Texans O’Rourke, Castro spotlight climate crisis in Democratic debate

Democratic presidential candidate former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro speaks during a Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Art, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

At least some major Texas political figures get it.

While Gov. Greg Abbott and the Republican-led Texas Legislature dither on the urgent issue of our overheated planet, Democratic presidential candidates Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro promised aggressive action in Wednesday night’s debate.

When the ten candidates on stage in Miami were asked to name the most urgent threat facing the U.S., only Castro, O’Rourke and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts cited climate change.

Castro, a former San Antonio mayor and U.S. housing secretary, said his first action if elected president would be to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. Castro also highlighted his work on the crisis.

“When I was mayor of San Antonio, we moved our local public utility and began to shift it from coal-fired plants to solar and other renewables, and we also created more than 800 jobs doing that,” Castro said. “When I was HUD secretary we worked on the national disaster resilience competition to invest in communities that were trying to rebuild from national disasters in a sustainable way. That’s the way we’re going to make sure we’re all safer in the years to come and combat climate change.

O’Rourke reeled off a host of ideas his campaign is touting to help U.S. communities most vulnerable to the existential threat, including Houston.

“We, in our administration, are going to fund resiliency in those communities, in Miami and Houston, Texas – those communities that are on the front lines of climate change today,” O’Rourke said. “We are going to mobilize $5 trillion into the economy over the next 10 years and free ourselves of dependence of fossil fuels and put farmers and ranchers in the driver’s seat. Also, renewable and sustainable agriculture to make sure that we capture more carbon out of the air and more of it keep it in the soil.”

According to our friends at the Sierra Club, the climate crisis got just seven minutes during last night’s debate. But that was more than the issue received in all of the 2016 presidential debates. We hope we hear a lot more about it in the long campaign ahead.