Bernie Sanders addresses climate change in Moreno Valley speech

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders stopped in Moreno Valley Friday, Dec. 20, to tout his aggressive plan to slow global warming and create millions of jobs, hoping to win over Inland Empire voters ahead of the March primary.

Sanders, I-Vermont, shared his Green New Deal with the audience during a town hall meeting at Marinaj Banquets & Events on Alessandro Boulevard.

In an interview before the speech, Sanders said the U.S. needs to transform its energy system as fast as possible away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

“What the Green New Deal is about is understanding a very frightening, but fundamental truth and that is what the scientists are telling us is they have underestimated the severity and speed in which climate change is ravaging our country and our planet,” he said.

The Inland Empire serves as the primary route for trucks transporting goods from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to the rest of the country. But truckers don’t need to suffer for the rest of the planet to benefit, he said.

“What we have built into the Green New Deal is an unprecedented amount of money to provide five years of transformation for those workers,” he said. “It is not my intention to hurt any worker, but we’ve got to save the planet.”

That includes job training, income, health care and education for up to five years, he said.

Andrea Vidaurre, a policy analyst at the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice who introduced Sanders, said the region is now the largest logistics hub on the west coast and ranking as the country’s worst for smog pollution.

“Despite our workers making this industry profits we have nothing to show for it except thousands of low-wage jobs and toxic air,” Vidaurre said. “But our communities are fighting back. From Moreno Valley to Bloomington to San Bernardino, people are organizing because to clean our air we must transform our economy and the industry so that it works for all of us.”

Sanders’ plan calls for:

  • The creation of 20 million good-paying union jobs
  • A move toward 100% reliance on clean, renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030 and the removal of carbon from the atmosphere by 2050.
  • Investments in weatherization, public transportation, modern infrastructure and high-speed broadband.
  • A commitment to reducing emission throughout the world by contributing $200 billion to the Green Climate Fund and rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, which President Donald Trump pulled out of in 2017.
  • A $40 billion Climate Justice Resiliency Fund to help disadvantaged communities, including communities of color, Native Americans, people with disabilities, children and the elderly deal with climate impacts.

Sanders says his deal will pay for itself over 15 years, by “making the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution” through litigation, fees and taxes and by eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies. Revenues from the wholesale of energy, income tax revenue from the new jobs and scaled back military spending on maintaining global oil dependence, also would pay for the plan, according to Sanders’ campaign.

The growth of warehousing in recent years has prompted debate, and even litigation, about the quality of jobs, traffic and air pollution logistics bring to the Inland Empire.

Three of the 10 largest warehouses in the United States are in the region, which built 13.7 million square feet of warehouses in 2019 alone. The industry employs 141,000 people in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

While the state heavily regulates the trucking industry, residents still worry about the harmful air pollutants emitted by heavy-duty truck traffic through their neighborhoods.

In addition to calling for action on climate change, Sanders hit many familiar notes, calling for an end to corporate greed, Medicare For All and comprehensive immigration reform.

Sanders’ plan to wipe out all student debt in the country received one of the biggest cheers.

Jasmin Marin, a Moreno Valley resident and graduate student at the University of Redlands, said her education will leave her $50,000 in debt.

“Even after I graduate and try to find a job, how am I going to be able to buy a home and invest in my own future?” Marin said.

Marin said everything Sanders said resonated with her, including his plan for Medicare For All, wiping out student loan debt and taxing billionaires. But, she said, the Green New Deal is especially important for this region.

‘We need something to combat climate change, especially in this area that’s getting polluted by all these warehouses,” Marin said.

Sanders said his campaign, unlike others, is “funded by the working class of this country.”

“Change never takes place from the top down,” he said. “It only take place when millions of people stand up and demand justice, economic justice, social justice, racial justice and environmental justice.”

On day one, if elected, Sanders said they will restore status to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students and his administration will pass comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship.

Supporters lined up outside the banquet center hours before Sanders began speaking.

Newport Beach resident Brent Pham waited since 9 a.m. to ask Sanders about transportation in Southern California.

“I think every weeknight there’s traffic on the 405, 605 and 101, so I feel a short-term solution would be to have government subsidies for Amtrak and Metorlink,” Pham said.

He added that Sanders’ Medicare For All proposal is personal. Pham’s father was diagnosed with a heart condition and, due to the rising cost of his prescription, rationed his medication. He died two months later, Pham said.

“I don’t know if the medication would have made a difference,” Pham said. “Just knowing he had to ration his prescription drugs, that’s why I feel people should have Medicare for all.”

Tustin resident Ashley Froud wanted to ask Sanders about the impact of the animal agriculture industry, which she said is the number one cause of global warming.

“Yet we put fossil fuels and transportation in front of that issue. Animal ag is also leading cause of deforestation, ocean dead zones, ocean depletion and the world’s largest species extinction,” Froud said.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that agriculture, deforestation and other land use, such as harvesting peat and managing grasslands and wetlands generate about a third of human greenhouse gas emissions, including more than 40% of methane.

“I really want to know what Bernie’s plan is to attack that issue,” Froud said. “I want to ask him what we’re going to do with our tax dollars and if we can allocate those to more plant-based alternatives.”

Sanders is the first candidate in the 2020 presidential race to campaign in the Inland Empire.

A Dec. 11 CNN poll showed Sanders polling at 20% in the state, just behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who had 21%.

In 2016, Sanders won 46% of the primary vote in California, versus Hillary Clinton’s 53.1%.

In Riverside County, Clinton had 59.87% to Sanders’ 38.97% of votes counted. In San Bernardino Clinton had 57.16% and Sanders 41.53%.

Earlier Friday, Sanders said his message is already resonating with the Inland Empire.

“I think we stand and excellent chance to win California precisely because of our agenda,” he said.

Friday’s town hall continued a week-long tour of Southern California, which kicked off Monday, Dec. 16, with rallies in Coachella and Rancho Mirage. Sanders participated in a Democratic debate Thursday, Dec. 19 at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He planned stops in San Ysidro later Friday and in Venice on Saturday.

In early October, Sanders cancelled a planned stop at Riverside City College due to health concerns. Sanders’ campaign said the candidate had a heart procedure for a blocked artery.

During his 2016 presidential bid, Sanders staged rallies at Riverside Municipal Auditorium and other Inland locations.


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