Bernie Sanders just declared war on the fossil fuel industry with a $16 trillion climate change plan

Bernie Sanders

Michael Ainsworth/AP Images

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday introduced a bold, $16.3 trillion plan to address climate change.
  • It's the most expensive plan to address the climate crisis introduced by any 2020 Democrat.
  • The proposal, which is essentially a declaration of war on the fossil fuel industry, is over 13,000 words and calls for the US to eliminate fossil fuel use by 2050 and "immediately" end "all new and existing fossil fuel extraction on federal public lands."
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Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Thursday unveiled an ambitious plan to combat climate change that represents a declaration of war on the fossil fuel industry.

At roughly $16.3 trillion, it's the most expensive proposal to address the climate crisis from any 2020 Democrat. Sanders' blueprint for addressing climate change builds off the "Green New Deal" plan introduced by progressives in Congress.Advertisement

The presidential hopeful is also calling his proposal the "Green New Deal," and his plan adds far more specifics to the vague and lofty congressional plan.

"The scope of the challenge ahead of us shares some similarities with the crisis faced by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1940s. Faced with battling a world war on two fronts ― both in the East and the West ― the United States came together, and within three short years restructured the entire economy in order to win the war and defeat fascism. As president, Bernie Sanders will boldly embrace the moral imperative of addressing the climate crisis," the plan, which is well over 13,000 words, states.

Here's a breakdown of the key points of Sanders' plan to address climate change:

  • Sanders' plan calls for the US to eliminate fossil fuel use by 2050 and "immediately" ending "all new and existing fossil fuel extraction on federal public lands."
  • It bans fracking, fossil fuel imports and exports, mountaintop removal coal mining, and offshore drilling.
  • The Vermont senator wants to cut carbon emissions by 71% from 2017 levels by 2030.
  • Sanders hopes to achieve this in part by "reaching 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030" by expanding the "existing federal Power Marketing Administrations to build new solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources."
  • By transitioning to fossil fuel-free energy, Sanders plan said electricity will be "virtually free" by 2035.
  • Sanders' plan states it will "pay for itself" over 15 years, including by "making the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution, through litigation, fees, and taxes, and eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies."
  • The plan calls for declaring climate change a "national emergency" and seeks to create 20 million jobs "needed to solve the climate crisis."
  • The plan says it would offer a "just transition" for fossil fuel workers, guaranteeing "five years of a worker's current salary, housing assistance, job training, health care, pension support, and priority job placement for any displaced worker, as well as early retirement support for those who choose it or can no longer work."
  • As part of the plan, Sanders also vowed to rejoin the Paris climate accord and commit $200 billion toward helping developing countries reduce carbon emissions via the UN Green Climate Fund. Comparatively, former President Barack Obama pledged $3 billion to this fund in 2015.
  • The plan also calls for creating a $40 billion Climate Justice Resiliency Fund at the Environmental Protection Agency to "conduct a nationwide survey to identify areas with high climate impact vulnerabilities and other socioeconomic factors, public health challenges, and environmental hazards."
  • The plan calls for reducing defense spending while emphasizing the need to help frontline communities and redressing historical injustices "by tackling poverty, inequality, and the disproportionate impacts of environmental damage on poor neighborhoods, communities of color, First Nations, and rural America."

Sanders' $16 trillion plan includes 85 dollar signs

Sanders' plan includes 85 dollar signs, a lot of references to cost which could make taxpayers nervous. But the Vermont senator's proposal makes the case it would be more costly not to make the $16.3 trillion investment.

"The cost of inaction is unacceptable," the plan states. "Economists estimate that if we do not take action, we will lose $34.5 trillion in economic activity by the end of the century. And the benefits are enormous: by taking bold and decisive action, we will save $2.9 trillion over 10 years, $21 trillion over 30 years, and $70.4 trillion over 80 years."

FILE PHOTO: 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign event in West Branch, Iowa, U.S., August 19, 2019. REUTERS/Al Drago


FILE PHOTO: 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign event in West Branch, Iowa

Citing the Fukushima meltdown and the Chernobyl disaster, Sanders' plan opposes nuclear energy. "To get to our goal of 100 percent sustainable energy, we will not rely on any false solutions like nuclear, geoengineering, carbon capture and sequestration, or trash incinerators."Advertisement

Zeroing in on this aspect, Joshua Freed, vice president for clean energy at the Democratic think tank Third Way, told The New York Times he's not impressed with the Vermont senator's proposal.

Read more: Greenland's ice is melting at the rate scientists thought would be our worst-case scenario in 2070

Freed said nuclear energy could play a vital role in decarbonizing the economy. "We need to have every option on the table," Freed said, also describing Sanders' plan as appearing "big" but "not serious."Advertisement

What's also notable is the plan does not call for a carbon tax, which Sanders often advocated for in the past.

Bill McKibben, the founder of the climate-focused organization, in a tweet described Sanders' plan as "remarkable" adding that it shows "what simply must be done to meet the challenge physics has laid out."

"And it would save a fortune by helping to keep heating under some kind of control," McKibben added.Advertisement

'President Trump thinks that climate change is a hoax. President Trump is dangerously, dangerously wrong.'

Sanders unveiled this plan one day after Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state, who made addressing climate change the central focus of his campaign, dropped out of the race for the 2020 presidential nomination.

It also comes amid alarm over the fact Greenland's ice is melting at record levels (12.5 billion tons in a single day on August 1) and as much of the world looks on in concern at record-setting fires in the Amazon rainforest - often referred to as the "lungs of the planet" given the forest produces 20% of the oxygen in our planet's atmosphere.

amazon rainforest fires farmer

Bruno Kelly/Reuters

A man works in a burning tract of Amazon jungle as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Iranduba, Amazonas state, Brazil August 20, 2019.


"President Trump thinks that climate change is a hoax. President Trump is dangerously, dangerously wrong. Climate change is an existential threat to the entire country and the entire world and we must be extraordinarily aggressive," Sanders told The New York Times on Wednesday.

"I have seven grandchildren, and I'm going to be damned if I'm going to leave them a planet that is unhealthy and uninhabitable," Sanders added.Exclusive FREE Slide Deck: 40 Big Tech Predictions for 2019 by Business Insider IntelligenceAdvertisement