Government

Sanders focuses on climate change at Iowa City rally

Vermont senator moved to the lead of the Iowa Poll released Friday

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, speaks during a campaign event S
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, speaks during a campaign event Sunday at The Graduate in Iowa City. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Two days after the Iowa Poll placed Bernie Sanders on top for the first time among likely Iowa caucusgoers, the Vermont senator spoke to about 900 people in downtown Iowa City on Sunday.

Sanders spoke for 20 minutes, skipping other talking points to focus on climate change.

“If we do not get our act together with a fierce sense of urgency, we will see in coming years more floods, more drought, more devastating wildfires, more famine, more rising sea levels, more ocean acidification, more extreme weather disturbances, more disease and more human suffering,” Sanders said, pointing to fires that have killed millions of animals and 28 people in Australia.

Repeating the phrase “if we do not get our act together,” Sanders outlined the effects of climate change, including Midwest farmers losing productivity because of regular flooding.

Sanders said the United States needs to wean itself off fossil fuels, develop alternative energy systems and, once that happens, show other countries how it’s done. This is the thrust of the Green New Deal, a 10-year initiative that Sanders and other advocates say will create 20 million new jobs while reinventing America’s energy system.

Joining Sanders for the event Sunday at the Graduate hotel were U.S. Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. Tlaib, elected to Congress in 2018 after serving in the Michigan House, spoke about the health issues Detroit residents have faced because of industrial pollution.

Tlaib believes Sanders, as president, would be the most likely to reverse climate change and hold polluters accountable.

“I think of ‘Who do I want to hand the future of my boys to?’ ” she said, referring to her two sons. “Someone who’s not going to waver. Someone not afraid to stand up to the billionaires. Somebody who’s not going to look the other way when it comes to us.”

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Sanders offered several shout-outs Sunday to the Sunrise Movement, a group of young climate activists that endorsed Sanders last week. Members, wearing black shirts with the word “Sunrise” in yellow, were prominent at Sunday’s rally.

Jeff Roberts, 20, a University of Iowa student, said he plans to caucus for Sanders because he thinks the candidate will address climate change quickly.

Roberts was excited Sunday to hear Sanders had taken the lead in a new Iowa Poll, with 20 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers choosing Sanders as their first choice among presidential contenders. The Des Moines Register and CNN poll, released Friday, showed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in second with 17 percent, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 16 percent and former Vice President Joe Biden at 15 percent.

“That’s awesome,” Robert said of Sanders’ lead.

Sara Haroum, 47, of Iowa City, said she hasn’t yet decided who she’ll support at the Iowa caucuses, but she wanted to hear Sanders talk about raising the minimum wage and protecting immigrants living in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“I really want to hear him support the minimum wage,” she said. “The minimum wage needs to be effective all over, not just at some businesses.”

Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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