Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

CNN Climate Crisis Town Hall with Andrew Yang (D), Presidential Candidate. Aired 5:40-6:20p ET

Aired September 4, 2019 - 17:40   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:40:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Welcome back to this unprecedented night on CNN, ten Democratic presidential candidates, one urgent issue, the climate crisis. Scientists tell us we are seeing the consequences of the climate crisis now, but that will cross a massive tipping point if the world warms more than 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. We've already warmed up the planet one degree Celsius since the industrial revolution, so we're more than halfway there. We have 11 years to avoid the catastrophic consequences of this crisis, food shortages, rising sea levels, more extreme weather events like hurricane Dorian that's churning toward the Carolinas right now and for the latest on Dorian, I want to go to the CNN hurricane center and bring in Jennifer Gray.

Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN: Wolf, Dorian has actually strengthened just a little bit with this latest advisory at 5:00. Now 110 mile per hour winds, just shy of a category 3 actually with the center just offshore. You can see Jacksonville to its west, gusts of 130 moving to the north/northwest at about 8 miles per hour, that's a little slower than it was before. It's expected to continue its forward speed though, it is expected to impact mainly South Carolina and North Carolina as we go forward in time. Charleston, for example, your conditions will continue to deteriorate as we go throughout the evening. Peak winds expected by late morning tomorrow and then this storm moves on, skirting the outer banks and North Carolina.

BLITZER: All right, Jennifer. Thank you very much. And with that, please welcome businessman Andrew Yang.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Welcome, thanks very much for coming. Please be seated. Mr. Yang, so what's the first thing you would do? And welcome to CNN, this historic town hall. Welcome. What would be the first thing you would do to deal with this climate crisis if you were elected president?

YANG: The first thing I would do is rejoin the Paris Accords. We need to let the world know that the U.S. is open for business when fighting climate change is concerned. We want to be the leader. And then I would we redefine our economic bench marks actually to include environmental sustainability. Because right now, the trap that Democrats are in is that, we're being told that moving towards a green economy is bad for jobs, it's bad for business, and that couldn't be further from the truth. We actually need to redefine our economic measurements to include clean air and clean water and let America...

BLITZER: How do you change that?

YANG: Well the great thing is we made up GPD almost 100 years ago, really. And even the inventor of GPD at the time said this is a terrible measurement for national well-being and we should never use it as that. Here we are almost 100 years later following it off a cliff. All we need to do is -- as your president I will go down the street to the Bureau of Economic Analysis and say, hey, GPD, 100 years old, kind of out of date.

Let's upgrade it with a new score card that includes our environmental sustainability and our goal, the carbon footprint that companies are putting out there, but also our kids' health which is tied to the climate, health and life expectancy also tied to the climate, mental health and freedom from substance abuse. These are all things we can tie to our economic measurements and then you will see us accelerate because we can't fall into this false dichotomy that what's good for the planet is bad for the economy.

BLITZER: All right. We have questions starting with Evan O'Neil whose here. He's from New York Solar Energy. Evan, go ahead.

EVAN O'NEIL: I live at sea level in New York city. You said in a presidential debate that we need to retreat from vulnerable neighborhoods such as mine. Is this a viable option for New York? It's one of America's great cultural and economic assets. How do you propose to help places at risk due to climate change? Will funds be available for adaptation and relocation? How will those funds be generated and distributed?

YANG: Thanks for the question. I was just in Portsmouth, new Hampshire where they have hundreds of homes flooding on a regular basis, 26 times or more per year. So imagine living in a home that's prone to flooding at that level of frequency which is even more extreme than I suspect your home here in New York. So we would 100 percent make funds available to communities around the country for adaptation and resilience. And then we would take -- and the big picture is, we subsidize the fossil fuel industry to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. And so now everyone is like (ph) where's the money?

We know where the money is. We put hundreds of billions into the fossil fuel industry. We're still subsidizing it to this day, and now it's time to take some of that money and channel it to the needs of the American people. We're looking -- there are already climate refugees in the United States of America, people that we relocated from an island that was essentially becoming uninhabitable in Louisiana and we moved those people. None of this is speculative anymore.

We need to get with the program, wake up to the reality around us and let you know that you're not on your own. This is not a you problem, this is an us problem. And what do sophisticated, advanced societies do when it's an us problem? We put some of our collective resources to work and we solve the problems on the ground.

BLITZER: Would you eliminate some subsidies for fossil fuel or subsidies?

YANG: I'd get rid of them all. Why would you leave any of them?

(APPLAUSE)

I have to say, wolf, it's even darker than this because you know how they've been spending some of their money, their billions of dollars in profit? On a misinformation campaign to the American people, and they've taken our legislature hostage. They have the fossil fuel lobbying industry that's in the tens of millions a year. So we have to take back our government from the American people. I've been running for president now for a number of months and this is the brutal truth in our society. There are the people on one side and the money on the other.

(APPLAUSE)

And you know a lot of the money is fossil fuel companies. So what do we have to do? We have to bring these together, we have to line the people and the money. Now how the heck do you do that? My plan is to give every American citizen 100 democracy dollars that you can give to any campaign or candidate that you like in any given year. This would wash out the lobbyist cash by a factor of 8-1, it would make it so that I'm a candidate and you like me and I get 10,000 Americans to like me, let's say, in a congressional race, that's $1 million. Then when the fossil fuel company come and says I've got a check for $50,000, you can say I don't need your $50,000 check, I have the people. That's how we take the government back from fossil fuel companies and start getting our government working for us again.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: All right I want to stay on this subject. We have a question from Vic Barrett from White Plains, New York, he's a fellow with the Alliance for Climate Education, has spoken at the U.N. Conference on Climate Change. He's among 21 youth activists between the ages of 10 and 21 who are suing the government for its contribution to climate change in the case of Juliana versus the United States.

YANG: Wow, how innovative.

(APPLAUSE)

VIC BARRETT: Hi. Thank you for taking my question. Do you agree that the president of the United States has the constitutional obligation to end federal government support and promotion of a fossil fuel energy system considering it endangers all citizens, especially young people like myself and future generations?

YANG: As I just stated, I would end all fossil fuel subsidies and I'll take it a step further. I proposed a constitutional amendment that makes it the responsibility of the United States government to safeguard and protect our environment for future generations.

(APPLAUSE)

Its part of my five-point, $5 trillion plan to help address climate change. We need a constitutional amendment. We need to move towards sustainable energy. Here's another brutal truth, the United States of America is only 15 percent of global emissions. So if we really want to get the best of climate change, have to make it so that countries in Africa and the developing world choose wind and solar over coal. And right now the Chinese are going to African countries and saying, I've got a power point for you, great news, it burns coal. What does that African country say in response? Great. Because they're just looking for cheap energy.

So if we're going to get the best of climate change, we have to go into these countries and make renewable sources of energy more competitive, so that's number two or three, if you include the constitutional amendment. Number four, we need to get our people to higher grounds. You're not on your own. We need to start making our communities more resilient and protect ourselves. If you've heard anything about me and the campaign what's my flag ship proposal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom dividend.

YANG: Freedom dividend, everyone gets $1,00 a month, $12,000 a year. That would help citizens of this country protect themselves in a natural disaster. Because we all know when Hurricane Dorian or Hurricane Harvey hits, who suffers? Poor people, people of color, people who don't have a car they can get into and just drive to some -- some relatives' house. So we need to actually start protecting ourselves. And the last thing is we need to start reverse the damage we're doing to our environment. It's not enough to do less of the bad, we have to do some of the good.

So that's reforestation, that's ocean seeding, that's starting to actually rebuild the ecosystems that we're harming.

BLITZER: I've got three quick questions, you give me --

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: -- you give me yes or no, if you want. Would you ban all fossil fuel exports from the United States?

YANG: Well, I think we have to stop subsidizing the industry, but I don't think that includes banning exports. Because if our industry -- fossil fuel industry, which is going to be around for some period of time, is competitive and cost competitive enough to export to another country, I wouldn't stand in the way of that.

BLITZER: Are you in favor of a carbon free America and if yes, when?

YANG: I'm in favor of a carbon free America and my plan has us getting there in the next 30 years.

BLITZER: Do you support a carbon tax and how much should it be? YANG: I do support a carbon tax -- if you went my website, Wolf, you

would know this.

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: Yang2020.com. We need to have a carbon tax because we need to have polluters internalize the cost of their pollution. And so you start at $40 a ton and then you ramp up to $100 a ton to give them time to adjust. But these companies only operate on the bottom line. You can't say do the right thing and then have all the executives get paid for making tons of money at the expense of the earth. So what you have to do --

(APPLAUSE)

YANG: -- again, you have to tie these things together -- and this is a big theme of my campaign. This country runs on the almighty dollar, truthfully. It does not run on doing the right thing by us or the planet. So what we have to do is we have to tie people's incentives to doing the right thing and then you'll actually see their behavior change very quickly.

BLITZER: I want to bring in CNN's Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir.

BILL WEIR, CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Mr. Yang, a moment ago you mentioned that sinking town in Louisiana and I'm so glad you did because we have a map. It is called Isle de Jean Charles. That is the Gulf of Mexico and this is 1985. Watch in a single generation how much seawater has taken over this part of America.

YANG: Oh my gosh.

WEIR: And this is what it looks like. It is, in a lifetime, slipping into the sea and it's so doomed that the federal government is spending, as you said, $48 million to move about two dozen families 40 miles north. But I spent time there and half of them do not want to leave the only home they've ever known. Some don't trust the government. They think this is a land grab. So if it's this expensive and costly to move less than 100 people, how do you envision a managed retreat for maybe millions from places like Miami, Charleston, elsewhere?

YANG: This is one of the great challenges of our time. And most Americans like where they live. Most Americans do not have a strong inclination to leave, even in the wake of a natural disaster. So first we need to try and invest in making some of these communities more resilient. Which will not work in some cases, as in this town, but it will work in others. New York is an example where if we were to invest significant resources, we might be able to save -- essentially it's one of those situations where you invest a billion and then save perhaps $5 or $10 billion in damages, if you do it right.

So there's some where you pre-invest before the disaster hits. The second thing is that when there are -- are communities that need to be rebuilt, we need to do a better job of frankly building institutional trust in our society and the government again. Because right now many Americans mistrust our government. We're living in a country where 78 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, almost half can't afford an unexpected $500 bill. So when you come to them and say hey, we have your interest at heart, they have their heads down and there's not much optimism or faith.

So the freedom dividend of $1,000 a month, it has many effects, but one thing it does, it gets people's heads up. And studies have shown that getting the boot off people's throats economically, one, it gets them focused on the big problems like climate change -- because it's very hard to focus 10 years in the future if you're worried about next month's rent. But the second thing it does is it restores public faith and optimism and trust in our institutions, and then we'll be able to galvanize more energy around relocation over time.

BLITZER: We have more questions for you, Mr. Yang. I want to take a quick break. A lot more on the climate threat. And in just minutes, it will be Senator Kamala Harris's turn on this stage. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with the CNN Climate Crisis town hall. In minutes, Senator Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar. Let's continue now with businessman Andrew Yang. Now Mr. Yang, I want to go to Sarah Smith (ph), a graduate at Columbia University, studying climate and society. Her question is about geoengineering technologies that would aim to reverse global warming.

SARAH SMITH (PH): Your platform relies, geoengineering and locally based efforts, rather than aggressive federal emissions policies. geoengineering poses major risks, and according to last year's report, IPCC report, even aggressive development of carbon removal technology is unlikely to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, absent substantial rapid reductions and emissions. Can you quantify the reduction in CO2 attainable from the geoengineering strategies you propose?

BLITZER: I just want to clarify a point that she's making for some of our viewers. Sarah's question mentioned 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is the temperature increase that the international community, as you well know, considers catastrophic.

YANG: Congrats, Columbia is a great school. I then when myself. That doesn't make it good. So first geoengineering is not the primary approach at all, we have to reduce emissions first and foremost. And if you look at my plan, of the 5 trillion, like a fraction of one of the trillions is looking at geoengineering. We have to get the best of emissions as the primary driver of climate change. Geoengineering, I just want us to think a very, very big picture of what's happening. You have countries, island countries on the other side of the world that are literally sinking underwater. And we're lifting people. The U.N. is helping people move.

Now, they don't have the capacity to do something dramatic to alter the environment. But imagine a country like China 25 years from now who is going to be bearing the brunt of climate change in the same way that we are. They're not very consultative.

And so you can imagine them doing something that affects us and the rest of the world, spraying sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere.

So, we need to face facts about the scope of the challenge and lead globally. So, I would convene a geoengineering summit and get countries from around the world to make sure that we don't have rogue actors just going off on their own.

So this is my approach. It is not the primary approach, but it's something that we need to explore in the days ahead, because the reality is, the last four years have already been the four warmest years in recorded history.

July is the warmest month in recorded history. The Earth is likely getting warmer around us. And even as we're attacking emissions, we need to start researching innovative methods to address climate change.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And I want to follow up on that specific point, Mr. Yang, because you want to invest in these new technologies...

YANG: I do.

BLITZER: ... like space mirrors, and, as you point out, cloud seeding, which is actually spraying sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere.

Why divert federal money, which is obviously scarce, to these unproven and potentially risky ideas, when there are known solutions out there that we all know, solar power, wind, stuff like that, that we know already works?

YANG: We are here Wolf, together, because we know this is a crisis.

And, in a crisis, all solutions have to be on the table. And so, if you are attacking on one side, you also should be researching various alternatives on the other. And that, to me, is just responsible management and responsible leadership.

BLITZER: Are all Americans going to have to drive electric cars?

YANG: Well, electric cars, it's not something you have to do. It's awesome.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

YANG: And so, over time, yes, we're going to make it so that electric cars are...

(CROSSTALK) (APPLAUSE)

YANG: You feel like you're driving the future. And I did not just say that because Elon Musk endorsed me just the other week.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: So what's the answer?

YANG: Which he did. You can look it up.

BLITZER: What's the answer? Are we all going to have to drive electric cars?

YANG: We are all going to love driving our electric cars.

BLITZER: Will we have to drive electric cars?

YANG: Well, there will still be some legacy gas guzzlers on the road for quite some time, because this is not a country where you're going to, like, take someone's clunker away from them.

But you are going to offer to buy the clunker back and help them upgrade.

BLITZER: All right, we got a question from Rebecca Eastwood. She is the advocacy coordinator for a faith-based nonprofit in Washington, D.C.

Rebecca.

REBECCA EASTWOOD, FAITH-BASED NONPROFIT ADVOCACY COORDINATOR: Thank you.

I am originally from Iowa, and many in my family are farmers. Iowa's economy is deeply tied to industrial agriculture. Yet the U.N. -- the recent U.N. report on land says land use globally, including agriculture, is responsible for 23 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions and that emissions from agriculture are increasing.

What is your plan to protect farming communities in the Midwest, while at the same time addressing how our food systems contribute to climate change?

YANG: I have been spending a lot of time in Iowa. I love the state a great deal. It's another thing about running for president.

We need to help farmers modernize their land use in terms of the environmental impact. And, once again, this is an issue around economic incentives being one direction, and then what's good for the climate and what's good for society in the other.

So we have to try and bring those together by providing economic incentives and resources to help farmers modernize and rotate plant crops and try and actually measure the impact they're having on the environment. Now, the big issue in the farming community is that, right now, what's

happening, all the mom-and-pop farms are getting gobbled up by these conglomerates. And you go, and instead of some beautiful vision of a family farm that you have in your head, it's some mega-farm conglomerate with automated tractors as far as the eye can see.

So the goal, in my mind, should be trying to create incentives so that, if you are farming in a responsible and sustainable way, that we can actually make family businesses possible by supporting a food ecosystem that includes more farm-to-table dining.

And, to me, I'm an American that -- I believe most Americans would be happy to pay for a locally sourced farm-to-table supply chain, as opposed to the mega-farm monolith that unfortunately right now produces most of our food.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Well, let me follow up on that as well, Mr. Yang.

Meat consumption, beef in particular, is a major driver of climate change.

YANG: Yes, it is.

BLITZER: Should Americans change their eating habits and eat less beef?

YANG: You know, the U.N. just released a study that said we're going to be OK if the vast majority of the world goes vegetarian immediately. You guys see that?

[18:05:00]

So, it's good for the environment, it's good for your health if you eat less meat. Certainly, meat is an extraordinarily expensive thing to produce from an environmental sustainability point of view.

So I think it would be healthy on both an individual and a societal level for us to move in that direction. But, again, this is a country where there's a lot of individual autonomy. And so you can't force people's eating choices on them. All you can do is try and shape our system so that, over time, we evolve in a productive way.

BLITZER: What aspects of the Green New Deal do you support, and which do you reject?

YANG: I love the vision of the Green New Deal.

The framers of it have done us all a great service by energizing so many people around a vision. And, to me, the only issue I have with the Green New Deal is the timing of the timeline.

I mean, they are right that we need to take urgent action, but the timeline that they have put out there would do away with commercial air travel and a lot of other things in a particular time frame, that, if we have a little bit more time, we can head in the same direction and achieve most of the same value.

BLITZER: President Trump today announced plans to roll back lightbulb -- lightbulbs that are more energy-efficient.

YANG: Yes, what is up with that? I literally think -- I think he's just messing with CNN on that one.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Should the U.S. government have a say on what kind of lightbulbs we use?

YANG: Well, certainly, if we do have a say in what lightbulbs we use, we need lightbulbs that don't burn out, because you know these lightbulbs are manufactured so that they intentionally burn out, so there's an industry and we replace them over and over again.

Do you think that's good for the Earth? Of course not.

So, if anything, we should be pushing regulations that make it so that our lightbulbs consume less energy and need to be replaced less often.

BLITZER: All right, let's go to Wendy Fleischer, who is with us.

(CROSSTALK)

YANG: ... talk about lightbulbs.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: That's what happens.

Wendy is from Brooklyn. She's a consultant for environmental and social justice initiatives.

Wendy.

WENDY FLEISCHER, CONSULTANT: Thank you.

You mentioned China a few times. Some climate action naysayers say that China should act first.

So, tell us why the United States should lead in moving the country and making a transition, a just transition to a clean healthy, clean energy economy, and who would benefit from the changes you propose? And how does your plan ensure that hardworking Americans are benefited and not hurt?

YANG: Well, to me, the U.S. is vital to building an international consensus on climate change.

And so we need to act first because, by forming the table and saying who's with us on this, then we can galvanize dozens of our allies and partners in the Western world. And I believe that China would be a partner, because they're seeing the worst effects of climate change on an epic, almost unimaginable scale. And if you take a look at some of the smog in some of their major

cities, like, people literally just wear masks just for their own health and safety.

So the U.S. has always been a global leader. We are still the focal point of the world's economy. And if we lead on this, then we can move people in the right direction very quickly.

As for American workers, I was just with Ned Raynolds (ph), who's an entrepreneur in New Hampshire. If you imagine what we have to do, we have to install solar panels on hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings around the country.

Think about the jobs that's going to create. Ned Raynolds started his own business. Now he's up to 260 employees, primarily solar panel installers, in New Hampshire.

So you talk about what's good for American workers, I think Ned's business is the business that we should be emulating around the country.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: How can -- and I want to follow up on that, because how can you ensure -- how can you ensure that America's efforts to cut emissions won't be in vain if carbon pollution, let's say in China or India, continues to expand over the next decades?

YANG: Yes, that's why we need a global effort, Wolf.

That's one reason why, to me -- the Paris accords, the only issue I have with them is that they didn't go far enough, because a lot of the enforcement mechanisms really aren't there.

(APPLAUSE)

YANG: There are a lot of countries that signed them and just essentially, it's like, well, I signed it, I feel good, but then their corporate actors are not necessarily integrating them into their operations.

So one principle that we're going to have in our businesses here is that, if you are a very large business, you need to measure your carbon imprint and your effect on the environment. And then if we extend that to operations in other countries that are either of U.S. companies or, over time, our trading partners, then we can have more sophisticated standards that include environmental impact, not just for American companies, but the companies and countries we do business with.

BLITZER: As all of us who have followed your campaign know, you're an advocate for what's called universal basic income.

Do you think that policy of cutting everyone a check would be enough to help, for example, coal workers, others in the fossil fuel industry who would be put out of work in a transition to a green economy? YANG: Well, a thousand dollars a month is a game-changer for tens of

millions of American families.

And while it's not going to replace someone's job, if you have a household with two adults, $24,000 a year is enough for you to make affirmative plans about your future, possibly go back to school, move, start a new business, take care of yourselves, make your family more resilient.

[18:10:01]

And a lot of it, Wolf, is that people put this thousand dollars a month. The question in my mind is, what's the alternative? Like, we know many of these jobs are going to be automated away or fade away in a transition to a renewable economy.

So, the question is, what do we have for American workers so they feel protected and part of the process?

BLITZER: Tina Savvaides is a student at Fordham University here in New York, originally from Norwalk, Connecticut.

Her question is about PFAS, toxic chemicals that have been found in U.S. drinking water sources.

TINA SAVVAIDES, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Good evening.

There's a lot of new studies coming out on the destructiveness of PFAS and how it harms human health. They're prevalent throughout the environment.

So what is your plan for regulating the materials that go into the products that are used by everyday Americans?

YANG: We need to do much more. I'm the parent of two young boys, one of whom is autistic.

And, as a parent, when you have your kids drinking water, or using various toys and household items, there's always something in the back of your mind, which is, is this safe?

And I just came from Flint. And while this is a separate issue, it's kind of the same, in the sense that the folks in Flint discovered that their water was toxic after the fact and are still recovering.

So, to me, safe drinking water is a fundamental human right.

(APPLAUSE)

YANG: And that, if you're an American, you should not be stressed out about the water that you're drinking and your kids are drinking.

And this is, again, the problem with having the almighty dollar running our society, where people look up and say, oh, replacing the pipes is expensive, or, oh, another substance would be more expensive.

Are you kidding me? You know what is expensive? Poisoning our kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: As you know, Mr. Yang, 20 percent of U.S. electricity is generated from nuclear power plants.

What would you do with those plants? Would you decommission them?

YANG: To me, nuclear energy needs to be on the table in a transition to a more renewable economy, because our society consumes a great deal of energy.

And nuclear, right now, it gets a bad rap, in part because the technologies we're using are antiquated. And so, if you look up, we are working on these new generation nuclear reactors that use thorium, instead of uranium. And thorium is not natively fissile or radioactive, so the odds of a catastrophe dropped precipitously.

It's much, much safer to dispose of. It produces much more energy. So we need to upgrade the thorium-fueled reactors. And, to me, though, trying to get rid of all the nuclear power plants that produce 20 percent of the nation's energy is not going to help us accomplish our goals.

BLITZER: Would you ban all offshore oil drilling?

YANG: Yes, I would.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: OK.

All right, we got another question here. There she is right there.

Laura Cottingham is a lawyer who specializes in environmental litigation in private practice. She also works with Colombia University's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.

LAURA COTTINGHAM, ATTORNEY: Tackling the climate crisis will require contributions from all sectors, including the private sector.

In your view, what is the role of corporate leadership and responsibility in this area? How will you work with businesses to create the necessary incentives and initiatives to drive meaningful progress on climate change?

YANG: I'm happy to say that American business is waking up.

And the Business Roundtable led by Jamie Dimon recently announced that they need to have a broader view of their own economic impact than shareholder value. They need to expand it to stakeholder value, which includes their impact on the environment.

So, working with businesses. First, a carbon fee is going to go a long way, because all of a sudden they have to pay when they pollute. So that's going to be immediate. And they will just look up, and they will do the right thing by their own businesses.

But the second thing is, if we make economic impact part of our economic measurements, and then each company has to report on them, then you will see their behavior change very, very dramatically, because, in this country, you aim towards what you measure.

One of the big problems in America is, we are measuring the wrong things. Under my presidency, we will start measuring the right things. And businesses will be my willing partner in this.

BLITZER: Let's go to a video question submitted by Patrick Stollenwerk work from Chicago. He's a Ph.D. candidate in physics at Northwestern University.

Patrick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK STOLLENWERK, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY STUDENT: According to "The Costs of War Project" by Brown university, 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases have been released by the military since the start of the 2001 -- quote -- "global war on terror."

What will you do about the role of the military industrial complex in contributing to climate change?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YANG: It's a great question.

[18:15:00]

My father actually got a Ph.D. in physics. I'm talking to him like he's here. He's not here.

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: He's disappeared from the screen.

We're spending $750 billion that we know of on our military industrial complex every year. And I'm going to share a story that I heard secondhand, so I can't verify it.

But there was a Top Gun, a fighter pilot, who said that his least favorite time of the year is at the end of the fiscal year, because he flies over the Pacific Ocean and dumps oil into the ocean.

Now, why is he doing that? Because they have to use all the oil that's budgeted, or else they won't get the same amount budgeted the following year.

So this broke his heart, broke my heart to even hear this story. What we have to do is, we have to take some of the $750 billion and start channeling it towards our infrastructure, which will be an evergreen need.

We know we need to make it more sustainable over time. But, again, in America, we follow the almighty dollar. And, right now, there are hundreds of billions being spent on our military that is generating a ton of emissions and pollution.

And so if we take a significant portion of that budget and channel it towards infrastructure, we can make a good out of right now a huge net negative.

BLITZER: What's the biggest personal sacrifice you want the American people to make in order to deal with this crisis?

YANG: Wolf, I was thinking a lot about this.

Like, right now, we feel all this pressure to have our micro-impacts be low. So, you carry a bottle, instead of getting bottled water. You get those really irritating straws, sometimes not of your own choice. You recycle. You compost.

But then you have this sinking feeling in the back of your mind that your actions are not actually going to move the needle in the context of a $20 trillion economy.

And so what I would ask the American people is to think bigger about the changes we can make collectively, and that stop thinking that, if you take some personal action, it's going to solve things, because the reality is, we need to bring the entire world together.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Andrew Yang, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it very much.

YANG: Thank you. Thank you, guys.

Wish I could stay for selfies. Thank you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: And to all our viewers, up next, Senator Kamala Harris, followed by two more top candidates hoping to distinguish themselves tonight, Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:20:00]