2020 campaigns rally with climate activist Greta Thunberg

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg rallied in Iowa City, giving 2020 presidential campaigns an opportunity to pitch their candidate’s climate plan to Iowans.


Tate Hildyard

Julia Shanahan, Assistant Politics Editor

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg brought thousands of people to the streets of Iowa City on Oct. 4, and 2020 presidential campaigns came out in full force to tout their candidates’ stances on climate change.

Democratic presidential candidates have campaigned in Iowa for nearly a year, rallying Iowans on issues of the climate crisis. Many caucusgoers The Daily Iowan have talked to have said they’re looking for a Democratic candidate who will invest money into pushing forward the Green New Deal.

Caucusgoers of all ages have said they support some kind of environmental reform, but on Oct. 4, the Iowa City crowd skewed young. Locally — especially with the University of Iowa in the area — young people are a coveted age group for candidates to reach.

Staffers for South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg handed out rainbow campaign stickers, organizers for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren signed people up for their email list, and an organizer for California Sen. Kamala Harris held the “E” in a line of people holding up letters to spell “GREEN NEW DEAL.”

Theo Prineas, a volunteer for the Buttigieg campaign, attended the event to tout the candidate’s climate plan. He said it’s important to note that young people and upcoming generations will be the most affected by the climate crisis, saying Buttigieg’s age is appealing to him.

“Clearly, it’s an issue for all of us,” Prineas said. “But [Buttigieg is] going to be facing the same issues with us at the same time.”

A handful of campaigners for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., handed out cards and held up signs that championed their candidate’s strong support for the Green New Deal. Volunteers canvassed protesters, saying Sanders’ support for addressing climate change is better than the other 2020 candidates because he’s willing to invest the money into infrastructure change.

Sanders applauded the Iowa City City Council’s Aug. 6 climate-emergency declaration in a visit to the area last month.

“Greta was absolutely right when she said at the U.N. last week that the climate crisis can’t be solved with just business as usual,” said Sanders’ Iowa state director Misty Rebik in a press release. “That’s exactly why Sen. Sanders introduced the most comprehensive Green New Deal climate plan and is supporting the Iowa City climate strike.”

The Green New Deal is a proposal designed to wean the U.S. off fossil fuels and implement renewable energy infrastructure and public transportation. Republican backlash in Congress has targeted it concerning the cost of moving toward a more regenerative society, and it has not earned full support from the Democratic Party.

The Democrats in Iowa’s congressional delegation have not publically supported the Green New Deal. Reps. Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer, both D-Iowa, represent districts with large Republican populations.

Oscar Rodriguez, co-president of Hawkeyes for Warren, said volunteers were talking with people about why the Green New Deal is so important for the Warren campaign.

“[We’re] rejecting basically the big corporations that are causing a lot of this pollution — going against the notion that individuals are responsible for most of this pollution,” Rodriguez said. “We need to redirect our focus, and that’s exactly what Elizabeth Warren’s campaign talks about.”

In Thunberg’s Iowa City speech, she referred to the U.N. Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23, saying the summit was a failure and that world leaders “are acting like children.” Thunberg has often expressed frustration with world leaders and U.S. politicians and has consistently urged them to read reports from scientists and other experts.

A report released this year from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the world has 11 years left to prevent irreversible damage, and the report broke down statistics relating to climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse-gas emissions.

“World leaders will ignore us again,” Thunberg said in Iowa City. “Change is coming whether they like it or not.”


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