Climate change is an international emergency, and that's exactly how Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren talks about it. But while Americans are trying to cut down on their plastic use and adopt more sustainable diets, Warren has been honing in on who the biggest contributors to climate change actually are. This video of Elizabeth Warren explaining climate change at a Sept. 4 CNN town hall makes a great point about holding the fossil fuel industry accountable.
During the town hall, which highlighted the climate change policies of 10 Democratic presidential candidates, CNN's Chris Cuomo asked Warren whether the U.S. government should have a say in the types of lightbulbs Americans use. Cuomo posed this question in light of the Trump administration's decision to roll back requirements for energy-efficient lightbulbs, which was announced the same day. But Warren argued that focusing on individual consumers' lightbulb use was misguided at best.
“Oh come on, give me a break,” Warren responded. “There are a lot of ways that we try to change our energy consumption and our pollution. There are a lot of different pieces to this and I get that people are trying to find the part that they can work on and what can they do and I'm in favor of that ... but understand, this is exactly what the fossil fuel industry wants us to talk about.
"They want to be able to stir up a lot of controversy around your lightbulbs, around your straws, and around your cheeseburgers," Warren continued, "when 70% of the pollution, of the carbon that we’re throwing into the air, comes from three industries.”
Warren's point was that while individuals may be able to reduce their carbon footprints in certain ways, the onus to combat climate change should primarily fall on the major corporations and industries which are doing the lion's share of the damage. The three industries Warren alluded to at the CNN town hall were the building industry, the electric power industry, and the oil industry, per The New York Times. The Massachusetts senator did acknowledge that there are steps individual consumers can take to tackle the other 30% of the pollution, but she argued that targeting the fossil fuel industry first would be far more effective.
“The first thing we’ve got to do is we’ve got to attack this corruption head on in Washington and say enough of having the oil industry, the fossil fuel industry write all of our laws in this area,” Warren insisted.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that electricity production and industry together made up nearly 50% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. But a major talking point for opponents of climate change plans such as the Green New Deal is the claim that such policies would require Americans to sacrifice their right to choice and personal autonomy, as Mother Jones pointed out. That's exactly what Warren was trying to get at. While consuming less red meat and using more energy-efficient resources can certainly produce more sustainable ways of living, that alone is not going to end the climate crisis.
Instead, a government committed to tackling climate change would shift the focus away from individuals onto a few powerful industries that are responsible for the majority of carbon emissions, Warren argued. A Warren administration isn't going to ban plane rides or plastic straws on day one — but it definitely will go after large corporations the senator has spent decades trying to hold accountable. That, at least, seems pretty clear.