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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Climate Crisis Town Hall with Beto O'Rourke (D), Presidential Candidate. Aired 10:40-11:20p ET

Aired September 4, 2019 - 22:40   ET

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


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[22:40:00]

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: And welcome back everyone to this unprecedented night here on CNN. I'm Don Lemon and thank you so much for joining us or staying with us. We've heard from eight candidates on this stage and we have two Democratic presidential candidates left answering voters questions about the climate emergency.

You know, scientists tell us that we are seeing the consequences of the climate crisis now, but that we'll be -- we'll 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 by one degree since the industrial revolution, so we're more than halfway there already. And right now, as you know, the Carolinas are bracing for Hurricane Dorian and it's potentially life threatening storm surge.

For the very latest now, let's go to the CNN Weather Center with CNN's Jennifer Gray. Jennifer.

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Don, I wouldn't be surprised if this storm, it reaches Category 3 status once again. It's only one mile per hour shy of that as far as the winds go, with 110 mile per hour winds. It has been intensifying a little bit throughout the late afternoon and evening hours. Gusts of 130. It's about 120, 130 miles south of Charleston right now and it is heading in a northerly direction.

Now, South Carolina, North Carolina, they will get the brunt of it, especially places like Charleston that can't handle a lot of water being pushed in. We could see near record flooding across there as far as tides go. You can see the center of the storm right there, the eye is expanding very, very wide. We're also going to get storm surge all up and down the Carolina coast, including North Carolina as this could make a potential landfall on South Carolina or North Carolina in the next day or so. Don.

LEMON: Jennifer Gray, thank you very much for that.

You know, scientists have partly blamed human-induced climate change for the intensity of these storms that are hitting our coastal states. Which brings me now to our next candidate. So everyone, please welcome former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke.

Welcome, Congressman.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you for having me on. Thank you.

LEMON: Good to see you.

O'ROURKE: Good to see you as well.

LEMON: Thank you so much.

O'ROURKE: Thank you all.

LEMON: Right off --

O'ROURKE: Thank you all. Gracias.

LEMON: The first thing that you would do to deal with this climate crisis.

O'ROURKE: Day one, re-enter the Paris Climate Agreement. On that same day, make sure that we lead the world in going well beyond the Paris Climate Agreement. Ensure that we regulate and enforce reduced greenhouse gas emissions from methane, and then get to net zero on public lands by ensuring we have no new oil and gas leases on federally protected lands and offshore areas that are now being drilled today. Those three steps are a great place to start and a good pace to set. And then we follow that up by making sure that we have legally enforceable standards every single year over which no polluter can emit. We make sure that we get to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, earlier if we can, halfway there by 2030. And then we protect the most vulnerable communities, those who are on the front lines of climate change and pollution, making sure that we lift them up, protect their populations and ensure that there's environmental justice in this country.

LEMON: Speaking of lifting up, I should've worn taller shoes. My goodness.

O'ROURKE: Yes.

LEMON: All right, Congressman, let's get started. I wanted to get things started with Priya Subberwal. Priya's from Frisco, Colorado. She's a student at New York University majoring in environmental studies and she currently supports Elizabeth Warren. Priya, what's your question?

O'ROURKE: Hey, Priya.

PRIYA SUBBERWAL, AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi. So your climate proposal is unclear as to whether or not you support a carbon tax. What deters you from a carbon tax or from a cap and trade system? And if you are unwilling, what standards would you alternatively put in place to create a legally enforceable standard for emissions?

O'ROURKE: So we should certainly price carbon. I think the best possible path to do that is through a cap and trade system. There would be allowances granted or sold to polluters, not just in the energy sector but in transportation as well as our industrial sector - cement, steel, the chemicals that we produce.

There would be a set number of allowances that would decrease every single year. Because the clock is running, we have a little more than 10 years left. We don't have time to experiment. So I think that is the best possible path to ensure that there's a price for carbon and pollution in our economy. Set the standard here and then lead the globe; convene the other powers of the planet to make sure that they're doing their part as well. Thanks for the question.

LEMON: Just to be clear, do you support a carbon tax? Yes or no?

O'ROURKE: No. I think that a cap and trade is the best possible path. I think that's the best way to send the pricing signal to ensure that there is a legally enforceable limit. And so that's the path that I'm going to choose.

LEMON: All right. Congressman, I'm going to bring in Lauren Skinner. Lauren submitted a video. She's from Bel Air, Maryland. She's a teacher and a mother to two boys. Here she is, Lauren.

O'ROURKE: Great.

LAUREN SKINNER: I'm trying my best to go green and I'm finding it to be quite expensive. For instance, even with state and federal tax credits, solar panels cost thousands of dollars. The average American does not have this kind of money set aside when they have so many other expenses.

My question for you is, as president, what will you do specifically to make going green more affordable for all Americans? Thank very much.

O'ROURKE: So Lauren, thank you for your question. And it's related to Priya's question as well. I was talking about cap and trade. Those allowances that we sell, that income, that revenue is used to help Americans meet the costs of a transitioning economy by meeting -- making sure that all of us can meet our obligations when it comes to climate change.

So that's investment in those communities that are on the front lines, that's investment in making sure that you can afford solar panels or an electric vehicle. That's an investment in communities to make sure that we have transit or housing that is closer to where people work. I routinely meet people who are driving one or two hours to work who are being paid a minimum wage or maybe a little bit more, unable to afford the life that they have so they're working a second or a third job. If we create more housing stock closer to where people live and have the resources to invest in that through a cap and trade system, then we're going to be able to meet our challenges and improve the quality of life of our fellow Americans.

LEMON: What would you like to see Americans do to help fight climate change? What can we all do in our own lives?

O'ROURKE: Yes. I want us to respond to this in -- with the urgency that this crisis demands. And I see that, by the way, from so many of the people who are here, so many young people in particular who understand that we don't get a second chance at this. I see that from my own kids who are going to be younger than I am right now by the year 2050, whose judgment I fear more than anything else, who I love more than anything else. And I want to make sure that we get that right.

And I feel that same urgency, that same ambition and that same understanding that this is America and we are up to this challenge. We can convene the ingenuity, the innovation of the private sector. We can lead from the public sector through those parameters and mandates that we set. We can perform to that, and we can lead the world on the greatest challenge that we've ever had.

To quote Winston Churchill, this could be our finest hour, and I want America to come together, regardless of Republicans or Democrats or your geography or any other difference, do not allow that to divide us at this critical, important, defining moment. This is our challenge and I know that we are up to the test.

LEMON: I didn't offer you a seat. You OK standing?

O'ROURKE: I'm great standing.

LEMON: You'd rather stand? OK.

O'ROURKE: Yes.

LEMON: Well, let's bring in Todd Fernandez, he's an international human rights lawyer here in New York. Todd, what do you have for us?

TODD FERNANDEZ: Hi there.

O'ROURKE: Good evening.

FERNANDEZ: I'm so panicked by this crisis that I've now dedicated my future career to climate activism full time. And I grew up in a Republican household in Florida a long time ago. And my question is, Republicans used to be the protectors of nature. So how do we renew that spirit among the people of Texas and America in general?

O'ROURKE: Yes, great point. I'm thinking about Teddy Roosevelt, one of the great Republican leaders of more than a century ago who was so instrumental in protecting our public lands. Republicans as well as Democrats as well as Independents have kids and grandkids, care about the future of this planet, care about the future of the generations that will follow them and want to do the right thing. How do I know that?

I campaigned for the United States Senate in the state of Texas. Every single one of the 254 counties that I went to, we talked about climate change. We talked about freeing ourselves from a dependence on fossil fuels, about investing in wind and solar, the renewable energy technologies that will allow us to meet our obligations to that future generation and also create the high value, high wage, high skilled jobs that are demand in this country right now.

And at the end of the day, we won more votes than any Democrat had in Texas history, won Independents for the first time in decades, and more than 400,000 Republicans like my mom, who we convinced to vote for me, supported us in that election. So I found that this is more of a popular issue across party lines than I would have imagined before. This is something that can unite us. And I think we just have to speak boldly and confidently about a progressive agenda that allows us to get there, and the country is there.

LEMON: Yes.

O'ROURKE: Thank you.

LEMON: You had to convince my mother to vote for you?

O'ROURKE: I did, yes.

LEMON: I just want to follow -- let me follow up on her question here because as you know, President Trump has rolled back a number of Obama environmental -- Obama era environmental regulations, including plans announced just today to reverse a rule about energy efficient light bulbs. Would you bring back all of those Obama era regulations?

O'ROURKE: Absolutely. Higher vehicle emissions standards, a clean power plan so that the electricity that we're generating is clean, and we completely electrify this economy from our power sector to our transportation sector to our industrial sector. We put farmers in the driver's seat. The next iteration of the Farm Bill pays them for the environmental services that they want to provide. Planting cover crops, keeping more land under conservation, allowing them to use regenerative agriculture and ranching. That's the way of the future. And those farmers and ranchers and producers and growers are already there. They want to lead the way. They just need a government that reflects that.

So yes, let's not only reverse the damage that Donald Trump has done, and he's done a lot. Let's go much further than any administration before his has gone. That's our opportunity right now and I want us to meet that challenge.

LEMON: All right, let's continue on with the audience questions here. Standing in front of you is Juliana Rossi de Camargo. She lives in Washington, D.C., where she works as a fellow at the Sunrise Movement, a youth climate change -- chairman, excuse me, at the climate change advocacy group. Juliana, what do you have?

JULIANA ROSSI DE CAMARGO, AUDIENCE MEMBER: I'm from Brazil and I immigrated to various countries before coming to the United States. I witnessed the climate crisis in each country I've lived in, from droughts in Angola, from flash floods in Brazil, to contaminated water in Ecuador and extreme weather in the U.S. Now, the Amazon is being burned. A big incentive for deforestation comes from U.S. investors in the Brazilian meat industry.

How will you use U.S. trade leverage to encourage Brazil to protect these vital resources and the indigenous people who live there?

O'ROURKE: Great question. Juliana, thank you for the question, and also thank you for your leadership on this. You and other members of the Sunrise Movement are going to be the ones who are going to receive the credit for this change that we're talking about today. You have forced those in positions of power and those who seek positions of public trust to do the right thing and to address these issues.

So you mentioned our involvement and investment in Brazil. This is one of the pernicious outcomes of Donald Trump's trade policies. This trade war with China that is not only closed markets that farmers in Iowa and across this country have worked their entire lives to open up. It's not only put them further in debt at a time of declining farm incomes. It is providing an incentive for people to burn down the Amazon rainforest to plant soybeans so that they can sell into China because China right now is looking for new sellers, new producers for those soybeans that they are no longer buying from the United States of America.

So our trade policies, our leadership, the blown opportunities at the G7 Summit. To convene those other top wealthy economies to make sure that this is our focus, to save the lungs of the planet that produce 6 percent of the oxygen that we breathe and to ensure that we do not trigger a crisis in the Amazon. Once it is set, we will never be able to roll back. This is our opportunity. That is the threat that we face. And so we must be an international leader on these issues.

In Brazil, in Guatemala, where we've helped to precipitate a drought that they have never seen before, which has forced families to travel 2,000 miles to come to this country seeking asylum and refuge and salvation only to have their children placed in kids and their parents deported back. We have to understand that we are all connected on this planet. We all have a responsibility and United States, especially, the indispensable country, has the opportunity to lead. And as president, I will. Thank you for asking.

LEMON: All right. Congressman, everyone stand by. We're going to have more voter questions for former Congressman O'Rourke in just a moment and, in minutes, Senator Cory Booker.

O'ROURKE: All right.

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LEMON: Welcome back here, a historic night on CNN with the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates. In just a few minutes, we're going to hear from Senator Cory Booker, but we want to get more of your questions now for former Congressman Beto O'Rourke.

So let's bring in now, I want to bring in Peggy Shepard, Congressman. Bring her into the conversation. She is a cofounder and executive director of We Act for Environmental Justice. It's based in New York, right (inaudible) in New York City. Getting lot of applause. It's a group that fights for equal environmental protections for people of color and low income residents. Peggy what's your question?

PEGGY SHEPARD: Yes. Good evening.

O'ROURKE: Good evening.

SHEPARD: An important environmental justice concern is extreme heat which kills more residents each year than storm surge. So what would you do to address this issue through building codes, or policies that really begin to address the escalating energy costs and the lack of air conditioning? And the lack of the ability to pay for air conditioning by vulnerable populations? Over 31 percent over - - over 31 million households in this country are energy insecure.

O'ROURKE: Peggy, thanks for the work that you're doing. Thank you for asking the question and thank you for pointing out a very real and present crisis that we have in this country right now and across much of the world. We talked about the ability to spend on helping those communities on the front lines of climate change right now through the revenues from cap and trade system. So that means that those communities, very often lower income, and right now race ethnicity is the best predictor to your - - to your proximity to a polluter are first in line to get the help that they need. That they deserve and that they've missed for generations.

This is a personal issue for me. El Paso, Texas is the second fastest, warming city in the United States of America today. We've had more than 14 days over 100 degrees over the month of August which broke the record for as long as we've been studying records in our - - in our community. And I'll tell you something Peggy and Don, my son Henry who's eight years old, when I was talking to him the other night. He asked me, Dad if you win and you become president we get to live in El Paso right? And I said, no, if - - if we win the way this works we would live in Washington, D.C.

But he knew because I had told him about the warming that we face that our community will be uninhabitable, not sustain human life along this current trajectory unless something dramatically and fundamentally changes. So the people of El Paso and the desert Southwest and the lower 9th Ward in New Orleans and Charleston, South Carolina and Miami, Florida, really the people of this country are counting on all of us right now to stand up and be counted and do the right thing. So we will make those investments but the most important thing is to arrest the rate of climate change on this planet to ensure that we do not warm a degree and a half Celsius over those pre-industrial revolutions - - revolution levels. That's my number one priority and that's why climate was the first plan I released as a candidate for the presidency. Thanks for asking the question.

(APPLAUSE)

LEMON: Congressman, Romaira Layz is standing right in front of you. I think it's important to point out that she was living in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria struck. She's now living in Rochester, New York. What's your question?

ROMAIRA LAYZ: Yes. We all know about the recent events that made Puerto Rico to be in the international media. Especially about the wrong handling of funds and other types of assistance that were sent after the hurricane hit. This made us victims, very angry, feel betrayed and heartbroken. What will your plan be if another natural event happens to make sure that victims get the necessary assistance on time and in a fair way?

O'ROURKE: It makes me angry as well. I hope it makes everybody angry the way that we've treated the people of Puerto Rico, our fellow Americans who were left in harms way without the necessary investment in the infrastructure to mitigate the storms that we knew were going to hit them. There are only more severe and more frequent and more devastating, thanks to our excesses, our emissions, our inaction in the face of climate change. And to add insult to injury, President Trump is taking money away from FEMA to send to the U.S.-Mexico border. One of the safest places in America today to try to build a wall or put more kids in cages or - - or try to militarize a problem that we do not have in this country right now.

And that's at the expense of the people in South Carolina and Florida, North Carolina and Puerto Rico. So I want to make sure that we fully fund those disaster response agencies. I want to make sure that we fully fund pre-disaster mitigation grants because we know the people of Puerto Rico are going to see more storms like the ones that we've seen in the past only they're going to be much larger and - - and much deadlier. And so we need to invest ahead of time, not afterwards and then the last thing. We need to make sure for the people of Puerto Rico can determine their future. Now whether that is independence, whether they want to remain a territory or whether that is statehood with two U.S. senators who can go to town for them in the U.S. Congress to bring down the resources that they need. We need to support the people of Puerto Rico.

(APPLAUSE)

O'ROURKE: Thank you for asking.

LEMON: Congressman, as you know, Texas has been hit hard by climate disasters recently and you know Harvey was particularly damaging to Houston, Texas. Yet it has been reported that many people are rebuilding, moving right back into homes in the exact locations that are known to flood now, badly now or in the future. The question is, parts of Houston or Texas, are there parts that people should simply not live in so that - - because they're too risky now?

O'ROURKE: We should help people move when they need to move, when they've repaired their homes not once, not twice but three times just in the last five years because Houston, Texas, the example you gave has witnessed three 500 year storms in five years. They should good for 1,500 years but they're not because if we listen to the scientists and I do. We know that those storms are going to become ever more frequent. We were in the Cashmere Gardens neighborhood with their neighborhood president Keith Downey (ph) and he was showing us some of these homes a year after Harvey hit that had still not been rebuilt.

On every other lamppost or telephone pole, there was a yellow sign that said sell your home for cash and - - and people were. They'd - - they'd worked a lifetime to build up the equity in those homes but they could no longer afford to rebuild them and they were going to lose them for pennies on the dollar. This is an issue of environmental justice that - - that Peggy was talking about. So lets as Americans invest in the people of Houston and the Southeast of America and every community that's on the front lines of climate change, to rebuild where we can and to move where we must. It's not an inexpensive proposition but what is far more expensive is to continue to pay to rebuild, to measure the cost of climate change if we do not need it and not the billions but the trillions of dollars going forward.

So let's invest now so we can pay less now than we would have to be

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Are there parts of Houston and - - and parts of Texas where people simply should not live because it's too risky?

O'ROURKE: I - - I think there are - - are neighborhoods that have repeatedly flooded. People who would move out of those neighborhoods, if they could, they are sick and tired of being flooded and rebuilding but they cannot afford to do that. And that's why under my administration, we are going to invest the resources that will allow people to move to safer ground, rebuild their homes, rebuild their businesses and rebuild their lives.

LEMON: All right Congressman. I'm going to move on now to Daniella Simari. Daniella's a graduate student studying environmental science and policy at Columbia University. She's currently supports Senator Elizabeth Warren. Daniella.

DANIELLA SIMARI: Good evening. (inaudible) environmental consequences of the climate crisis have cause enormous human migration movements for communities in the global south, would it be America's strategy to address migration and a potential influx of immigrants under your administration?

O'ROURKE: Daniella, thank you for the question and "Go Lions". I'm a Columbia grad.

(APPLAUSE)

O'ROURKE: Let's begin by acknowledging our culpability and our responsibility connected to that. It is the global - - the wealthiest countries in - - in the north that have produced the majority of the climate change that we are seeing but it's disproportionably impacting not just the global south but countries like the Bahamas. What if we started there given the fact that they just got pounded by the largest storm they have ever seen? What if we offered temporary protective status, TPS to anyone in the Bahamas who wants to come and seek shelter and refuge here in the United States of America? What if - -

(APPLAUSE)

O'ROURKE: - - to those in - - in Guatemala who are facing the greatest drought that country has ever seen. What if we don't turn them away from the U.S. -Mexico border, make them remain in place in Ciudad Juarez which has 13,000 people who are fleeing the deadliest places on the planet and those place that are born the brunt of climate change so far. Honor our own asylum laws in the best traditions of this country of immigrants and asylum seekers and refugees and allow them to apply for asylum and included as a permissible part of the application, those who have been impacted by climate change.

It's the right thing to do. It's just. It's part of our great tradition as a country of immigrants. And by the way, those who come to this country will reveal their genius here. They will make us better by their very presence. Stronger, more successful and safer, as I can attest, you know, El Paso, Texas, one of the safest cities in the United States. A city of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees, that's the right way to respond.

LEMON: Can we follow up on that a little bit because you mentioned asylum seekers who were effected by the climate crisis. Currently people who migrate because of climate crisis don't have special protections under international laws, as refugees under international law. Secretary Casterous (ph) proposed creating a special category for climate refugees. Would you do the same thing?

O'ROURKE: Yes. As I just said, I think that is part of our responsibility and also we better than any other country on the face of the planet, understand the benefit that we gain when immigrants and refugees and asylum seekers come here. They do great things for themselves and their families. They do great things for all of us. That is what has made us the greatest country on the face of the planet. So I see this as both an obligation, a responsibility but also an opportunity.

LEMON: Yes. See that guy staring at you right there.

O'ROURKE: Bill.

LEMON: That's Bill Weir, a long night for you. He's our Chief Climate Change Correspondent, he's got more questions for you. Bill.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CHANGE CORRESPONDENT: We're coming down to the ninth inning. Congressman, good to see you. A question I'm sure you hear in Texas every now and then. To grow one pound of beef, it takes 20 times the land and creates 20 times the carbon pollution as one pound of plant protein. And so as president, how do you think the American diet should change, agriculture should change and to all those carnivores in your state can they have their steak and eat it too?

O'ROURKE: I - - I - -

WEIR: Groans. I knew that one was going to die.

LEMON: Yes.

O'ROURKE: Thanks for asking the question. The answer is yes but what we eat, what we consume, how we live is all going to have reflect the true cost of carbon and climate change and pollution. And I'm confident that those ranchers in Texas whom I've visited with and my wife grew up on - - on a cattle ranch in - - in New Mexico, they're going to be able to meet the targets that we set. I - - I believe in the ingenuity of the American rancher and the American farmer. I believe that we can be up to these challenges and reject any notion that we have to radically or fundamentally change how we eat or what we eat. I think we just have to be more responsible in the way that we do it and the best way to do that is to allow the markets to respond by setting a price on carbon in every single part of our economy, every facet of American life.

WEIR: Yes.

LEMON: You've got one lady applause.

O'ROURKE: Yes. Yes.

LEMON: And she's wearing the Cow Pots t-shirt that's sitting right in front.

O'ROURKE: Go dairy farmers. Yes. Yes.

LEMON: Colin Evans is here. He is a PhD student at Cornell University studying atmospheric science. Colin, welcome.

O'ROURKE: Hi, Colin.

COLIN EVANS: Congressman, many candidates on the stage tonight and you in the recent past have said that climate change is our greatest existential threat. Those are really strong words and while I agree I think its important to know why. So I'm curious to know if you've sat down with climate scientists to discuss what's actually going on? If you have a climate scientist on your staff and do you fully understand the fundamental, physical problems of greenhouse warming?

O'ROURKE: Yes. Thank you asking the question. Yes. I listen to and read the work that scientist produce. Three hundred years after the enlightened, I think they're the best subject matter experts on what we're talking about today. So I believe in that science and the truth and in the facts and that's reflected in the policies that we've adopted. The proposals that we make. The $5 trillion that we want to be able to activate over the next 10 years to meet this existential threat but I also read a book that changed fundamentally how I - - I look at this. Uninhabitable Earth, which describes the consequences of our inaction. That says in the year 2100, when my eight year old son Henry is going to be 88 years old, this planet will have warmed four and a half to five degrees Celsius.

As scientists say, at that point we are screwed. We will not be able to live in the places that we call home today. There will be a fierce competition for resources on this planet. Wars that were precipitated by climate change like Syria will pale in comparison to the wars that we see in the future. And if you think that apprehending 400,000 at the U.S.-Mexico border last year was a big number, wait until some parts of the Western Hemisphere can no longer support human life because that's exactly where we are headed unless we decide to change course. Now 10 years left to us, not as Democrats or Republicans or even as Americans but as human civilization, we do not have any room for error. So I will continue to listen to those scientists. They will be part of the team leading the effort in my administration and we will be up to this challenge and overcome it. Thank you for asking.

(APPLAUSE)

LEMON: Another video question for you from Annie Tomlin.

O'ROURKE: Great.

ANNIE TOMLIN: Your from an oil rich state. How does your climate plan create opportunity for people who's economies have relied on fossil fuels like oil towns in Texas and coal towns in West Virginia? What do you say to people who think that green energy threatens their way of life and financial future and how will you get them on board with your plan?

O'ROURKE: Great question. I come from an oil and gas rich state. I come from a wind and sun rich state. We leave the country in the amount of wind generation that we produce. We will soon lead the country, when it comes to solar energy generation in our state. We've invested in the transmission lines and the infrastructure that makes it possible and by the way, (inaudible), the high skill, the high value, the high wage jobs that come along with that. Look, the best way to answer her question is to go to those towns that are at the center of the oil and gas industry and that's what I've been doing across the state of Texas.

Listening to those work in the oil fields about what their future holds. And listen, they care just as much about this issue as anyone of us do. They just want to know that they will be made whole, that they'll be OK. That they can receive the education and training necessary to transition into those wind or solar jobs or some other career or profession. They want to know that we're going to elevate the role of unions, create 5 million apprenticeships over the next 10 years to make sure that we have the skills, the trade to command those high skill, high wage jobs that we can create in this country if we only set our minds to it.

Last week I was in Bland County, Virginia, this is part of coal country in the southwestern part of the state. I was told by those at the town hall meeting that no presidential candidate from either party has ever been to Bland County before. Many of them worked in the coal industry know that that's not the future of this country but want to make sure that we protect their pensions, and their healthcare and that we electrify or - - or - - or connect their - - their communities to broadband internet which they're missing right now.

Which they know is fundamental towards completing an education, looking for a job, starting a small business. Those aspects of modern life that many of us take for granted that are missing from many parts of this country right now. They too will be first in line in our investments to make sure that we make everyone whole as we transition this economy and this country to meet the greatest challenge that we've ever faced.

LEMON: All right. Let's talk about off shore drilling for oil. Would you ban it?

O'ROURKE: Yes. Absolutely, we're going to follow the lead of Joe Cunningham in South Carolina. He's going to make sure that we do not destroy our heritage. That we do not foul our beaches and our opportunity to attract tourism to South Carolina and that we stop putting oil wells along our coastal areas. The people of Texas and Louisiana know all too well the price of off shore drilling. When we make mistakes, they are big ones and they are hard to reverse. They are hard to clean up. They damage those communities, the wildlife, the economies of those parts of the world. So, no new oil and gas leases off shore. No new oil and gas leases on Federally protected lands, all existing leases will reflect the true costs of pollution, climate change and carbon. I think that's the best way to keep that oil and gas in the ground and make sure that we fully free ourselves from a dependence on fossil fuels.

(APPLAUSE)

LEMON: Finally, I want to ask you. The biggest personal sacrifice that you're asking quickly if you can, that you're asking Americans to make to solve this climate crisis?

O'ROURKE: I'm asking Americans to make this our priority as a country. One of the reason why I love the framing of the Green New Deal is it uses some of the language that we might associate with the way that we met the response of Nazi German in World War II. All of this country coming together with a singular focus of making sure that we overcome what was at that time an existential threat to this country and to our democracy. And by the way, lifting millions of people out of poverty and creating what was at the time the world's greatest middle class, creating the world's greatest country in the process.

We call them now the greatest generation. That could be our opportunity right here in 2019 and in this election that will decide in 2020. I know Americans are up to the challenge because I've been listening to Americans all across this country. We just need leadership that reflects that opportunity, that ambition, our aspirations and the hard work, the commitment and the ingenuity that will bring to that to get it done. I want to be the president who achieves that for America.

LEMON: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

O'ROURKE: Gracias.

LEMON: Our town hall is going to continue in just a moment with Senator Cory Booker.

(APPLAUSE)

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