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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Climate Crisis Town Hall with Joe Biden (D), Presidential Candidate. Aired 8-8:40p ET

Aired September 4, 2019 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:00]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Anderson Cooper.

Now, scientists tells us that if our planet warms more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 1.5 degrees Celsius, we are facing massive and dangerous tipping points. Flooded coastal cities, island nations underwater, and the destruction of coral reefs.

So tonight CNN is dedicating an entire night to the climate emergency and how the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates plan to address this urgent threat. We're coming to you, of course, tonight just as Hurricane Dorian, the strongest storm anywhere on the planet this year, has decimated parts of the Bahamas and is threatening the East Coast.

Ahead, we'll speak with Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Joining me right now on stage, former Vice President Joe Biden.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Nice to see you, sir.

(APPLAUSE)

So, welcome. Going to have an audience question in a minute. I just want to -- just some broad strokes here. Your climate plan calls for zero -- net zero emissions by the year 2050. There's a lot of policymakers out there who say, look, it's got to be done faster, they're talking 10, 12 years. Your climate change plan talks about spending $1.7 trillion. There's other candidates out there who are talking about spending $16 trillion. Is your plan aggressive enough? I guess that's the question people are asking.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I think it is aggressive enough. It has gotten good reviews from most of the environmental community. It's been rated very highly. And I think that it is aggressive enough.

But, look, science and technology are going to change. And as it changes, we learn more, we can do more. I mean, I'd love to do it by 2030. I'd love to do it by 2035, in terms of net zero emissions, but I know no scientist who says that's able to be done right now. But one thing we have to do, we have to start quickly, we have to start and do things that we know can be done immediately, and progress from there and just keep moving. There's a lot we have to do by 2030 just to set in place a set of institutional structures that mean you can't turn it around, like this president has done, the few things that were, in fact, in place.

COOPER: I want to go to the audience. I want you to meet Katie Eder from Shorewood, Wisconsin.

BIDEN: Hey, Katie.

COOPER: She's 19 years old. She's the executive director of Future Coalition, which is helping to organize a youth-led global strike later this month to draw attention to the climate crisis. Katie?

BIDEN: Good for you, Katie.

QUESTION: Hi, good evening. My question for you is, older generations have continued to fail our generation by repeatedly choosing money and power over our lives and our futures. So how we can trust you to put us, the future, over the wants of large corporations and wealthy individuals?

BIDEN: Because I've never done it. I've never made that choice my whole career. Simple. I mean, look, I got involved back in 1986. I introduced a climate change plan that PolitiFact said was a game- changer. I've been involved in everything from making sure we go with -- back in the '90s -- everything I've done has been done to take on the polluters and take on those who are, in fact, decimating our environment. I mean, that's been my career.

COOPER: Would you support a carbon tax? Some other candidates say they would.

BIDEN: Yeah, no, I would. But here's what we have to do. Look, the bottom line of this is, what we have to do is we have to understand that you need to be able to bring people and countries and interests together to get anything done. You can have -- plans are great, but executing on those plans is a very different thing. We make up -- it's the existential threat of not this generation, but the whole world, the existential threat that exists, if we don't move on it, number one.

COOPER: You say this is an existential threat.

BIDEN: It is an existential threat. There is no doubt about that. And the fact of the matter is that we make up 15 percent of the problem. The rest of the world makes up 80 percent, 85 percent of the problem. If we did everything perfectly, everything, and we must and should in order to get other countries to move, we still have to get the rest of the world to come along.

And the fact of the matter is, we have to up the ante considerably. And I have great experience in leading coalitions both at home and internationally. And I think I can do that better than anybody who -- no matter what their plans are.

COOPER: Well, that's one of the things that President Trump has said about the climate change accord, the agreement is that other countries, even if we do everything right, other countries are not going to be following it and therefore it's not worth being part of it.

BIDEN: Well, he's dead wrong across the board on basically everything. You know? No, I mean, I'm not being facetious. Look, you know, we've got to start choosing science over fantasy here.

The fact of the matter is that what he did by removing the United States as the leader of the Paris climate accord, he, in fact, dissipated the enthusiasm across the board. The rest of the countries are saying, whoa, wait a minute, why are we engaged in this if the United States is stepping down?

We're in a position where when we put that together -- and I was the one that suggested to the president -- President Obama, I don't want to confuse presidents here -- President Obama that China would be part of this effort when I came back after a long meeting with Xi Jinping in Beijing. And he was.

But here's the deal. The deal is now what's happened is that, as we have pulled out, there is no leadership. There is no leadership. I know almost every one of these world leaders. If I were -- if I had been president today, I would have at the G7 made sure this became the topic. There would be no empty chair.

I would be pulling the G7 together. I would be down with the president of Brazil saying enough is enough. This is what we're going to do, and this is what's going to happen if you don't do it. This is -- to bring the world together.

Folks, look, this is such an urgent problem. We need to be able -- the first thing I'd do as president of the United States is call a meeting of all the nations who signed onto the accord in Washington, D.C., to up the ante, because we have learned so much just in the last three years about the science of what has to happen quicker.

And the world knows it. And we should be in a position where we generate support around the rest of the world, and those who don't do their part, don't participate, then, in fact, they face consequences. They face consequences.

COOPER: I want to ask you more about that in a minute. I want to introduce you to Isaac Larkin.

BIDEN: Hey, Isaac.

COOPER: He's a PhD candidate at Northwestern University studying synthetic biology, which, honestly, I don't really even know what that is. I'd just throw that out.

QUESTION: It's awesome.

COOPER: He currently supports Senator Bernie Sanders, but you could change his mind tonight. Who knows? Isaac?

BIDEN: It doesn't look like I'd do that.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Senator Biden, I'm 27 years old. Half of all greenhouse gas emissions ever generated by the entire history of human civilization have been released in my lifetime, this despite the now well-documented fact that 40 years ago, scientists at Exxon and Shell knew and reported to their bosses that burning fossil fuels was warming the planet and would destabilize the climate.

Fossil fuel corporations, their executives, their trade and industry organizations, and their think-tank front groups have waged a decades- long campaign of lying to the public about the science, and it has brought us to a crisis that threatens the entire human race.

Now, I know that you signed a no fossil fuel money pledge, but I have to ask, how can we trust you to hold these corporations and executives accountable for their crimes against humanity when we know that tomorrow you are holding a high-dollar fundraiser hosted by Andrew Goldman, a fossil fuel executive?

BIDEN: He's not a fossil fuel executive.

(APPLAUSE)

He is not a fossil fuel executive. And the fact of the matter is that -- what we talk about is, what are we going to do about those corporations? What have we done? And everywhere along the way -- for example, I've argued and pushed for us suing those executives who are engaged in pollution, those companies engaged in pollution. I've never walked away from that.

I've also been one of those people who when I was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee got involved in plans to be able to join people together in order to take on these cooperate interests. When back in 1986, I entered one of the first climate plans that existed. PolitiFact said it was a game-changer. I've been engaged in this from the beginning.

COOPER: Let me just inform our audience about some of the details that everyone was talking about, because I think it's important -- I think a lot of people don't know about the studies that you cited. 2017, there was a Harvard study that examined both public and private communications from ExxonMobil. The study showed that for 40 years, while the company publicly were raising doubts about climate change and the dangers of it, internally, ExxonMobil scientists and executives were acknowledging the threat to the planet.

There was -- 2018, there was a Dutch news organization which uncovered internal communications from Royal Dutch Shell showing they understood the impacts of climate change and the company's contribution to it all the way back to the '80s.

Let me just point out that, in response to Harvard, Exxon said, "Our statements have been consistent with our understanding of climate science." Shell said, quote, its position on climate change has been a matter of public record for decades. "We strongly support the Paris agreement on climate change."

But Isaac's question is, will you hold fossil fuel corporations and executives who've lied to the public accountable?

BIDEN: Yes, and, by the way, just like we did the tobacco industry that lied to the public, just like we did the opioid industry.

COOPER: So, how do you do that?

BIDEN: Well, the way you do it is you try to change the law. You go after them, you try to change the law.

COOPER: To his other question, though, about this fundraiser, there is a fundraiser tomorrow night. It's given by a guy named Andrew Goldman. He's a -- he does hedge funds and stuff, but he also has a company called Western LNG, and their biggest project, which I think was announced in like 2018, is a floating liquefied facility for natural gas that's off the coast of British Columbia and it's going to provide Canadian gas to parts of Northern Asia.

So what Andrew was saying is, if you're going to a fundraiser that's given in part by this guy who has a company that is pulling up natural gas, are you the right guy to go after these people?

BIDEN: Well, I didn't realize he does that. I was told -- if you look at the SEC filings, he's not listed as one of those executives. That's what we look at, the SEC filings. Who are those executives? I've kept that pledge, period.

COOPER: So is that -- are you going to look at that fundraiser tomorrow night or...

BIDEN: I'm going to look at what you just told me and find out if that's accurate, yes.

COOPER: OK. I think it's pretty accurate. Aaron -- Isaac, I called you Aaron, I apologize. Isaac, thank you for your question. And I apologize for taking up so much time, but I thought it was important to give some context. I want to go to Francine Streich.

BIDEN: And, by the way, every one of my fundraisers from the beginning are open to the press. Press is for -- there's nothing that's done behind closed doors. Every single fundraiser I've had.

COOPER: Do you ever regret that?

BIDEN: No, not at all.

COOPER: I'm kidding, I'm kidding. This is Francine Streich, a community and union organizer from Brooklyn. Francine, welcome.

QUESTION: Right, hi. So my 24-year-old daughter, Jessie, and her friend, Jacob, were killed in Superstorm Sandy by falling trees. And many others were killed that night by rising waters. Since then, there have been worldwide superstorms, severe weather impacting hundreds, thousands. You know, we see an example of that tonight.

What specific steps -- and I mean specific -- would you take -- you said something before -- but what specific steps would you take in your first year regarding policies, funding, safe communities, jobs, that would help mitigate the impact of climate change in your first year? And then what would you want to have accomplished at the end of your first term, if elected?

BIDEN: Well, look, first of all, what we have to do is go back and turn back all of the changes that, in fact, the president has made, from CAFE standards to moving in a direction that we, in fact, deal with providing people who get displaced opportunities to have jobs, by sending them back to school, by doing continued education. Whole range of things.

I would see to it in the -- immediately, moving toward -- you know, we are, in fact, in a position now that if, in fact, we dealt with mitigation across the board, just what we did in the last administration, and before, leading to a standard that we provide efficiency for appliances, that saves billions of gallons of gasoline -- I mean, billions of -- two point -- I think it's $2.3 billion worth of -- excuse me, $500 billion in savings and two-point-something billion metric tons of CO-2 going into the air. We should do it across the board.

I think we should -- I propose we have 500,000 charging stations in the new green economy. We should own -- we should own the electric vehicle market. I think we should raise the CAFE standards, bring them back to where they were which would have saved 12 billion gallons of oil to begin with and move beyond.

I think we should be, in fact, doubling what we're doing immediately with regard to solar and wind. I would make sure that we -- and I'd go -- it goes on from there. But the bottom line is, to set in place standards that cannot be walked away from when, in fact, the next president, if someone else comes along, does what Trump tries to do.

COOPER: You talked about -- and that's an important point. How do you -- I mean, what can you do that President Obama couldn't to make sure that these things are not able to be reversed by, you know, executive fiat the next...

BIDEN: You're looking at it right now. These people right here. Look, it's a little bit like a whole lot of things that people didn't know before this guy became president, until he started to take it away.

And they started to take it away, and he said, whoa, wait a minute, man, look what that's done. He's changed the CAFE standards. We're not going to meet those standards. Well, that means boom. He's done this. It means bang. Everybody knows now, knows what he has done, and it's raised the ante significantly.

No one can any longer -- I remember when I introduced that bill back in 1986. They said, what the hell are you talking about, Biden? What's the crisis? Well, it wasn't -- we didn't have Superstorm Sandy at the time. We didn't have all these things that are occurring that people now know and were predicted they would occur. We weren't losing species that, in fact, we find are not going to be able to -- where they'll never return.

I mean, there's a whole range of things. Look what's happening right now in the Amazon. The Amazon is a natural carbon sink. It absorbs more CO-2 in the air, from the air than if we took every single automobile off the road in the United States of America. What's going on? Nothing. Nothing.

We're talking about $2 million. We should be organizing the world, demanding the change. That's -- there are the things I have done internationally. We need a diplomat in chief, as well, to be able to put this together. That's in my wheelhouse. I've done that my whole career.

COOPER: I want to introduce you by video to Sue Mitchell, a retired teacher from Grand Junction, Colorado. This is her question.

QUESTION: Even though President Obama knew of the seriousness of the climate crisis back in 2008, he chose to spend his political capital on health care and then wasn't able to enact the kind of systemic change needed to prevent climate catastrophe. How will you prioritize climate change action if you become president?

BIDEN: Well, first of all, in defense of President Obama, everything landed on his desk but locusts. We were heading toward -- we had the greatest financial catastrophe in the world, short of a depression. Nothing ever had occurred like that before. It was just getting America out of a ditch. We were in real, real trouble. He got the economy back on a footing and began a period of economic growth. He moved on, on health care because he thought it was so important that it happened at the time.

What from the beginning he also moved to deal with, with CAFE standards, he pushed very hard. He's the reason why we have the Paris climate accord. That's how we got it. No other president came close to doing anything like that.

But there's much, much more that need be done. At the time that accord was signed, we talked about, well, we'll reach by 40 percent by this, and -- the fact is we've learned a great deal more. The science is accumulating so rapidly. But this president pays no attention to it. So what are we doing? What's going on right now?

COOPER: I want to ask you about the Green New Deal. In your plan, you say that the Green New Deal is, quote, "a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face." You say it has two basic truths that we need to combat the climate crisis with what you say is ambition on an epic scale and that the environment and economy are, in your words, completely and totally connected. You're not saying that you support everything in the original Green New Deal. Do you think it goes too far? Is it unrealistic, promising too much? BIDEN: No, it's not. But here's what it is. It doesn't have a lot of specifics. It doesn't have a lot of specifics about exactly what we'll do with regard to greenhouse gases. And it doesn't have specifics of what programs are you going to initiate to be able to deal with taking -- getting a net zero emission. What programs are you going to move on? What are the things we should be doing? Where should the focus be?

It doesn't talk about the 85 percent of the rest of the world that is, in fact -- we could do -- we're not. We have to. But we could do everything perfectly well. Everything. And we're still going to have a catastrophe nationally, internationally, and around the world, because 85 percent of the problem, 85 percent is the rest of the world.

And so the idea -- I think the Green New Deal deserves an enormous amount of credit for bringing this to a head in a way that it hasn't been before. It hasn't been. But the reason -- I don't know, I'm not opposed to the Green New Deal. What I did was went, I thought, beyond -- at least in more detail what the Green New Deal is calling for, how to do the things we need to do, when they have to be done, how quickly we should move, how much we should invest, et cetera.

And it's based on science. And look, I just -- just look at all the organizations that many of you belong to, how they've raided my plan. On balance, it's been B-plus or beyond that by every one of these organization. And so the idea that -- no, you're shaking your head no, but that's true. The fact of the matter is that, where -- where -- where are we?

COOPER: For you and your thinking, how much do you take into consideration, you know, jobs for folks in Ohio and Pennsylvania? And how much is, you know, thinking for seven generations out for the population of the world?

BIDEN: It's all about seven generations out, but you got to deal with what's going on with jobs. This is an enormous opportunity. An enormous opportunity. We can create over 10 million jobs that are making $25 bucks an hour. We're not talking about jobs you're going to get a minimum wage.

We can do so much, if we invest the kind of money -- for example, I call for immediately investing $400 billion in research and development now. And go -- I mean, so the idea that we're not going to -- look, what I -- what bothers me most about what's going on in the country today, we're walking around with our heads down like, oh, what are we going to do? We're in such great trouble.

This is the United States of America. There is not a damn thing we've not been able to accomplish once we set our mind to it. We have the best scientists in the world, and when we resolve what we're going to do, and because of all of you in this studio audience and all those organizations that I've been associated with, they've decided enough is enough is enough, we have to act.

And so that -- I mean, I just am -- we can create enormous opportunity in Pennsylvania, in Minnesota, in California, across the board. Just think what happens. If we are able to move in a direction that we have 500,000 charging stations for electric vehicles, what does that do? Well, that gives us a corner on the electric vehicle market. That will create thousands of good jobs in the automobile industry. We will own the market, own the market.

And we will be -- in addition to that -- transferring the technology that we come up with, more than like any other country in the world with our capacity, selling it to the rest of the world. We'll be creating jobs.

And I just -- the idea that -- now, the one thing you have to do, in my view, some people are going to be displaced, and they're going to -- more people -- some people in some industries are going to be more displaced than others. And you can't just say, well, what we're going to do is automatically you're going to all of a sudden make solar panels -- or because, you know, when you look at Fortune, they say they're the two biggest job creators coming down the road, solar and wind.

Well, look -- look what happened to our administration. We cut by an enormous amount of -- an enormous percentage the efficiency of being able to generate wind and solar energy. And we can do more than that. It's about what we can generate if we set our minds to it.

COOPER: I want...

BIDEN: And we walk around like, oh, man, I don't know, what are we going to do? This is terrible.

COOPER: We're going to have more questions in just a moment, more with the vice president coming up, as well as Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to CNN's climate crisis town hall. Later tonight, you'll hear from Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Let's continue right now with former Vice President Joe Biden.

I want to introduce you to Barbara Jarmoska -- did I have that right?

BIDEN: Hey, Barbara.

COOPER: Retired business owner from Montoursville, Pennsylvania. Barbara?

QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. Vice President. I live in rural Pennsylvania in the bull's eye of the Marcellus shale. Currently the county I live in is home to 1,600-plus permitted fracked gas wells. I have witnessed firsthand the tragic and appalling destruction of our beautiful forests and Pennsylvania wilds.

Sadly, our Democratic governor is all in for fracked gas. As president, what can you do to change the direction of the catastrophic climate change policies and future plans at the state level?

COOPER: And I just want to point out to our viewers, the Marcellus shale is a rock formation underground. It's enormous. It's approximately two-thirds of Pennsylvania, as well as parts of New York, Ohio, and West Virginia and Maryland is the natural gas field in the U.S.

BIDEN: I know that. Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: That was for...

BIDEN: No, no, no, I -- thank you. I appreciate the help. Look, number one, I think the way we deal with state lands is we have less -- we have less latitude, what we say we can and cannot do.

I've argued against any more oil drilling or gas drilling on federal lands that we can -- and to stop that. I think we should, in fact, be looking at what exists now and making a judgement whether or not the -- those, in fact, that are there, those wells that are there, whether or not they're dangerous, whether or not they've already done the damage, and what we can do from there by trying to change the attitude of the members of the governors of the various states and the state legislatures.

Now, we could pass national legislation, but I don't think we'd get it done, in terms of getting the votes to get it done, to say all fracking that's going on now ends unless you can show there's some physical security need or worried about explosions, et cetera, which is a legitimate thing to worry about. But I would not allow any more.

COOPER: Also, I just want to point out, in fairness to the governor of Pennsylvania, he stopped short -- he's moved to regulate and limit some fracking, stopped short of calling for a statewide ban. So just to be clear, you would not call for a ban statewide on fracking or nationwide? You said stop new oil and gas drilling on federal lands?

BIDEN: Yes.

COOPER: OK.

BIDEN: And I would also go back and look at what's out there now to determine whether or not it is safe, physically safe, because they're called earthquakes and the like. That's what I would do.

COOPER: Our next question...

BIDEN: There used to be an EPA.

(LAUGHTER)

No, you think I'm kidding. It's almost not there now, but anyway.

COOPER: Our next question is from Daniel Sweeney, a student at Columbia Law School. He said he voted for President Trump. He's now disillusioned with the Republican Party, plans to change parties and vote for a Democrat in the next election. Daniel, welcome.

QUESTION: China is current...

BIDEN: God love you.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: China is currently the largest emitter of CO-2. How, if at all, would you try to get China to lower its emissions as president?

BIDEN: I would make it real clear -- that's why we have to bring around the rest of the world. We have to reconfigure what's going on. When we did the Paris accord that they signed onto, it was agreed that we would constantly up the ante, the nations would agree to, contingent upon what the science dictated and the extent of the problem. It has to be, we have to up the ante, what's going on, number one.

Number two, any nation that doesn't do that -- for example, what China is doing, they're exporting -- they're exporting coal technology, they're building coal plants on their Belt and Road area. They're moving in a way that they're, in fact, making the environment much, much worse. They, in fact, have increased I think 4.5 percent. They have increased the emissions from China.

And so there has to be a price that they pay if they do that. And that's why I would talk about dealing with how we deal with them in terms of tariffs relating to their products that are being sold, if, in fact, they are involved in continuing to export, export this climate change. That's what they're doing.

But you've got to get the rest of the world in on the deal to do it. That's how you get it done. And that's why it's important for us to meet the standards we say we're going to meet. Because it went up 2.5 percent in the United States, it increased emissions, just in the last couple years under this president. It levelled out about 17 and now it's up 2.5 percent.

And so we can't very -- you can't very well preach to the choir if, in fact, you can't sing. You know, I mean, we have to be able to demonstrate what we are prepared to do, what we will do, what we have done, and call the rest of the world to account.

COOPER: So let me ask you about that, because you talk about exporting. The United States is projected to be a net energy exporter by next year, largely because of crude oil and natural gas. Should the U.S. ban fossil fuel exports, as some other candidates are calling for?

BIDEN: Well, I think -- I think we should, in fact, depending on what it is they're exporting for what they're replacing. Everything is incremental. Everything is incremental. For example, you talked earlier about transportation. I've been pushing really hard for mass transit and for rail. We can take millions of vehicles off the road if we had high-speed rail. I've been a champion of that for the last 25 years.

We know the corridors where we could do that. And it would literally take millions of vehicles off the road. But you have to have a rail system that makes people say, if I get on that rail, I will get there as fast as I would have gotten had I driven and I can afford to do it relative to the cost of my driving. There's a direct correlation.

This is something I spent the bulk of my career on, trying to save Amtrak and a few other little things like transportation. But my point is that there are things that we can do now, now, that can begin to change the arc in a significant way. And as we, in fact, invest in the science and the technology and the changes that are available, and will come to fruition, in fact, we can make it significantly better.

COOPER: Should -- will there be a point or would you like there to be a point -- and if so, when -- that everybody drives an electric car or has to drive an electric car?

BIDEN: Well, I think, look -- that's going to be based upon whether or not we can make it economically feasible. And it is economically feasible, because guess what? Everybody knows where the world is going. You're not -- just like, you know -- we set out the rules for what kind of plant, you know, coal-burning plants. No one is going to build another coal-burning -- we've got to shut down the ones down we have, but no one is going to build a new one. Guess what? They're not efficient relative to what else is available to be done.

That's why people are going to move and that's why it's going to create so many new jobs for us. We have to take the -- take combustion engine vehicles off the road as rapidly as we can, but that also can create a significant number of jobs and opportunities for people.

COOPER: Our chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir, is here. I know he has a question for you.

WEIR: Thank you, Anderson. Vice President Biden, as we keep one eye on Hurricane Dorian tonight, it's safe to assume that an awful lot of folks in the Carolina low country are thinking about life and safety and probably insurance.

There were 14 separate billion-dollar storms or fires last year, total of $91 billion, and it just seems logical...

BIDEN: We didn't rake enough leaves, as the president...

WEIR: Yeah. Anyway, right, but it seems reasonable to assume that at some point insurance companies are going to stop covering places that are vulnerable, even in fire regions, as you say, as well.

But if that happens, it could tank real estate values and it could gut out property values, and the tax base that so many communities depend on. So as president, how would you be honest with the American people when it comes to the dangers of this, without feeding into this kind of an economic spiral? BIDEN: Just like I did at home. My stage is three feet above sea

level, OK? Three feet above sea level on the southern part of the state, the whole Delmarva peninsula. And guess what? We know what's going to happen if we don't make significant change. And so we'll be telling people: Don't build in these places here.

WEIR: But what about the people that are already there?

BIDEN: The people who are already there are going to be in real trouble. They're going to be in real trouble, because you're right. Eventually what's going to happen is, you're going to have insurance companies come along and say I can't insure that, because the prospect that that is going to be blown away is overwhelming.

And so we have to, you know, be in a position where when we build back, we don't build back to normal, we build back to what is necessary. And so there's a whole range of things that are going on now in terms of, you know -- anyway, I'm taking too long. Sorry.

COOPER: I want to introduce you to John Cecil from Phillipsburg, New Jersey. He's the vice president for stewardship at the New Jersey Audubon Society. John?

BIDEN: Hey, John.

QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. Biden. Across the country and around the world, individuals, families, businesses, we're experiencing climate change, the effects of it now. In New Jersey, where I live, we've had unprecedented rain in the last 18 months. In the South, we see these storms coming through...

BIDEN: And in the West.

QUESTION: ... and in the western United States, the devastating fires. So all of this is really disruptive to people, families, businesses. My question for you is, a bit of a personal one, how has climate change affected you and your family?

BIDEN: The way it's affected me and my family is I was raised in a little town called Claymont, Delaware. More oil refineries in (inaudible) in -- takes care of 10 million people. Prevailing winds are south and southeast.

I remember when I was a kid, getting up and going to school, the little Catholic high school, grade school I went to, and get in a car, and my uncle would drive us up, and the first misty day, turn on the windshield wiper, there would be oil on the window. I don't know if that's why I have asthma, but I know that's one of the reasons why Delaware at one point was rated as having a disproportionally high number of cancer cases, because of what was going on.

That's why we pushed really hard to make sure that we, in fact, required mitigation to be taken on all of those plants, some of which we've shut down. And so it's affected my family in a way and my state in a way that's been real, more than it's affected Jersey, more than it's affected Jersey. And so I understand what's going on. But look at the Pine Barons.

You got a lot to worry about there in terms of fires and drought, but the flip of it is, look what's happened in the Midwest. We have a number of significant bases that relate -- military bases that relate to our national security that, in fact, were rendered almost useless including -- I can't go into great detail to say it, but my -- my point is, it significantly reduced our national security.

Last thing I'll say. First thing that happened when the president -- when President Obama and I were elected, we went over to what they call -- and some of you are military women and men -- over to the tank in the Pentagon, sat down and got the briefing on the greatest danger facing our security. You know what they told us it was, the military? Climate change. Climate change. The single greatest concern for war and disruption in the world, short of a nuclear exchange immediately.

And so where are we? Look what happened in Darfur. What's Darfur all about? Darfur is all about the fact that the sub-Saharan desert, because of the change in climate, no longer had enough arable land. Look what's happened in Indonesia, they're talking about moving their capital because it's going to sink. What happens if you get 10 million, 12 million, 13 million, 15 million, 100 million people on the move? That causes wars.

And so it's well beyond whether or not it affects me personally, which it does, and it did my family, and still does, just like your families. This is personal. It's personal. Every one of you probably have a story that can talk about what's happened to something you care greatly about, whether it's a species or it's your son or daughter coming down with cancer because of it.

So it -- but we can do something. We have to act. Now. Now.

COOPER: Mr. Vice President, Isaac earlier mentioned the fundraiser. I want to clarify Andrew Goldman, the guy who's one of the co-sponsors of the fundraiser, he had a company called -- he was a co-founder of a company called Western LNG. He currently doesn't have day-to-day responsibilities. So...

BIDEN: What I was told by my staff is that he did not have any responsibility relating to the company, he was not on the board, he was not involved at all in the operation of the company at all. And -- but if that turns out to be true, then I will not in any way accept his help.

But my point of the fact is that -- the point I was told by my staff -- and we check every single contribution. That's why we don't send, we don't list them immediately. We go through every contribution to make sure that we are not accepting money from people we said we wouldn't or we shouldn't.

COOPER: So the clarification, as I said (inaudible) or the company doesn't currently have day-to-day responsibilities, so -- as you said. Mr. Vice President, thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE) BIDEN: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Senator Bernie Sanders coming up next. He's proposed a $6.3 trillion climate plan. Then Senator Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

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