Change the Climate 2020

MEMO: Ahead of the Iowa caucuses, climate is the defining issue of 2020

Jan 31, 2020

To: Interested Parties
From: Tiernan Sittenfeld, SVP of Government Affairs, League of Conservation Voters
Date: January 31, 2020
Re: Ahead of the Iowa caucuses, climate is the defining issue of 2020

As the early states prepare to caucus and vote, it’s worth noting that the climate crisis has consistently been a top tier issue in the polls and on the campaign trail. Indeed, all of the leading Democratic candidates have released comprehensive climate change plans that are based on science, rooted in equity, and prioritize justice. And many public polls, including Ann Selzer’s January Des Moines Register Iowa poll, show that confronting the climate crisis is the #1 or #2 priority issue for voters. Ahead of the Iowa caucuses, climate has become a defining issue of 2020.

Hardworking reporters agree:

In early 2019, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) launched our $3.1 million Change the Climate 2020 effort to ensure the eventual 2020 Democratic nominee is committed to immediate action on climate. Our staff and volunteers have attended more than 96 candidate events in early states and asked more than 58 climate questions directly of candidates. Check out videos of our interactions with candidates here, and for everything the candidates have said and done on climate change visit

Note that many candidates are participating in the Youth Climate and Clean Energy Forum in New Hampshire on February 5. This event follows a series of climate focused events throughout this primary, including the CNN Climate Crisis Town Hall, the MSNBC-Georgetown Climate Forum 2020, the Presidential Forum on Environmental Justice, and more.

In the seven 2020 election polls that LCV has released so far this cycle–including early states, primary and general election battlegrounds, and most recently in Colorado, Michigan, and Wisconsin, it is clear that climate and clean energy are winning issues in 2020.

Highlights: Candidates prioritizing climate in the lead-up to Iowa

Former Vice President Joe Biden

  • Put forth a strong ‘Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice’ early in his campaign with commitments to ambitious goals, including net zero emissions and a 100% clean energy economy no later than 2050, prioritizing environmental justice, and pledging not to take contributions from the fossil fuel industry
  • Iowa ads: Biden spent close to $200K to reach Iowa voters with a 60 second ad that mentions that he has a plan to lead the world on climate. Additionally, Biden’s closing ad in Iowa includes “A world where America leads on climate change”
  • In response to a Change the Climate 2020 volunteer’s question in South Carolina, Biden spent 10 minutes explaining his personal motivation for tackling the climate crisis and his plan
  • Biden has said on the campaign trail, including in Iowa, that climate “is the single most important issue in the world right now”
  • Biden toured the Techren Solar Project and met with clean energy workers in Boulder City, NV
  • Biden participated in CNN’s climate crisis town hall

Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg 

  • Bloomberg’s Plan for 100% Clean Power would reduce carbon pollution by 50 percent economy-wide by 2030, reduce carbon pollution from the power sector by 80 percent by the end of his second term, and achieve a 100 percent clean energy future before 2050. The plan prioritizes investments in communities most affected by toxic pollution and climate impacts.
  • Iowa ads: Bloomberg’s campaign had spent $84,030 in Iowa media markets on three ads mentioning climate change in the context of political fights in which he has engaged.
  • Bloomberg has also released plans for Clean Buildings, Clean Transportation, International Climate, Climate Resilience, and Wildfire Resilience.
  • Bloomberg is not actively campaigning or on the ballot in Iowa, but his campaign is elevating climate change in other states, including California and Arkansas.

Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg

  • Among Buttigieg’s climate policies are his strong Mobilizing America to Combat Climate Change plan that would create three million high-paying clean energy and infrastructure jobs over ten years, help communities prepare for and mitigate the impacts of climate change, and ensure frontline and indigenous communities benefit from the clean energy transition.
  • Iowa ads: Buttigieg spent over $700K to reach Iowa voters with ads that mention climate change, including almost $220K on an ad that specifically tout’s Buttigieg’s plan to address climate change, and close to $500K on another ad that prominently features climate change in the context of challenges the next president will face
  • Buttigieg “targets farmers with climate message,” per The Washington Post.
  • Buttigieg gave an interview to Iowa Public Radio focused on climate change and restoring environmental protections for clean water
  • Buttigieg met with environmental justice leaders following the December debate.
  • Buttigieg participated in MSNBC’s Climate Forum 2020
  • Buttigieg participated in CNN’s climate crisis town hall

Senator Amy Klobuchar

  • Klobuchar’s strong Plan to Tackle the Climate Crisis includes legislation within her first 100 days to achieve 100% net-zero emissions by 2050 and, importantly, pledges to make sure frontline communities most directly experiencing the effects of climate change are a key part of all decision making related to climate policy
  • Iowa ads: Klobuchar spent close to $250K to reach Iowa voters with an ad that mentioned climate change in the context of challenges facing America
  • Klobuchar makes a point to elevate personal stories of those impacted by climate change including Fran, an Iowa farmer who is dealing with flooding, who is a regular part of her stump and was one of her guests at the first debate
  • In their endorsement, The Quad City Times said, “On climate change, she [Klobuchar]  is as aggressive as any of her rivals on the things that matter most.”
  • Klobuchar has campaigned across Iowa discussing the climate impacts on farmers and her plans to combat the crisis
  • Klobuchar participated in CNN’s climate crisis town hall

Senator Bernie Sanders

  • Sanders has released a number of strong pro-environment, anti-corruption plans including his 2020 Green New Deal  that focuses on creating family sustaining jobs in the clean energy economy and investing in frontline communities who have been hit first and worst by climate change
  • Iowa ads: Sanders spent close to $1.5M to reach Iowa voters with ads relating to energy and environmental issues. Over $440K was spent on an ad that specifically highlights how Sanders would invest in clean energy jobs for Iowa to fight climate change. At least three other ads mention climate change or the need to fight oil companies: 1, 2, 3
  • Sanders aimed “to be ‘the climate candidate’ in Iowa caucus,” according to The Des Moines Register. He has hosted multiple events in Iowa focused on climate change, including a recent Iowa City rally and “Climate Crisis Summit” in Des Moines with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez
  • Sanders’ team said that climate was a “focus of [his] presidential campaign to win the caucus in Iowa”
  • Sanders participated in CNN’s climate crisis town hall
  • Sanders participated in MSNBC’s Climate Forum 2020

Tom Steyer

  • Steyer has committed to making climate his number one priority and will declare a national emergency to tackle it. He came out of the gate with a strong Justice-Centered Climate Plan that prioritizes community driven climate solutions while investing in family sustaining jobs, ending giveaways to big polluters, and setting a goal of a 100% clean energy economy by no later than 2045
  • Iowa ads: Steyer has spent over $4.5M to reach Iowa voters with 14 different ads mentioning energy and environment issues. Ads include a 60-second spot entirely about climate change where Steyer says climate is his number one priority. Another ad features “climate change voters” speaking to camera and highlighting the importance of the issue
  • One week before the Iowa caucuses, Steyer held a climate solutions-focused town hall in Ames, Iowa
  • In response to Change the Climate 2020 volunteer Kate’s question, Steyer emphasized his commitment to international leadership on climate and stressed how behind the U.S. is in transitioning away from fossil fuels compared to other countries
  • “Steyer affirms commitment to climate change priorities at Ames town hall,” from the Ames Tribune.
  • Steyer participated in the first ever presidential forum on environmental justice in South Carolina
  • Steyer participated in MSNBC’s Climate Forum 2020
  • Steyer participated in CNN’s climate crisis town hall

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Andrew Yang

  • Yang’s It’s Worse Than You Think – Lower Emissions, Higher Ground climate plan hit many critical marks like committing to reach net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2049 and taking environmental costs into account when measuring the economy, but his embrace of nuclear energy, without addressing waste and storage issues and the massive cost to taxpayers is concerning
  • Iowa ads: Yang spent just over $1M to reach Iowa voters with three ads that mention climate change, including an ad solely focused on highlighting local impacts of climate change, and 60-and 30-second versions of an ad that mention a fight against climate change that confronts polluters.
  • In Iowa, Yang has called for putting a price on pollution and a constitutional amendment that we must safeguard our planet.”
  • Our Change the Climate 2020 volunteer Abigail in Nevada was disappointed by Yang’s answer to her question about why he supports storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in NV. Yang said he supports storing nuclear waste at Yucca because it’s “a national issue, not just a Nevada issue” — but did not address the risk of storing dangerous radioactive materials miles away from millions of Nevadans.
  • Yang participated in MSNBC’s Climate Forum 2020
  • Yang participated in CNN’s climate crisis town hall