U.S. Senator Kamala Harris referred to climate change as the “climate crisis” and “an existential threat to us as a species” when the subject came up during the second Democratic presidential debate in Miami.
South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg said he supports a carbon tax. Former vice president Joe Biden boasted about the Obama administration brokering the Paris climate agreement.
Overall, climate change received approximately nine minutes of discussion in Thursday night’s debate, and a little more than seven minutes in Wednesday night’s debate.
Though that’s about as much time given to many other major issues, environmental activists insist that’s not enough when it comes to the most important issue facing the planet.
That was the sentiment of about 100 activists who convened two hours before the debate Thursday. They gathered at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami, which has been labeled as “Ground Zero” because of sunny day flooding and the threat of extreme heat, and walked a half-mile to the Arsht Center where the debate would take place.
Activists called on Democrats to be more much more specific about what they would do to combat climate change.
“Show us your plan!” demanded Frances Colon, a former deputy science and technology adviser to the State Department in the Obama administration. “It is the most critical national security issue in our country. And they need to tell us how they are going to confront this with us.”
Other speakers emphasized how climate change will impact the most vulnerable citizens.
“Frontline communities across South Florida where black and brown people live cannot afford to be silenced,” said Nancy Metayer, of the Broward County Soil and Water Conservation District.
“The majority of the communities facing this permanent flooding are socially, economically and public health vulnerable communities that will be impacted the most.”
“As the sea level rises, and the temperature becomes unbearable, people are actually becoming displaced,” said Gracey Jean-Bernard, who is the South Florida regional organizing director with NextGen America.
“Because as temperatures rise, developers want to build in higher locations and they displace the locals. Look at what’s happening in Little Haiti. The developers want to build on higher grounds, and displacing.”
Cheryl Holder, a doctor and co-chair of Florida Clinicians for Climate Action, said she sees more patients in working-class areas such as Opa-Locka, Miami Gardens, Little Haiti and Little Havana suffering from asthma.
“As every allergy season gets longer, my patients can’t breathe,” Holder said, “and when you’re poor, and when your asthma medicines are so much, something has to give.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and climate change activists had called on Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez to hold a separate debate on climate change, but Perez declined.
After Wednesday night’s debate, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, seemed to agree with Inslee and climate activists, tweeting “How is it possible that 2-hour #DemDebate in #Florida had scant discussion of the #ClimateCrisis?! Hey @DNC @TomPerez America needs a #climatedebate for #climatesolutions.”
— US Rep Kathy Castor (@USRepKCastor) June 27, 2019