2020: The Climate Candidate

Day 1 of Democratic primary debates has come and gone. Instead of focusing on each of the 10 candidates that stood on stage last night, I’d like to focus on who and what I want in the Oval Office in 2020.

What does the climate candidate look like?

I divide the climate candidate into 2 equally important pillars:

  1. Systemic Change: carbon pricing, nuclear power, proposals to ban gasoline-powered vehicles, renewable energy incentives
  2. Social Change: engaging the public through story-telling, empowering communities most effected by climate change, bringing the consumer into the conversation

Just to name a few.

One of the questions last night asked the candidates how they felt about imposing a carbon tax. There’s an interesting article from the Washington Post that highlights how much we are paying currently in response to the climate crisis. They argue, we already are paying a carbon tax.

First I want to highlight some key factors of carbon pricing.

  1. The more you pollute, the more you pay. The less you pollute, the less you pay. Fair enough.
  2. Carbon pricing does not hurt jobs. Carbon pricing does influence the market and purchasing habits will change, consequently, new jobs and markets will develop to align with federal and social ideals.
  3. Big businesses will be forced to innovate as they work toward lowering their carbon footprint. Taxes on big-time polluters will and can help fund the efforts during the transition period.

A carbon tax or carbon pricing is a policy used to effect systemic change. But as I’m sure you all know, I’m much more fascinated by social change. Although I would like to point out that I am not advocating for the burden of the climate crisis to fall on the consumer, I think it’s important for us to recognize our role and implement change where we can and while we can.

How can consumers, constituents, students, etc. work on implementing their own “carbon tax”?


  • Buy carbon offsets when you travel. A carbon offset can be anything from paying to plant trees, provide clean water, landfill gas capture, renewable energy, and any other project that reduces carbon dioxide emissions, every ton of emissions reduced results in the creation of one carbon offset. 
  • Support companies and institutions that practice sustainable production and responsible waste disposal. Do your homework and vote with your dollar. Also important to note, buy less… you probably don’t need it.
  • Write to companies that don’t implement sustainable practices, they want customer feedback. The more people asking them to provide sustainable options or to invest in sustainable infrastructure, the more likely they are to listen. Keep using your voice.


  • Look up your representatives voting record on issues that pertain to climate and the environment. If they don’t have a strong voting record, look on their website to see what their position is on the topic. One of the most important things to look for when addressing someone’s voting record is their capacity for growth and change. Especially for those representatives that have served for over a decade. The world changes, much more quickly now with technology, and it’s important that our representatives are capable of change too.
  • Step one complete… now you have to actually talk to, with or at your representative. If that is impossible, it’s time to start campaigning for a new rep.


  • Whether you’re in college, elementary, middle, or high school you should ask your institution about their recycling policy. You should ask where the food is grown and how it gets there. You should ask what the school’s sustainability initiative is.
  • FYI, you can demand things from your educational institution. You can organize the student body to get access to things like composting, a community garden, reusable cafeteria trays, etc. The sky is the limit.
  • Conduct a waste audit of your classroom or propose the class take part in a zero waste challenge for the week.

You don’t have to wait for the world to change, to change your world.

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