first time to the best of my knowledge, we have a major political party which by and large is rejecting what the majority of the scientific community is saying.”

In another instance in a 2014 all-night session on climate change in the U.S. Senate Bernie devastatingly compared climate change denial to tobacco-cancer denial:

 

In 2015, through a “sense of congress” amendment on the early Keystone XL pipeline bill, Bernie forced fellow Senators to state for the congressional record if they believe “that climate change is real, human-caused, and already creating devastating problems; that there’s a brief window to act before ‘irreparable harm’ results; and that the United States should shift to cleaner energy sources.”

More recently, Bernie spoke out against the Trump administration’s dismantling of the Environmental Protect Agency (EPA), the organization that plays a key role in the federal government’s response to climate change and sea level rise. In the Senate confirmation hearing for EPA Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, Bernie pressured the nominee, to admit that climate change is real: 

 

When President Trump denies climate science and calls it a “hoax” designed by the Chinese government, Bernie is quick to denounce these false claims. Bernie noted that the President did not mention climate change at all in his State of the Union Speech, despite the overwhelming consensus in the scientific, defence, and intelligence communities. Bernie also recognizes that climate change is one of the greatest threats to global economic stability and our national security.

Climate Record

Bernie has a long record of supporting policies to combat climate change. He knows that we have to act aggressively to adequately combat the current climate crisis.

Bernie is putting his money where his mouth is. His campaign has pledged to offset his campaign’s carbon emissions. The campaign will be funding renewable energy initiatives to compensate for carbon emissions from planes and cars used to travel during the campaign. Bernie has long been a proponent of offsetting carbon emissions. Now he’s leading by example. 

Climate change is a racial justice issue

Climate change disproportionately affects the most vulnerable communities. These are often communities of color. Liquefied natural gas compressors, coal plants, nuclear power plants, and other fossil fuel industries are often located in minority communities and tremendously impact air and water quality for the people living there. In many minority communities, people live in unsafe housing with lead pipes and lead paint that pose a particularly serious threat to the health and development of children in those homes. 

In his 2019 Environmental Justice Plan, Bernie aims to end exposure to lead and other toxins that are present in crumbling infrastructure, specifically in our water systems and in lead paint. He’s also calling for oversight at Superfund sites to supervise the cleanup efforts.

How will investing in infrastructure help combat climate change?

Addressing our infrastructure problems and building a 100% sustainable energy system will create well-paying jobs that will contribute to economic growth for families and communities across the country.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has given America’s overall infrastructure a D+ grade. We need to repair our roads and bridges. America’s bridges are old and 47,000 are structurally deficient. Driving on poor roads costs U.S. motorists $131 billion annually in vehicle repairs and operating costs -— $616 per motorist. 45 percent of America’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. Vehicle travel increased by 17 percent from 2000 to 2017, while new road mileage increased by only 5 percent. 42 percent of major urban highways are congested which increases the amount of time people spend in there cars. Traffic congestion costs $160 billion annually and increases carbon emissions.

Energy production and transportation are also the biggest contributors to carbon emissions in the United States. We know that carbon emissions are the primary cause of climate change. Upgrades to energy and transportation are not only necessary to restore functionality and safety to infrastructure, but to reduce our fossil fuel consumption and the impact on the climate. Bernie believes we can further reduce emissions from our transportation system by building high-speed passenger rail, electric vehicles, and public transit.

Flooding from climate change is a national security threat to military infrastructure and is costing the Air Force billions of dollars. Bernie believes we must invest in infrastructure in communities most vulnerable to extreme climate events like wildfires, sea level rise, drought, floods, and extreme weather like hurricanes.

Does Bernie have experience dealing with scientific issues in the Senate?

Yes. Bernie has served on key Senate committees such as the Environment and Public Works and the Energy and Natural Resources committees.

How well does Bernie understand the issues around and science behind climate change?

Bernie fully understands the science and displays his deep knowledge when arguing with climate skeptics. This video from a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in July 2014 is just one of many instances of Bernie dropping science in Congress about climate change. He regularly cites scientific findings and uses scientific language:

How does Bernie’s work on climate change compare to that of other senators?

Climate Hawks Vote, which brings attention to aggressive, progressive champions of climate justice, consistently gives Bernie a terrific scorecard. Importantly, Climate Hawks Vote measures leadership, not just voting records, tabulating actions like bills introduced, speeches given, and so forth. Notably, the organization put Bernie in the top 10 percent of Senators in 2011-12, the top Senator in 2013-14, and in the top 10 percent in 2015-16. Bernie also has the outspoken support of respected author and environmentalist Bill McKibben.

In 2014, Bernie attended the People’s Climate March in New York City. Watch him speak about how the influence of money in politics negatively impacts the fight to address climate change:

 

You might also want to check out this video from the People’s Climate March with Bill McKibben.

Does Bernie support the Green New Deal?

Yes, he does. He has been calling for  Green New Deal measures since 2016 and cosponsored 2019 Green New Deal legislation in the Senate.

What has Bernie done to fight climate Change?

Drilling

The government is considering auctioning off Florida coastal waters for oil & gas drilling. Bernie says there is no safe offshore drilling: “We’ve had enough disasters by now to learn that there’s no such thing as safe drilling. We cannot afford to keep putting profits for Trump’s friends in the fossil fuel industry ahead of the environment and the health of the American people.”

In 2015, Bernie spoke out against drilling in the Chukchi Sea, which the Department of Interior estimated could have a 75 percent chance of a large oil spill if the drilling leases were used.

Fracking

Bernie is calling for a nationwide ban on fracking : “Fracking is a danger to our water supply. It’s a danger to the air we breathe. It causes earthquakes. It’s highly explosive. And it’s contributing to climate change. We need to ban it nationwide.”

See the Energy Policy page for more about fracking and alternative energy sources.

Water

Bernie voted for the Water Resources Development Act of 2013, which would have ensured the sustainable and healthy management of oceans through increased research.

In 2017, Bernie voted against the repeal of the Stream Protection Rule, which regulated the use of mountaintop removal to stop the devastating impact of coal mining on streams, especially in the Appalachian Mountains.

Bernie also opposed the 2017 Water Rights Protection Act, which would have prohibited the government from restricting water rights as a condition of using or developing public lands. The bill prohibits setting limits on water usage and would prevent most actions to help the public during a drought crisis, such as the recent one in California.

Air pollution

In 2015, Bernie joined Senate colleagues in speaking out against black carbon pollution. The letter stated:

“Black carbon pollution, or soot, a type of particulate matter that results from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, is a significant contributor to global warming. The Arctic is especially sensitive to black carbon pollution. When it covers highly reflective snow and ice, the darker surface absorbs more heat, accelerating the melting of snow, glaciers, ice sheets, and sea ice.”

In 2007, Bernie introduced the Clean Power Act of 2007, which would regulate emissions from fossil fuel power plants. The bill targeted greenhouse gases: mercury, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide among other global warming pollutants. The bill also called for the Environmental Protection Agency to dispose of carbon dioxide in an environmentally friendly way. 

A similar bill, known as the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, would have amended the Clean Air Act to strengthen regulations that reduce greenhouse gases.

In 2016, Bernie introduced his People Before Polluters Climate Plan. This plan would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by investing in 100% renewable and sustainable energy sources such as solar, wind, biofuels, hydropower, and geothermal. The plan also focused on equitable enforcement of the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts to ensure environmental justice for African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans. 

Bernie supported the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which cut the emission of carbon dioxide and other carbon-related greenhouse gases, but emphasizes the need to also limit methane compounds.

What has Bernie said about fossil fuel subsidies?

“Climate change is the single greatest threat facing our planet. Yet the giant, multi-national fossil fuel corporations have spent hundreds of millions of dollars furthering their greed and protecting their profits at the expense of our climate and our future.” – Bernie Sanders, 2019

Bernie often speaks out against corporate welfare. Government subsidies given to the fossil fuel industry are no exception. He believes it is time to “end fossil fuel welfare.”

Oil Change International finds that over $21 billion in production and exploration subsidies are given to oil, coal, and gas companies each year. Bernie introduced legislation to end this injustice. Bernie’s plan would save taxpayers more than $135 billion over ten years.

Bernie also introduced the End Polluter Welfare Act in 2012, and then re-introduced it in 2013 and 2015.

The Keep It In The Ground Act

In 2015, Bernie Sanders and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Keep It In The Ground Act. This bill would ban all future leases and current leasing of federally owned lands for fossil fuel development, such as coal, natural gas, oil, and tar sand.

Where does Bernie stand on the Keystone XL pipeline?

Bernie vehemently opposes the pipeline. 

What’s the latest on the Keystone XL pipeline?

The Keystone XL Pipeline is operating in some areas, but it hasn’t been completed yet. Several leaks have been reported in the Keystone XL Pipeline, including in South Dakota and more recently in Missouri. The Missouri leakage required an emergency shutdown to deal with the spill.

On January 24, 2017, President Donald Trump took action intended to permit the Pipeline’s completion. This was met with numerous court filings. Court cases continue to delay construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The pipeline also faces an environmental impact review challenge in the Nebraska Supreme Court. The court has temporarily blocked construction of some portions of the pipeline. A federal judge in Montana ruled against TransCanada doing most pre-construction work for the pipeline. It is unclear when, and if, construction of the pipeline will resume. During this process, TransCanada changed its name to TC Energy.

You can find more information about the Keystone XL pipeline here.

How can Bernie combat climate change if so many corporations spend so much money trying to maintain the status quo?

It’s no secret that large energy corporations like Koch Industries and ExxonMobil fund scientists who under emphasize the impact of climate change and over emphasize the complexity of the data collected about climate change and its contribution to greenhouse-gas emissions. These fossil fuel corporations also donate a lot of money to politicians.

Bernie refuses to take money from any corporate donors and the fossil fuel industry. This means his ability to fight for the people’s interests is unrestrained.

Bernie has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, meaning he’ll reject large donations from fossil fuel industry lobbyists and executives.

So has Bernie ever gone after the big polluters?

Bernie has repeatedly sought to hold greenhouse-gas emitters accountable. He cosponsored the Super Pollutants Act of 2014 to reduce “super pollutants” that speed global warming faster than carbon such as methane, leaked refrigerants, and soot. He cosponsored the comprehensive “gold standard” climate bill that aimed to reduce GHG emissions by 80 percent by 2050. 

In 2015, Bernie said:

“It is hard for me to understand how one can be concerned about climate change but not vigorously oppose the Keystone pipeline… We must make significant reduction in carbon emissions and break our dependency on fossil fuels. That is why I have helped lead the fight in the Senate against the Keystone pipeline, which would transport some of the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world.”

Bernie also cosponsored the Climate Protection Act of 2013 that would tax greenhouse-gas emitters directly via a fee on carbon pollution emissions, fund historic investments in energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies (e.g., wind, solar, geothermal and biomass), and fund $1 billion a year in worker training and transition programs to help move workers into jobs in the clean energy economy. Finally, Bernie sponsored the End Polluter Welfare Act to stop taxpayer-funded giveaways to oil, gas and coal companies while saving taxpayers over $135 billion over ten years.