vision 2020

Democratic National Committee Rejects Possibility of Official Climate Debate

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

The Democratic field just cannot have a forum on the possible end of the world without a little controversy: After an early-summer tiff over whether or not to have a one-issue debate on climate change, the Democratic National Committee voted on Thursday, 17 to 8, to block such an event from getting on the primary schedule.

Those at the DNC who opposed the measure reportedly felt that it could limit the eventual candidate in the general election, despite two recent polls, which found that around 70 percent of Americans were somewhat or seriously concerned by the threat of climate change. The hesitance was felt by some of the candidates as well: Biden campaign senior adviser Symone Sanders pressed the DNC to vote down the debate, calling it “dangerous territory in the middle of a Democratic primary process.”

Environmental activists and climate journalists condemned the two-to-one shutdown. “The DNC believes the climate crisis is a grave threat to the future of human civilization, just not a big enough threat to spend 2 hours talking about,” tweeted Kate Aronoff. Bill McKibben, founder of, wrote: “I completely understand the need for Dem Unity in 2020, but boy I wish we could do it without the DNC. They are a relic of old-school thinking, in a moment when candidates are setting high new bars for climate action.”

At the site of the vote in San Francisco, around 100 young climate activists with Sunrise Movement — the group that had a viral exchange with Dianne Feinstein over the Green New Deal earlier this year — interrupted the session at one point, singing the union organizer protest song “Which Side Are You On?”

As the Amazon and Arctic burn, with last month busting the thermometer as the hottest month ever recorded, there is some good news from within the DNC. On Thursday, the executive committee passed an amendment allowing candidates to appear side by side at unofficial single-issue forums. This resolution could allow upcoming climate-centric town halls held by CNN and MSNBC to change the events’ presentation to something closer to a proper primary debate.

Though the DNC is facing enormous pressure for denying a climate debate, politicians toward the left of the field are still focused on the issue with great intensity. On Thursday — perhaps as a move to establish himself as the climate candidate after Jay Inslee’s decision to drop out — Bernie Sanders proposed a $16 trillion blueprint that would establish climate change as a national emergency with the goal of full decarbonization by 2050.

Democratic National Committee Rejects Climate Debate