Kamala Harris slams those who refuse to act on climate change: 'Lead, follow or get out of the way!'

Kamala Harris slams those who refuse to act on climate change: 'Lead, follow or get out of the way!'
NBC News

Sen. Kamala Harris took the stage as the third candidate in CNN’s seven-hour presidential town hall, with Erin Burnett taking the stage in Wolf Blitzer’s place, and also diving right into the first question: Would you declare a national emergency on climate on day one?


Would you declare a national emergency on climate on day one? Harris vowed to re-join the Paris Climate Accords and other climate pacts around the world.

Next, an audience member asked how to build trust with Trump supporters and Republican constituents who depend on fossil fuels and the economy. Harris did not play around, saying you either “lead, follow, or get out of the way.” On do-nothing Republicans in the U.S. Senate, she said, “If they fail to act, as president of the United States, I am prepared to get rid of the filibuster to pass a Green New Deal.” Note: as president, should wouldn’t have the power to end the filibuster, she’d need a little help from the Senate to do that.

Next, Burnett asked what Harris would do to cement her actions so her progress couldn’t be rolled back by the next president, much as Donald Trump has done to Obama-era regulations. Harris said she will be less focused on what the next president will do so much on what she can actually do. Citing her time in the leadership of California, she brought up the Los Angeles smog crisis of the late 20th century, and that leaders took charge … “and now the sky is blue.” She next promised that it shouldn’t be profitable to pollute and that she will ensure that it won’t be.

Burnett then homed in on her California roots and brought up the tragic fire in Paradise, Calif., last year. An audience member who lost his home in Paradise cited disinformation changes, such as that of Big Tobacco last century, and asked how to combat the same ones that deny combat change. Harris stuttered as she tried to speak of the devastation in Paradise and offered sympathy. She then promised to do the same thing that worked on Big Tobacco when it comes to today’s disinformation campaigns: Sue them. Hold them accountable.

Burnett asked for clarification: “Would you sue ExxonMobil?” Harris laughed at her: “I HAVE sued ExxonMobil.”

A redirection from Burnett then: How would you take on polluters? Harris vowed fines and fees, part of which will go towards environmental justice and clean water.

Burnett then asked if it was realistic of Harris to claim that Americans won’t have to change their lifestyles much in order to fight climate change. Harris admitted some change was necessary, but how hard is it to take a shorter shower or turn out the lights out when leaving a room? When she brought up driving quieter cars, Burnett swooped in for this weird required question about making all Americans drive electric cars. Harris gave the boldest answer to the question yet: Yes, by 2045, because all cars will be zero-emission.

A Pennsylvania climate activist in the audience asked Harris if she’d ban fracking entirely, and Harris didn’t pause before saying yes, starting at public lands. Burnett then followed up with off-shore drilling, which Harris also agreed to ban.

A video question from a Bernie Sanders-supporting online retailer employee asked how Harris would curb single-use plastic use, throughout the entire supply chain. Harris pointed out that California is a leader on banning such items, before Burnett cut her off and asked her if she’d ban plastic bags, then interrupted her again to ask about straws. Harris noted that single-use plastic bags were recycled as trash bags for her growing up, and that paper straws aren’t an effective solution, so we’ve got to work on that one.

Where’s the lie?

Am attorney in the audience pointed out that countries other changing dietary guidelines to reduce red meat consumption, and if so, how she would implement it. Harris conceded that Americans have lots of issues to address with regard to our eating habits, but did ultimately say yes, she would. She admitted loving cheeseburgers, and that the challenge would require incentives, information, and encouraging moderation. Circling back to the importance of information, she suggested that food labels could list the environmental impact as well as nutritional facts.

Burnett then asked how she would ensure that companies wouldn’t pass on her aforementioned “climate pollution fees” on to the consumer. Harris vowed to create new scorecards for effective companies. Burnett pointed out that would require hiring a lot of new people, as though it was a bad thing, not an opportunity for new jobs. Harris pointed out that yes, it will take help to end Trump’s bad policies.

A retired National Park Service employee asked if we should embrace newer, smarter nuclear power technologies. Harris said that her biggest concern is the waste. Burnett then brought up Sen. Sanders’ vow to phase it out entirely. Harris reiterated her concern about the waste, and that it’s the states’ choice.

CNN Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir was back with a question about the melting Arctic and how the military might confront it. Harris equated the Arctic with public land and vowed to protect it as any other public land.

LGBTQ and Disability Activist Carson Tueller was next, explaining that his body cannot regulate his body temperature, which meant that this summer has put his life at risk multiple times. He asked how she’d focus on the health of at-risk and marginalized people as climate change continues.

Harris told a few stories about those most impacted before saying, “Ultimately it’s about empowering communities that are often ignored. No community should be dumped on and no community should be less than.”

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