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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Climate Crisis Town Hall with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Presidential Candidate. Aired 6:20-7p ET
Aired September 4, 2019 - 18:20 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Good evening, and welcome back to this night of CNN presidential town halls.
We are live from New York. And I'm Erin Burnett.
Voters here tonight are asking the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates about the climate crisis.
Scientists tell us we have only 11 years -- so that's until 2030 -- to cut global pollution by half if we want to avoid the very worst consequences of the climate emergency. Think bigger fires in the West or deadlier heat waves, supercharged storms like the one we have seen now, Hurricane Dorian, which is hovering off the coast of the Carolinas as I speak.
We're going to hear from Senator Amy Klobuchar and former Vice President Joe Biden coming up.
But joining me now to answer your questions, please welcome Senator Kamala Harris of California.
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BURNETT: Hi. So nice to see you. So nice to see you.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.
BURNETT: And please sit down.
HARRIS: Hi, everybody. Hello. Hello.
BURNETT: So, if you become president on day one, Senator Harris, do you declare a national emergency on the climate?
HARRIS: Well, I certainly would declare an emergency -- a drinking water emergency.
And, if you don't mind, I'm just going to stand. And, also, I think it's critically important that we immediately on
day one get back in the Paris agreement. I think it's important that, on day one, we immediately ratify the Kigali agreement in terms of the Montreal Protocol and that amendment.
And I think it's critically important, on day one, that we end any fossil fuel leases on public lands. And, that, I'm prepared to do on day one as a matter of executive action.
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BURNETT: So I want to go to the audience right away.
Mychal Estrada's from Deerfield Beach, Florida. He works for the environmental group called Green for All, which was co-founded by our own van Jones, Senator.
Mychal, what's your question?
MYCHAL ESTRADA, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST: Good evening, Senator Harris.
HARRIS: Hi, Mychal.
ESTRADA: We know moving towards a green economy for all is critical for our planet.
ESTRADA: As we make the transition from dirty diesel and coal, our industry workers, many of whom voted for Donald Trump in the last election, may fear losing their jobs, benefits and ability to provide for their families.
ESTRADA: How will you work across the aisle to support all workers and build trust with Republican constituents dependent on a fossil fuel economy?
HARRIS: Yes, I mean, here's the thing, Mychal.
I think that, first of all, let me just tell you, I think about this issue through the lens of my baby nieces, who are 1.5 and 3 years old. And when I look at those babies, and I think about what the world will be like in 20 years if we don't act, I'm really afraid.
And as it relates to those Republicans in Congress, where I have now been for two-and-a-half years, every one of those members needs to look at the babies, the grandbabies in their life, and then look in the mirror and ask themselves, why have they failed to act?
Because, on the issue of this climate crisis, I'm going to tell you, I strongly believe this is a fight against powerful interests. And leaders need to lead.
So, lead, follow, or get out the way, and get out the way starting with Donald Trump.
HARRIS: So -- so, yes, we need to work across the aisle.
But I'm going to tell you, I have been there now two years and some months. I'm seeing no evidence of it. I'm seeing -- I was -- I kid you guys not.
In the United -- in our United States Congress, I was part of a committee hearing, during which the underlying premise of the hearing was to debate whether science should be the basis of public policy, this on a matter that is about an existential threat to who we are as human beings.
So, again, back to the United States Congress, here's my point. If they fail to act, as president of the United States, I am prepared to get rid of the filibuster to pass a Green New Deal.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HARRIS: We have to act.
BURNETT: Senator, let me ask you on that.
And, obviously, that's significant, because you would have to do that to pass things through the Senate, of course, but...
HARRIS: Yes, if there's no cooperation.
BURNETT: Right, right.
President Trump, of course, has moved at an unprecedented rate to remove environmental regulations, restrictions.
BURNETT: By one count, it's more than 80 that he has either rolled back or is in the process of rolling back.
BURNETT: But if you had to go that way to reinstate all those things, what would stop the next president from just undoing it and sort of having this become a seesaw?
HARRIS: Well, first of all, we have to have action.
I mean, this is one of those issues that is demanding an incredible sense of urgency. The U.N. has told us -- we're all very clear -- if, over the next 12 years, which is such a short period of time, if we don't take drastic action, it will be irreversible.
So, yes, I'm going to attempt to work across the aisle. I'm going to hope that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle look at the babies in their life and see what we see, and see the science, and stop denying the science.
But, ultimately, leaders need to lead. And so I am prepared, when elected, to lead. I'm going to first attempt to work across the aisle. But if we don't see any traction there, yes, I will take executive action.
And, yes, I will do whatever is necessary, because this is about the health and safety of our country and our world. And America has to regain its position as a leader agreeing that we are in this together with our allies and our friends and our neighbors.
And this is about our mutual investment in our future. And so I'm not going to be burdened, frankly, by a concern about what the next president will do after I'm elected, because I know there's action we can take immediately that will at least stop, if not reverse the harm, but starting with taking on these powerful interests, which I have done before.
As attorney general California, in a state of 40 million people, a state that is the fifth largest economy in the world, I was proud to be a fighter and took on the big oil companies, great, powerful interests.
I was proud as attorney general of California to defend the toughest environmental standards. And I'm going to tell you something, Erin. Part of my passion and commitment to this issue is, I have actually seen firsthand what happens when leaders lead.
Any of you go to Los Angeles, California, about 20 years ago and remember what that sky looked like? It was brown. Baby babies had asthma. There were warnings that seniors should not go outside because breathing that water (sic) would cause incredible damage to their lungs.
And then leaders led. The public said, enough. You look up at the sky in Los Angeles today, it's blue. We can do something about this. It is within our ability. And we have evidence of this fact.
But leaders have to lead. And I'm prepared to do it, because, on this issue, guys, as far as I'm concerned, it's not a question of debating the science. It's a question of taking on powerful interests, taking on the polluters, understanding that they have a profit motive to pollute.
And so let's take them to court. And let's require that, if they don't change their behaviors, they will pay those fines and there will be accountability and consequences.
BURNETT: You mentioned those powerful interests. And there's a question about that.
Of course, when you look at the severe weather, certainly we're seeing with the hurricane now, Senator, but, in your state, you are being hit by a lot of severe weather that many scientists attribute to climate -- to climate change, including the deadliest state fire in history, which, of course, happened in Paradise.
HARRIS: Yes. Yes. Yes.
BURNETT: David Leon Zink lives there, has a home there, suffered through that, is a musician and consultant.
David, go ahead with your question.
DAVID LEON ZINK, MUSICIAN: And, Senator Harris, thank you for being here, for your leadership, your passion, your energy.
Big petroleum and big coal were exposed in the media about confusing the public with contrarian science on climate change.
HARRIS: That's right. That's right.
ZINK: Well, big tobacco did the same thing with smoking.
HARRIS: That's right.
ZINK: And my father lost his life as a result.
My wife and I just lost our home and our town, Paradise, California, to a fire that most scientists connect to climate change.
HARRIS: That's right.
ZINK: How would you rein in these disinformation campaigns of big business so that our daughter's future is better than ours?
HARRIS: I am so sorry. I -- David, I visited Paradise while the embers were still burning there. And I don't need to tell you what you know and our living.
But, for everyone else, so going to Paradise, California, while the embers were still burning, entire neighborhoods were wiped out, and, like, literally leveled, where the only thing that stood were the chimneys from the fireplaces that, to me, looked like tombstones in a graveyard. The devastation was enormous.
There were firefighters that were fighting fires while they knew their own homes were burning to the ground. And so you are a living testament to -- and thank you for your courage to share your story about the real devastation on a daily basis this taking place in our country and around the world.
What do we do? Well, this is what we did with the tobacco companies. We sued them. We took them to court. Because you know what happens, people who profit off of harmful behaviors, when you take away that money because you take them to court and you sue them as I have done, it's extraordinary how they will change behaviors.
They have to be held accountable. And maybe this is the prosecutor in me. They have to be held accountable. These are bad behaviors. They are causing harm and death in communities. And there has been no accountability; certainly not by this administration nor, and I hate to say it so generally, by the republicans in Congress.
BURNETT: So Senator Harris, what would you do? Would you sue them?
BURNETT: Sue Exxon Mobil.
HARRIS: I have sued Exxon Mobil.
BURNETT: I mean as president -- yes. Would you -- would you do that, would you take them as with big tobacco?
HARRIS: Yes, I would take them on. And -- and -- and as president, and this is part of my plan, what we would do is one, reinforce the EPA under this administration, right, under -- under President Trump, who by the way, you know, I'm going to steal the line from Governor Inslee.
Governor Inslee, I'm stealing your line. And he said, you know, so -- so Donald Trump says wind turbines cause cancer and Jay Inslee famously and very -- with great humor said no, they don't cause cancer, they cause jobs. Right.
And so here's the thing, there has to be an understanding that there has to be accountability and consequence. And when we are looking at the behaviors that are possible, we know if we create incentives and also have president who understands the science, understands the nexus between bad behaviors and harmful effects and also understands how we can create incentives for ...
BURNETT: But they're going to pay money -- I mean they're going to pay money, the big companies.
HARRIS: Yes, they're going to pay money and they're going to pay fines and they're going to pay fees. And under my plan there will also be a carbon fee. And that money, a lot of it, is going to go to the communities -- and this is part of my environmental justice approach to the issue -- part of it is going to be that I'm saying that the fees have to also go to -- to empower those communities that for too long have been ignored.
And I'm talking about the communities where children are going to school drinking water out of lead pipes. I'm talking about communities where they have wells as their only source of water. And those wells, because of the flooding that has taken place, have been infected with bacteria.
And -- and so my plan includes putting $250 billion immediately into helping re-establish the infrastructure on water in our country.
BURNETT: So -- so -- you know you're talking about these fees and fines and -- at big companies. But what about regular Americans? I mean you said at a rally in Atlanta earlier this year and I thought it was -- I thought it was a pretty important thing you said.
You said quote, without much change to your lifestyle we could confront climate change. Is that realistic that -- that as regular Americans we don't have to make many sacrifices. I mean we all like our Amazon Prime.
HARRIS: Yes, but you know -- I -- I get it. I'm not saying there won't be any change but there -- you know we've seen it. I mean I guess part of my perspective on this is I've actually seen what's possible.
I've actually seen what's possible when leaders lead. I've seen how in California we put in place some of the -- some would say toughest, I would say some of the smartest laws and required changes in behavior and we saw outcomes.
And I don't think any pod (ph) -- anybody that you talk to who has lived in California over all those years would say there was any drastic change to their lifestyle. Yes, they -- they may say well, you know I'm now driving a car that I can't really hear sometimes.
You know that -- that -- that Prius right. They might say, you know -- you know, sometimes I have to, you know, I -- I am now aware that I should turn off the lights every time I leave the room. My kids are now demanding that I take short showers. Yes, those are things that are happening.
BURNETT: So will everyone have to drive electric cars?
HARRIS: Well, by my plan by 2045 we will have basically zero emission vehicles only. 100 percent by 2045.
BURNETT: All right. Let's go ...
HARRIS: And -- and -- and let me add one more thing, Erin. And also school buses. So part of my plan is that by 2030 we will have electric school buses. 25 million children in our country a day ride school buses, smelling those fumes. These are real issues, and again, we can do something about it. And here's what I want to say also, the private sector is really good about saying if you as government are consistent with your rules, and you set a standard we will innovate and find a way to meet it. I've seen this happen. So you know, I think that it is a false choice for those who would say, you know, that this is about either you're in favor in the environment or you're in favor of a strong economy -- that is a false choice, we can do both.
BURNETT: Jessie Bluedorn, I want to go to you -- she's a Climate Activist from New York City. She works with the Climate Organization 350.org, Jessie has a question on fracking.
JESSIE BLUEDORN, CLIMATE ACTIVIST: Hi, thank you. My family lives in western Pennsylvania where fracked gas wells have become a common sight. Yet the toxic impacts of fracking on the community are immense.
HARRIS: Yeah --
BLUEDORN: From contaminated groundwater to poisonous emissions -- will you commit to implementing a federal ban on fracking your first day in office, adding the United States to the list of countries who have banned this devastating practice?
HARRIS: There's no question I'm in favor of banning fracking, so yes. And starting -- and starting with what we can do on day one around public lands, right? And then there has to be legislation, but yes -- and this is something I've taken on in California. I have a history of working on this issue.
And to your point, we have to just acknowledge that the residual impact of fracking is enormous in terms of the impact on the health and safety of communities -- yeah, so thank you.
BURNETT: So would you ban offshore drilling?
HARRIS: Yes, and I've again, worked on that. You can -- you can talk to the folks in Santa Barbara about the work that I've done there where it's a big problem -- but it's a big problem in many areas of our country -- and yes, I would. Yes.
BURNETT: All right, two very definitive answers. I want to go to a video question now, Senator --
BURNETT: From Cassandra Valent, she's from Kean (ph), New York. She works for an online retailer and currently supports Senator Bernie Sanders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASSANDRA VALENT, ONLINE RETAILER EMPLOYEE: We're told that there'll be more tons of plastic than of fish in the oceans by 2050, and it's not possible for individuals to drastically cut down on single-use plastics while they are still so widely used by companies throughout the supply chain. What will you do as president to drastically curb the U.S.'s reliance on single-use plastics?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: That's a great question, and again, if we look at -- I think many of us have seen, and everyone needs to see the images of what these plastic bottles and straws and everything are doing to our wildlife, to our fish, to our oceans.
And so it's about one, creating the incentives. I've seen this, again, we banned plastic bags in California and in San Francisco -- and again, you know, people had to get used to it --
BURNETT: So would you ban the single-use plastic and say, "look set the standard, no more single-use plastics," --
HARRIS: I think we have to create incentives to ban these -- we have to create incentives. And there is no question that we have seen -- again, we have seen innovation take place when leaders lead, and that's what I'm talking about as it relates to all of this.
Look, let me tell you something -- those little plastic bags when I was growing up, because my mother was in to recycling but her form of recycling also was all those plastic bags that you -- when she went to the grocery store she would keep a whole stack of them and then we used them as garbage bags.
And so then we didn't have those anymore and we used paper bags as garbage bags -- I mean, we can adapt right? But we need to understand that leaders have to lead. Leaders have to lead, and we can adapt --
BURNETT: Plastic straws are a big thing right now --
HARRIS: Yeah --
BURNETT: Do you ban plastic straws?
HARRIS: I think we should, yes. I mean look, I'm going to be honest -- it's really difficult to drink out of a paper straw when you have -- if you're just -- like, if you don't gulp it down immediately it starts to bend --
BURNETT: Yes, yeah --
HARRIS: And then, you know the little thing catches it and you know -- but -- so we've got to kind of perfect that one a little bit more.
BURNETT: So you'd ban it, but rely on innovation?
HARRIS: I mean we got -- we got it -- yeah, innovation is a process, right? You don't just do it, innovation is a process. But -- but let's encourage innovation and I think we could do a little bit better than some of those flimsy plastic straws but we do need to ban the plastic.
BURNETT: All right, we're going to have much more with Senator Harris coming up in just a moment -- plus Senator Amy Klobuchar and Former Vice President Joe Biden. We'll be right back.
BURNETT: Welcome back, news (ph) on president night here on CNN. We have more questions about the climate crisis ahead with Senator Amy Klobuchar and Former Vice President Joe Biden. But now, more questions for Senator Kamala Harris. So let's go straight to an audience question now.
Caroline Coursant is a lawyer from New York, Senator. She has a question about the impact of certain foods on the environment. Just to give some context here, the United Nations says that cattle livestock cattle contribute 14 and half percent of all human produced greenhouse gases, which is an incredible number. Caroline, go ahead with your question.
CAROLINE COURSANT, lawyer: Thank you. Climate change has been linked to -- to agriculture and the over consumption of red meat and also the over production of crops. Certain countries have changed the dietary deadlines to reduce the consumption of red meat in light of the impact of -- of the climate change.
If elected, are you -- will you be supporting change in dietary guidelines and then how will you plan on implementing the changes so that people effectively change the diets.
HARRIS: Yes, I mean it's -- and thank you Carol for your work on the question. There is -- I think of the point that you're raising in the -- in a broader context, which is that as a nation we actually have to have a real priority at the highest level of government around what we eat and in terms of health eating because we have a problem in America.
And we can talk about all that we are now, the subject of this conversation and we can talk about the amount of sugar in everything. We could talk about soda; we could go on and on. So the answer is yes. But I'll also say this. We -- the balance that we have to strike here, frankly, is about what government can and should do around creating incentives and then banning certain behaviors.
I mean just to be very honest with you; I love cheeseburgers from time to time. Right. I mean I -- I just do. And -- and I think that -- but there is -- but there has to be also what we do in terms of creating incentives that we will eat in a healthy way, that we will encourage moderation, and that we will be educated about the effects of our eating s habits on our environment, and we have to do a much better job of that. And the government has to do a much better job of that.
BURNETT: So I mean, I'm just saying, you love cheeseburgers. We all do.
HARRIS: I mean, from time to time (ph)...
BURNETT: (inaudible) the impossible burger, they try, but it's not quite the same. That's my personal opinion. But would you support changing the dietary guidelines?
BURNETT: You know, the food pyramid.
BURNETT: To reduce red meat specifically?
HARRIS: Yes, I would. And I'll tell you, I've actually worked on this issue in the past. And it's about -- you know, it is about consumer awareness also. And again, maybe this comes from my years of being -- doing the work I did as attorney general, which is, I strongly believe that the American consumer is still left without the information that you need and deserve to have about what it is that you are putting in your body or surrounding yourself with. And the health implications of those things. And so across the board and with this subject, we have to do a better job. We're going to be taking on powerful interests. But I've always believed that we should -- you know, expand what's on those cans of those things you buy in the grocery store. We should expand the list. And included in that should be a measure of the impact on the environment.
BURNETT: So you have said, in your new plan which you released today...
...you talked about a climate pollution fee. And just to try to understand, what that is, that's going to go on big companies, they're going to pay this fee. But how do you make sure that they don't do what they will try to do, which is immediately pass that on to consumers?
HARRIS: Well, one, we're going to do it in a way that is about what we've always done with industry, which is to say that there has to be some connection between the fee and bad behaviors, and there has to be -- and that we have to monitor whether it's going to be passed on to consumers. But I'm going to tell you, that should never be the reason not to actually put a fee -- in particular, a carbon fee.
The other piece that is connected to your question, the previous question is what we do in terms of scoring. So part of my plan is that we will require all elements of industry to actually score. And they will be scored based on the carbon imprint that their business creates. And we will score that. So again, that industry, that business, and we can all be aware of and measure the impact of their behavior on the environment.
There has to be some nexus though between what we do in terms -- in terms of frankly, regulating and impact in terms of harm to communities. And the fee will be the consequence of bad behaviors, frankly.
BURNETT: So you'll be hiring a lot of people. This will require a lot of hiring, right? Obviously (ph) the EPA, or DHA, right?
HARRIS: Well, it's going to require doing -- fixing what this Trump administration has done. I mean, listen guys, let's just be really clear Donald Trump, he's got everybody excited about those crazy tweets. Meanwhile with this hand, quietly undoing regulations that were built over years including incredible stuff that the Obama administration did, and quietly undoing that. So everybody is distracted by the crazy tweet, meanwhile, completely deregulating industry. And so yeah, we're going to have to build it back up, but it is not necessarily about hiring a massive number of people. It's about priorities, it's about saying to the people who are there, listen, I'm prepared to back you up when you put in place enforcement against these big polluters, against the fossil fuel industry, for polluting the air we breathe and the water we drink.
BURNETT: One powerful industry an alternative to traditional fuels like oil and gas. That is nuclear. And I want to go to a video question now from David Gains (ph). He's a retired national parks service employee, and his question comes to us from Yarmouth, Maine.
DAVID GAINS (PH): Good evening, Senator Harris. Given the existential threat to humanity posed by global warming, do you believe the time has come to put past nuclear power failures into perspective and to embrace a new and smarter generation of nuclear power technologies given all that has been learned and the scale of the crisis we're confronting today?
HARRIS: Thank you. So the biggest issue that I -- that I believe we face in terms of nuclear energy is the waste and what are we going to do with that. And I will tell you that unlike this administration on, which on an issue that is next door to me, which is Yucca mountain, let me tell you, I will never -- like that's a nonstarter for me. And which is the kind of disposal that s happened at Yucca mountain and also taking away that state's ability to make decisions. I mean, literally, Erin, they were in the middle of the night, this administration -- in the middle of the night, carting in waste in to Yucca Mountain without the authority and the permission of the leaders of the state of Nevada.
So that's how I feel about it, that we have to make sure that this is not about the federal government coming in and putting -- making decisions about what each state can do in terms of the nuclear waste issue which is the biggest part of the concern about nuclear energy.
BURNETT: So Senator Sanders now says he wants to phase it out, get rid of nuclear power. And just for context, this country gets 20 percent of its power from nuclear power --
HARRIS: Right, right.
BURNETT: So to say that is not a small thing.
BURNETT: But he wants to phase it out, is he right? Do you agree?
HARRIS: Listen, we have to figure out what we're going to do about the waste, and we still don't have the best ideas yet -- people are working on it. But we have to figure it out. But my bottom-line is that I'm not going to allow the federal government to go in and impose its priorities on any state -- it's going to have to be those states who make that decision.
BURNETT: Senator, I want to go now to our Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir who is joining us through the night with questions, go ahead Bill.
BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Thank you Erin. Senator Harris, I'm back from a reporting trip in Alaska, and happened to spot one of the Coast Guard's major icebreakers off the coast of Nome there, and that is not easy because our country has two total.
Meanwhile the Russians have at least three dozen, and more on the way and they are just one superpower that seems keen on dominating all the new melting pathways in (ph) Arctic ice and finding all the riches buried beneath.
So as Commander in Chief, how would you direct your military to deal with this part of the world? This new frontier? And as president, how do you convince both Arctic allies and enemies to heed the science and leave billions, and billions of dollars worth of oil and gas under what's left of the ice?
HARRIS: Yeah -- so there's a lot to unpack with what you -- your point. First there is what I believe are the motivations of Russia which is to expand its territory. And -- but let's put that aside and just talk about our involvement there.
We should not be selling or leasing public land for the purposes of drilling, and I will -- and I -- back to day one (ph) I am opposed to that. And again, under this administration we are seeing -- frankly I would call it corruption. I would call it corruption, meaning that there are members of this administration who have for their entire career not been in the business of public service, but in the business of being a part of industries that are profiting off of these kinds of behaviors that are harming our environment.
And people who, when they leave this quick stint in public service will go right back to those industries that they are helping every day by deregulating those industries. And so as president one of my greatest priorities on this subject will be about preservation of public lands, and that is part of actually my plan.
BURNETT: Getting back to Russia because you mentioned obviously that -- your view on that, that you think it's about expanding (ph) territory. You know, Bill raised something -- this has been a long issues and we have done nothing about it as a country. Two ice breakers versus now at least three dozen, would you match them on the ice breakers?
HARRIS: It depends on what the purpose of those ice breakers is. What is the purpose? What are we saying is the legitimate purpose there? If we can answer that question, then perhaps we can have that conversation. But I don't know what the legitimate purpose is.
BURNETT: All right, let's go now to another audience question, Carson Tueller is from Brooklyn, LGBTQ and Disability Activist -- Carson go ahead.
CARSON TUELLER, LGBTQ AND DISABILITY ACTIVIST: Hi.
HARRIS: Hi Carson.
TUELLER: So I have a spinal cord injury -- and part of having a spinal cord injury means that I experience something called thermodysregulation (ph) or in other words I can't regulate my body temperature.
HARRIS: Yeah. TUELLER: I can't sweat. July of 2019 was our Earth's hottest month
on record, and I had my health put at risk -- seriously more than once. Everyone is effected by climate change, but people with disabilities are disproportionately effected by our Earth's changing climate. How do you plan to support already at-risk and marginalized people who are experiencing the impact of climate change now?
HARRIS: Yeah -- thank you for giving a voice to this. So I think about this in the context of many things, but ultimately it's about empowering communities that are often ignored, just to be candid. And that is a big part of the emphasis on my -- in my plan, is addressing that.
And it is about our disability community, it is about our indigenous people, it is about black and brown communities -- it is about communities that have experienced poverty. And all of those communities have been disproportionately impacted by the change that we are seeing in our climate, not to mention the kind of behaviors by the fossil fuel industry that have been about pollution, about dumping and all that.
Let me take you back to 2000 and -- I think it was 2004 when I was district attorney of San Francisco and I created the first environmental justice unit of my office. And one of the reasons is that there is a community in San Francisco called Bayview Hunter's Point where the -- the annual, at the time, household income was $15,000. And there were companies that were just dumping full-time into the water around that community, with serious health consequences.
And so I took it on. That was one of the reasons I created my environmental justice unit, to take it on, saying that no community should be dumped on, no community should be less than, you know, those communities that are -- have power and influence and access to power and influence. I -- I -- and as attorney general -- there's a community in California called Mira Loma, a small community of -- of families where the grandmothers had been for years been asking people in power to take seriously the fact that the babies in that community were -- were -- were -- had the lowest rate of lung development of any children in the -- in the area.
And I intervened. And I say all that to say that part of how I approach in issue is to say that it should be our responsibility -- and I have always considered it my responsibility -- to make sure that we leverage the incredible power we have in a way that is about empowering the communities that have been long overlooked and ignored. And -- and so on this issue -- and I also rolled out recently our whole plan and my plan around the disability community and what we need to do to extend access and to extend resources. So, thank you.
BURNETT: Senator Harris, thank you so much for your time tonight and to all our audience, thanks so much to all of you for joining us. Next Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and ahead, former vice president Joe Biden. Senator Bernie sanders also will take the stage this evening. We'll be right back.