Fact Check: Democrats Exaggerate Dangers of Climate Change; ‘Life on the Planet Will Not End’

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Otterbein University on October 15, 2019 in Westerville, Ohio. A record 12 presidential hopefuls are participating in the debate hosted by CNN and The New York Times. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Climate change was front and center at a marathon town hall last month on CNN, but at Tuesday’s primary debate on the same network, climate change was only mentioned nine times over the course of the three-hour event.

And those nine references came from only five of the 12 candidates — Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer, Andrew Yang, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Even the Associated Press (AP) called out Sanders for his dramatic description of so-called manmade climate change, asking Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer about the debate claim.

“We’re forgetting about the existential threat of climate change,” Sanders said. “Right now the CEOs in the fossil fuel industry know full-well that their product is destroying this world and they continue to make huge profits.”

“Let’s go to the most important international problem that we’re facing, which no one has brought up, which is climate,” billionaire Tom Steyer said during the debate. “We can’t solve the climate crisis in the United States by ourselves.”

“It’s an international crisis,” Steyer said. “I’ve been working on it for ten years, taking on the corporations. But we have to work with our allies and our frenemies around the world.”

The AP reported specifically on the accuracy of Sanders remarks:

THE FACTS: Earth’s existence and life on the planet will not end because of climate change, as the Vermont senator asserts. Fossil fuels do not have Earth on a path of destruction.

Science says climate change is dramatic and will cause harm, but it won’t wipe out everything and won’t end humanity.

“It’s an existential threat for many species. It’s an existential threat for many ecosystems. I don’t think it’s an existential threat for humanity,” Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said in the AP report:

The Earth will still exist and so will humans, but the way we live and the planet will be dramatically different if burning of fossil fuels continues unabated, said Oppenheimer, a co-author of many of the most dire international science reports on climate change.

AP notes that the word “existential” has lost its impact from politicians using it to describe things where existence is not at stake.

“In the debate, for example, Sen. Cory Booker described the closing of two Planned Parenthood clinics in Ohio as an existential threat to abortion rights in America,” AP reported.

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