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CNN Live Event/Special

Climate Crisis Town Hall with Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend, IN), Presidential Candidate. Aired 10-10:40p ET

Aired September 04, 2019 - 22:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. One night, 10 top Democratic candidates answering question from Democratic and independent voters about one urgent issue -- the climate crisis.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Chris Cuomo. Now, I want to show you something that just gives you the status of the crisis. Look behind me. On one side, this is a picture of an actual wildfire burning right now. This is just outside Los Angeles, La Cresta, California, OK? So that's one type of situation that we're seeing more and more of that scientists say is indicative of climate change.

Now, on the East Coast, as you all know, we're dealing with Hurricane Dorian. And again, scientists tell us consistently that we are seeing more intense storms, more frequently, that are more complicated by the effects of climate change. These are both happening right now on our watch. Question is, what will be done about it?

Scientists are telling us we're seeing the consequences of the climate crisis. OK? They also say that we could cross a massive tipping point. If what? If the world warms more than 1.5 degrees Celsius -- it's just about three degrees Fahrenheit.

Now, we've already warmed up the planet one degree Celsius since the industrial revolution. So we're more than halfway there. Young people are worried about a livable future for the planet. It's not some abstract idea for them. We have three 2020 candidates left here to talk about this urgent issue. We have former Congressman Beto O'Rourke. We have Senator Cory Booker there ahead.

Joining us right now, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Welcome, Mr. Mayor.



CUOMO: All right. Let's get right to the questions. Let's bring in Dr. Linda Rudolph. All right? She's from Oakland, California. She's the director of the Center for Climate Change and Health at the Public Health Institute. Her family home was destroyed in Sonoma wildfires. We were just showing one burning right now outside Los Angeles. So, Doctor, sorry for your loss. Thank you for participating tonight.

What's your question?

QUESTION: Good evening. Major health organizations representing millions of doctors, nurses, and health professionals have declared that climate change is a health emergency. Under your leadership, South Bend does not yet have a climate action plan. Given that your own city has been slow to act, how can I and other health professionals be confident that you will address the climate health emergency with the urgency it requires? And how will you do so?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, first of all, I'm so sorry about what happened to your home. And we are under way on a climate action plan. We were one of the cities that committed joining with cities around the world to live up to the Paris commitments, even if the national governments are failing to do it. And right now we have built out the capacity to assess what's happening with greenhouse gases in our city and act on it.

We have undertaken energy savings contracts to make our buildings more energy efficient, set up electric vehicle charging points so that we're modelling what needs to happen with the future of transportation. And we're doing it because we're living in a country where our national government has failed.

And cities around the world, beginning with the C-40 that New York right here was one of the first members of back in 2007, have said we can't even wait for the national governments to catch up.

Now, having said all that, the reality is, cities can't do it alone. This is going to require action at every level of government and beyond government. We are only going to be able to tackle the climate issue when this amounts to a major national project that enlists the abilities of the public sector, the private sector, the academic sector, and folks who up until now have often been made to feel like they're part of the problem, like rural America. We have to stand tall and believe that this is something all of us have pride in and can get done or it's not going to happen.

You know, all night, I've been catching at least some of the other sessions that have gone on. And all of us are basically using the same language. We're talking about existential threat. We're talking about urgency. We're competing over which one of our targets is more accurate. But the fundamental question is, how are we actually going to get it done?

Because we have been having this same conversation for years. I think in order for that to happen, we have to actually unify the country around this project. And that means bringing people to the table who haven't felt that they have been part of the process.

I mean, this is the hardest thing we will have done certainly in my lifetime as a country. This is on par with winning World War II, perhaps even more challenging than that. Does anybody really think we're going to meet that goal if between now and 2050 we are still at each other's throats? It's not going to happen. We've got to figure out a way to rally, and that means everybody, from cities to farms to the federal government to the international community. I'm prepared to lead us to get that done.

CUOMO: Quick question, because we go back to the audience, you have a new proposal out about what you'd do with climate. You talk about how municipalities can work using the Defense Department. You talk about how farmers can deal with it. Not as much attention paid, at least in the writing, to what you'd do to those who produce the fossil fuels and are making the money off it.

We just listened to Senator Warren. That is obviously a big part of her focus on this is going after the big companies. Is that part of your prospect also? And if so, how?

BUTTIGIEG: Absolutely. First of all, it's one of the reasons why I've proposed that we assess a carbon tax. And I know you're not supposed to use the T word when you're in politics, but we might as well call this what it is. There is a harm being done, and in the same way that we have taxed cigarettes, we're going to have to tax carbon.

Now, the difference with my plan is that I propose that we rebate all of the revenue we collect right back out to the American people on a progressive basis, so that low- and middle-income Americans are made more than whole.

We're going to have to spend a lot of federal money in order to deal with the crisis, but I'm proposing that we get that from other sources, because we need to make sure that the carbon tax is something whose incidence is on the polluters, not on the American people, especially lower-income people who are already suffering so much and climate change is only going to make it harder.

CUOMO: All right, let's take a question from the audience. We have Amanda Freund. She's from East -- East Canaan, Connecticut -- sorry about that -- she works on her family's dairy farm. She also sells biodegradable pots made from cow manure. Flower pots, not like pots you cook in. That would be a terrible idea.


So what is your question, Amanda?

QUESTION: Thank you. So the average American dairy farmer -- or the average American farmer is 58 years old. I'm 34. My family is discussing the transition of our dairy farm to the next generation. But we're experiencing unprecedented weather events, economic and environmental challenges. And so I am wondering what you can do and what your plan is to bring stability back to the ag sector so that farmers like me can actually meet the environmental regulations that will be put in place to combat climate change and stay in business.

BUTTIGIEG: Right. This is so important, because the entire way of life is being threatened. And it's hard enough without climate change, right, and it's getting harder under this administration, between the trade wars and the things that are happening with consolidation that are making it difficult to get ahead. Uncertainty is one of the biggest enemies that a farmer has, and we're adding an awful lot of it with what's happening with climate change.

It's one of the reasons why farmers have the most to lose. But I also believe -- and clearly you're pioneering this -- that rural Americans can be such a huge part of the solution. To me, the quest for the net zero emissions cattle farm is one of the most exciting things we might undertake as a country. It can be done right now, strictly speaking, scientifically, but it's completely unaffordable, of course, to make it pencil out.

We need to change the economics of it. And, yes, that means federal investment, that means more investment in USDA, the Department of Agriculture's R&D. It also means investing more in things like the Conservation Stewardship Program for growers to make sure that we're doing the right things with soil management.


Sounds like this is hitting a nerve. And yet you almost never hear about it, right? I mean, scientifically -- and I know we're moving away from cattle a little bit to the planting side. But there is the potential of our soil to take in as much carbon as the entire transportation sector puts out. We've got to unlock that.

The way I see it -- in the same way that we as a country are rightly proud of Norman Borlaug and the green revolution that fed a billion people, we should be just as proud of the steps we're about to take as country with American agriculture leading the way to green global agriculture in a different fashion.

Imagine what it would mean if a net zero emissions cattle farm were as big a symbol of American achievement in fighting the climate crisis as an electrical vehicle. We'd be so proud of it, and it might also be helpful at coffee after church with folks you know in your rural communities who maybe are hesitating to embrace Democratic visions of climate, because it sounds like we're telling them they're part of the problem.

So thanks what you're doing to lead the way on this.

CUOMO: So one of the issues in creating change is that there are so many different sensitivities. There are so many "if thens" when it comes to what you do with our environment. For instance, one of the elements of your plan is biofuels as an alternative source. Then you get in to people who will say, well, but the way you fertilize corn to make your biofuel adds nitrogen to the water and that creates hypoxy or dead areas and algae blooms. So that's part of the problem. Now your solution becomes part of the problem. How do you get to where you need to be?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, the beauty of things like a carbon tax is it lets a lot of these things get sorted out without anybody in Washington having to figure out all the answers. We make sure that our economy itself, including the productive power of the private sector in America, is driving towards solutions, if and only if the pricing actually reflects the cost of carbon. So that's part of it.

Part is making sure that we rally the entire country toward really aggressive goals and that we're neutral about how it gets done as long as we actually get it done. Look, we're not going to figure out -- when we're doing a moonshot like this -- we're not going to have politicians figuring out every piece of how to get it done any more than President Kennedy had the rocket trajectories figured out when he said we were going to go to the Moon. We set the goal, and then we challenge America to live up to it, both with incentives and with requirements and regulations.

CUOMO: Let's bring in Nicole Carty from Brooklyn, New York. She's a progressive organizer, currently supports Senator Elizabeth Warren. Nicole, what's your question?

QUESTION: Hi. Good evening. Mayor Buttigieg, for decades, working- class communities and communities of color have been the first to be hit by pollution and the last to rebuild after climate disaster. After Hurricane Katrina, two-thirds of people who lost their jobs were women. And black Americans are three times more likely to die from pollution. How would you use the Green New Deal to bring Americans together and address racial, gender, and socioeconomic disparities?

BUTTIGIEG: This is such an important example of the moral stakes of dealing with climate. This is not only a question of generational justice. It is a question of social, racial, and gender justice. And as you cited in your questions, communities of color and communities that have already been disadvantaged by prejudice and hatred in this country are being made even worse off by what's happening with climate.

We've seen it in South Bend. Some of those most impacted by some of the historic flooding that we've seen were those who were economically least able to deal with it. We're seeing far more black kids needing to be treated for asthma than white kids. That's not a coincidence. That's a consequence of things like economic disempowerment and because a lot of folks were red-lined intentionally into neighborhoods that are closer to sources of pollution.

And so it's one of the reasons why our Douglass plan for dealing with systemic racism in the country looks at how everything from economic empowerment to housing comes into play.

We're also proposing health equity zones. And this has a strong overlap with environment, because while some of the reasons that, for example, black patients are at a disadvantage with public health outcomes has to do with what happens when they go into a doctor's office or a hospital. A lot of it's what happens in your own home, in your own environment, because of these environmental factors.

So I'm proposing that we fund communities, developing community solutions toward health equity, including dealing with issues that are exacerbated by climate or caused by environmental problems, without saying that we're going to prescribe it all from Washington, but putting real dollars from Washington behind those community plans to deliver health equity and justice, with environmental issues being one of the main drivers of both the problem and potentially solution.

CUOMO: Got a video question for you. This is from Seth Macy. He lives in Wichita, Kansas. He's a programmer at Wichita State University. Here's his question.

QUESTION: What's one question you would ask Donald Trump about climate change during a debate?


BUTTIGIEG: Wow. Look, I don't know that you can get to this president by asking him a question. I don't think you can't get to him at all. And it's not just him. It's all of the enablers in the congressional GOP, right?


I mean, this matters. They need it know that they will be remembered for generations. You could argue that of all the horrible things that this president has done, the one that will most be remembered 50 or 100 years from now will have to do with the failure to act on climate. At least that's what it will be like if this goes down in history as the time that we failed to get something done.

I mean, Congress right now -- it's like a room full of doctors arguing about what to do over a cancer patient, and half of them are arguing over whether medication or surgery is the best approach, and the other half are saying cancer doesn't exist.


Think of what a disservice -- this is a life or death issue. The president, he's busy drawing with a Sharpie on a hurricane map? He's completely in a different reality than the rest of us. And the problem is, we don't have the luxury of debating whether this is an issue.

So I can't think of anything I could ask him other than, would you please step aside and allow us to do something about this issue? Because you're clearly not ready to lead.


CUOMO: To your point about what the aspects of persuasion are here, in a recent poll, your home state, Indiana, 51 percent of people asked believe that human activity is the reason for climate change. And you would also have to deal with the president in terms of what his administration has done to roll back things.

So you may not have a question, but you're going to need some answers. What would say to the people who say, I'm not so sure about this? And what would you say about the people who say, well, he rolled these things back. What are you going to do to bring them back?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, look, some of the things he did by executive action we can do undo by executive action. But this time, let's actually some put legislation behind it so it's not at the whim of a president.


But I think the real issue we've got to have, especially in very conservative places like where I live in Indiana, the real conversation we've got to have is about what's at stake here beyond the traditional battle lines that have been drawn. This ought to be a bipartisan issue. This once was a bipartisan issue. And now it's gone completely off the rails.

So let's talk about some other dimensions of what's at stake. Let's talk about national security at a time when our military leaders say that this is one of the greatest threats to stability. There's a lot of evidence that the Syria civil war is one of the first that was partly caused as a consequence of climate change.

We really want to talk about security, let's talk about securing the lives of future generations. Let's talk in language that is understood across the heartland about faith. You know, if you believe that God is watching as poison is being belched into the air of creation, and people are being harmed by it, countries are at risk of vanishing in low-lying areas, what do you suppose God think of that? I bet he thinks it's messed up.

And you don't have to be religious to see the moral dimensions of this, because, frankly, every religious and non-religious moral tradition tells us that we have some responsibility of stewardship, some responsibility for taking care of what's around us, not to mention taking care of our neighbor. And eventually it gets to the point where this is less and less about the planet as an abstract thing and more and more about specific people suffering specific harm because of what we're doing right now. At least one way of talking about this is that it's a kind of sin.

CUOMO: Mr. Mayor, thank you very much. Let's take a quick break. When we come back, we'll have more of our CNN climate crisis town hall. Stay with us.


CUOMO: All right. We're back with CNN's climate crisis town hall. We have Democratic presidential candidates answering your questions about the climate emergency. Up next, we'll have former Congressman Beto O'Rourke, but now, we have more questions for Mayor Buttigieg. It's good to have you.

Let's go right to the audience. We have Bill Jordan, Troy, New York. He's the founder and CEO of Jordan Energy -- they do solar panel installation -- as well as being the cofounder and board president of the Let's Share the Sun Foundation, which installs solar panels in poor parts of the world. Bill, thank you for being a part of this. What's your question?

QUESTION: Hi, Mayor Pete. I had the pleasure of meeting your dad several years ago when he was administering the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholarship Program at Notre Dame. Like most fathers, he was proud of you and sought to help make a better world for his children. How do you and Chasten think about leaving the world a better place, particularly around the climate change issues discussed here today, to the next generation and any children you may choose to raise?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, we're hoping to have kids one day. And I want to know that our kids can thrive. When I got into this campaign, I talked a lot about the idea of generational justice.

And at first, people looked at me funny, because I don't think it's something that's been talked about much, but each of us has an obligation to do our part not only to be just to those around us, but to those who will come in the future.

And I think, you know, when we're on the campaign trail now, and more and more the questions I get from kids are about climate. They're almost always either about gun violence or about climate. These are personal questions. They're asking about whether they're going to be able to thrive.

Again, it's why I think this isn't just saving the planet. This is saving the future for specific people who are alive right now.

I also, frankly, think of it a little more selfishly, because when we're talking about whether we hit this target of 2050, decarbonizing our economy, you know, lord willing, I plan to be here. I would be in my 60s. By the time we know whether we have succeeded and could look back at 2020 and be proud of what we did, to begin getting on the right track, or realize that we're the ones who blew it. These are the years.

You know, we talk about 2030 as a deadline. But in many ways, 2020 is the deadline, because if we're not underway by the time the new president takes office, really we have lost our last shot. It's why there is so much riding on this election.

And for me and everybody I know, for the children that we hope to have, for the people who will be alive at the turn of the century, when if we don't change what we're doing, we could lose half the world's oxygen because of what's going on in the oceans. That is unthinkable. And we owe it to -- we just cannot look in the eyes of a child right now with a straight face and say we're doing right by them. We owe it to them to get this done before it's too late.


CUOMO: Mr. Mayor, under the category of being the change you want to see, air travel is about 2 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. The number of travelers obviously going up around the world. Private air travel, therefore even worse, because it serves a smaller population. Your second quarter filing says your campaign spent about $300,000 on private filing. You're going to get the finger shaken at you that you should not be doing that if you're going to be the green guy.

BUTTIGIEG: Look, I'm interested in decarbonizing the fuel that goes into air travel. I also don't believe we're going to abolish air travel. This is a big country. And while I absolutely think we can do more to provide alternatives, like trains, I don't think that we're going to solve the question on how to get around the world without air travel. This is the sort of thing that I think we need to look at in a commonsense kind of way. And the right loves to sink their teeth into anything we say that makes it seem we're being unreasonable when actually all we're saying is there's got to be a way to make it less carbon intensive. Sometimes I -- I took the subway today. Sometimes I fly because this is a very big country and I'm running to be president of the whole country but look, you know, it involves meeting voters everywhere.

Look we do need to do more to provide alternatives to air travel. I mean, I think about the train system right, in country that views itself as the greatest, most modern, the most sophisticated in the world. How is it that we have such an inferior train system when trains are a lot easier to power on a green basis because they run on electricity. You know, think what it would mean for areas like the industrial Midwest, where I live. If places from Indianapolis to Chicago to South Bend, Detroit, Minneapolis and so on, we're just a few hours away from each other by train.

I'm not even asking for asking for Japanese level trains. Just give me like Italian level trains and we would be way ahead of where we are right now, but that's going to require policy choices and investment. And if anybody says we shouldn't subsidize trains, they got to stand on their own two feet. Think about just how many ways we subsidize driving which is among the most carbon intensive things we could be doing.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Italian trains. You'd have a huge upgrade in food too probably --

BUTTIGIEG: There you go.

CUOMO: -- on the trains. That would be a nice thing. All right, we have our Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir. Bill, what's your question?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Mayor, every hour of every day, actually every minute of every day humanity buys one million plastic bottles. The amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity. And as we know in this recycling crisis, it doesn't go away. It's ending up in everything from salt to seafood. So what would you do about this? Plenty of Democrats want to make polluters pay but does that apply to every company that puts harmful packaging out into the waste stream?

BUTTIGEIG: I think it does because this is one more example of where corporations are literally pushing out the true cost of what they do into a place where it can't be seen only it comes back to us. It ruins environments and it is profoundly irresponsible. So we need to make sure that we have regulations and incentives that promote things like biodegradable alternatives to plastic. There's already so much going into this and by the way some of it is coming from sources that are being grown in the heartland of America. We've got to double down on those kinds of investments so that we feel proud rather than guilty when we do handle something that takes the place of plastic, looks like plastic but it is much more responsible for the environment.

CUOMO: Question from David Low, a retired religion professor from Flowertown, PA. David.

DAVID LOW: Mayor Pete, thank you for being here with us. It's not all big business' fault so car companies manufacture gas guzzlers and ranchers raise livestock because we will buy their products. Do you model the kinds of spending changes that consumers need to adopt?

BUTTIGEIG: I try -- yes -- I try to do the right thing. I think about this when I'm making decisions as a consumer before life changed a little bit for me I tried to bike to work whenever I could as -- as mayor in South Bend. But the reality is no individual can be expected single handedly to solve this problem. It's going to require national action and by the way this is why we and by we I mean like the human species invented government. It's for dealing with issues that are too big for each of us to deal all acting on our own. This is the perfect use case for good government decisions.


CUOMO: So when you look at the transition that's needed on the consumer level, all right. One of the big things we hear all the time is well what will moving away from fossil fuels mean. Well it means the internal combustion engine.


CUOMO: So, what do you do to incentivize and to encourage people to move from one of the main parts of our existence, which is how we get around every day, to electric cars?

BUTTIGEIG: Well first of all, this is in the climate plan that I put forward. We -- we've got to make sure we have the right kind of incentives for that. Expand the tax credits, set them up in the right way and make sure eventually that we are requiring that emissions fall to zero in American auto production. By the way, when we do that the companies can respond, the American auto industry is capable of great innovation but we've got to set up the left and right boundaries for that. It's one of the reasons why the -- the auto companies are actually ahead of the Trump Administration when it was trying to pull us back and again this is something we try to do the right thing on. Personally too, I can't afford a Tesla but we did get a plug-in hybrid and I think that the potential from a consumer perspective to embrace these kinds of technologies is phenomenal. We've just got to make sure that the economy reflects it and the carbon taxing is part of that. Regulations are part of that. And making sure we build a culture in which we embrace green solutions is going to be part of that too.

CUOMO: Part of the competition in campaigns is about timing. Yes, I'll do it too but I'll do it faster. Coal being removed from the economy in 10 years. That sounds hyper ambitious. Is that a realistic period?

BUTTIGEIG: So we envision that taking longer but I will say that we've got to do it as quickly as humanly possible because we see the consequences of this. They are upon us. Now our vision, which includes de-carbonizing industry on a net basis completely by 2050, but intermediate steps from making sure our vehicles, our light vehicles and then our heavy vehicles and then our power grid are each in turn eventually turning into zero emissions gets us there in time. At least if we believe the scientists projections about what we have to do.

But look, I don't think anybody's going to object to doing it quicker. The real issue, again, not who set the right targets. I'm not going to quibble over a five year difference between this plan and that plan when we've been wrangling over the same plans for my entire adult lifetime. The question is how are we going to break the log jam and actually, truly make something happen and that is going to require a different level of political will. It's going to require Democratic reform so that dollars can't outvote people.

And by the way, if the only way that we can establish as a matter of American Constitutional law that a corporation is different than a person and that spending money to influence an election is different than speech. The only way we can clear that up is with a Constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United, than that's what we're going to have to do because otherwise we (inaudible)


CUOMO: All right. Let's bring in Nancy Romer from Brooklyn, New York. She's a retired psychology professor and full time volunteer climate activist. Nice to have you with us Nancy.

NANCY ROMER: Thank you. Thank you very much for the opportunity. All people want good jobs and as a proud union member I'd say we all want good union jobs that ensures the good jobs.


ROMER: And everyone wants a safe community to live in.


ROMER: Clearly. But what would you do to ensure a just transition for this displaced workers in the new renewable energy economy and for the people of communities, particularly communities of color, most effected by climate change in your vision of a Green New Deal? And will you support the upcoming Global Student Strike on September 20th for climate?

BUTTIGIEG: Great. So I'll start with the last one's easy which I'm very supportive. So yes.

ROMER: Great.


ROMER: Thank you. BUTTIGIEG: Again, this is -- there's something about the moral

authority of young people, looking into the eyes of those in charge and saying what are you doing to protect us that I think on issues from guns to climate is part of why we're finally going to see change. And so, we've -- we've got to embrace these actions that make it possible for -- for the political conversation to be shaken up the way that it needs to be. Now in terms of broader question about jobs. This is extremely important in the industrial Midwest where I live and again people need to see where they have a -- a role in this future and a role beside that of victim. And we can do that, as you know, a lot of the jobs that are being created in the green economy are also good paying union job -- and -- jobs.

And not all of them are exotic, a lot of them are good old fashioned building trades jobs that we're going to need more of to do the retrofits to get the energy efficiency that we need. We can create tremendous economic opportunity but let's be honest about the fact that this also means transition for a lot of people. So one of the reasons why my climate plan includes funds that will support everything from retirement to healthcare to transition assistance for people who do find as a result of this national mobilization we've got to undertake. That their role in the economy is shifting but let's be honest. This is about more than money as important as it is to replace the income of people of incomes are disrupted.

This is also about identity. When somebody has been in a certain industry, perhaps providing for their family for generations, we got to make sure that we recognize that that has been a source of community and identity and purpose as well as income. And that's why sometimes these well intentioned retraining programs, at least where I come from, leave a lot of people cold. So we've got to make sure that we're providing the same source of pride, the same source and sense of identity that you get from whatever your role might have been in a form of the economy that's going to have transition out. You have that same sense of pride from what you're doing in helping us move toward a new economy that we're going to be proud of for generations to come.


CUOMO: So the (ph) heavy anxiety of the worker but as David was asking earlier, there is something about the anxiety of the consumer and citizen. One of the things that we keep being told by science is, you know, this cattle issue is a real situation and as he was pointing out, it really is about supply and demand. If you don't want the beef, they don't raise the cattle the same way but that's a big ask in American culture. So what do you say to the Americans that you want to persuade who maybe aren't that left? Maybe they're in the center or center right and they're saying, you want me to eat less beef?

BUTTIGIEG: Look, first of all I'm from Indiana and secondly I love cheeseburgers. So I -- I get that this is a -- a issue and the important thing to understand and get across is that we can have a more balanced diet and therefore a more balanced footprint and not propose that they abolish the cow, which is what a lot of people are saying about the Green New Deal. Not because that's what it actually envisions but because it's an easy Republican talking point. Of course we need balance in all of our consumption patterns and part of what a carbon tax and dividend does is it resets the price signals in the market to help make that happen without ordering Americans to abandon something that is very important to them. Instead we change the economic signals. We bring it into balance and balance is what we have lost when it comes to our relationship with creation, with the earth that sustains our ability to live.

CUOMO: Let's go to a video question. Brianne Foster, she's in Montgomery, Alabama. She's an Air Force Reservist and a school of science teacher. Here's Brianne's question.

BRIANNE FOSTER: Good evening. The U.S. military is heavily reliant on fossil fuels and is a significant contributor to global greenhouse emissions. Additionally, military resources and bases are at risk from sea level rise and increased heat. What is your plan to ensure that the military helps to solve the climate crisis instead of contributing to it while also preparing for our new climate reality?

BUTTIGIEG: What a great question and there's a lot of piece in there, part of it's the threat side. The fact that global threats are revolving as a consequence of climate. We already mentioned Syria but also there is a lot of reason to believe that migration and immigration issues are going to get more difficult at our own borders as a consequence of climate related disruption. So we know it's changing the threats. We know that bases right now are vulnerable. The exciting thing is that the military can also be a huge part of the solution. One of the things that was certainly true when I was in the military is that you just figure out a way to get done what you've been ordered to do.

The military's got an amazing capacity to rally to achieve what is being asked of them and frankly there have been times even though we think of the military as a conservative institution. There are times when the military has actually been out front relative to a lot of parts of America and by following instructions to get something done, helps bring other parts of America along. It was true with racial integration of the Armed Forces. It was true in some measure with the end of "Don't Ask. Don't Tell" too. A -- a workplace that is ahead of some other workplaces sadly in this country when it comes, at least officially speaking, to LGBT equality. Imagine if we harness that same ability to get things done when it comes to the biggest crisis on our plates.

By making sure like, for example, fleet and future uses of fuel are relying on biofuels, by making sure the installed base of the American military footprint is carbon neutral or carbon negative. Even making sure before you get to the ships and the airplanes and the bases, just making sure that the U.S. military which is a huge purchaser of things like ordinary cars and vans is leading the way in ensuring that we need targets of doing it that are -- of purchasing vehicles that are zero carbon. And my plan calls for us to do that very quickly. I think that the purchasing power of the U.S. military and just the resolve of our service members to get stuff done when it is a national priority could help lead the way for the rest of society and be one more example of how we create the sense of a national mobilization. A national project that summons everything that all of us bring to the table in order to deal with something that we know we will regret if we don't ask fast.

CUOMO: Thank you very much Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. In just moments we're going to have former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke. He says climate change is the greatest threat the nation faces. Plus you're going to have Senator Cory Booker that's all ahead. Again, thank you Mayor Buttigieg and please stay with CNN.

BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.