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Dammit, Democrats! Organize a Climate Debate!

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Nothing about the Democratic National Committee’s approach to organizing debates featuring the several dozen contenders for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination inspires confidence. But something about the party’s approach should inspire fury.

The DNC is refusing to organize a debate on climate change, and it is clinging to rules that could effectively block candidates from participating in independent debates on the issue.

This is morally wrong and practically foolish.

Most of the candidates acknowledge that, as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders says, climate change represents “an existential crisis that impacts not just you and me and our generation but our kids and our grandchildren, and we must accept the moral responsibility of leaving these kids, future generations, a planet that is healthy and habitable.” Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren says, “When it comes to climate change, our very existence is at stake. But Washington refuses to lift a finger without permission from the fossil fuel companies. That’s dangerous and it’s wrong!” Washington Governor Jay Inslee has staked his nomination bid on the issue, arguing that, “We’re the first generation to feel the sting of climate change. And we’re the last that can do something about it. We went to the moon and created technologies that changed the world. Our country’s next mission must be to rise up to the most urgent challenge of our time: defeating climate change.”

While the candidates have a shared sense of urgency regarding climate change, they have distinct understandings, approaches, and plans. It’s vital to know how—as they challenge a president who dismisses the threat as “a change in weather… that goes both ways”—they might rally the 69 percent of voting-age Americans who, according to the Yale Program for Climate Change Communication, say they are worried about an environmental catastrophe.

This is fodder for debate, and Inslee has been urging the DNC to organize a session where the candidates focus on the issue. But the party committee has refused, announcing that, “While climate change is at the top of our list, the DNC will not be holding entire debates on a single issue area because we want to make sure voters have the ability to hear from candidates on dozens of issues of importance to American voters.”

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