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Bernie Sanders at People’s Climate March: To Stop Global Warming, Get Dirty Money Out of Politics

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Speaking at the People’s Climate March in New York City, independent Senator Bernie Sanders discusses a potential 2016 presidential run and how getting money out of politics is critical to addressing the climate crisis. “[President Obama] can and should do more,” Sanders says. “But the major impediment right now is not Obama, it is the Republican Party. We have to call them out on this. We don’t do it enough. These are people who do not even acknowledge the scientific reality because they are beholden to Big Energy money and the Koch brothers.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We continue our coverage of the People’s Climate March here in New York. Organizers estimate some 400,000 people took part. Democracy Now! did this three-hour broadcast from the historic march, from the launching point of the march. We’re going to turn to highlights from that special. Just before the march began, I interviewed independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who’s considering a run for the White House in 2016.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: With about a thousand Vermonters and several hundred thousand Americans who understand that global warming is real, that it is already causing devastating problems in the United States and around the world, that it will only get worse if we do not act aggressively to cut carbon and transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. This is a huge issue. It’s a planetary crisis. We’ve got to act, and we have to act boldly.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the signs and one of the mantras here is: “We need system change, not climate change.” What does that mean to you?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, of course you need climate change. I mean, you know, we are—the scientist community tells us we have a narrow opportunity to move. You have to do that. But you also have to change the system, because, I mean, among many other things, one of the reasons that we have virtually no Republican in Congress who even acknowledges the reality of climate change is because of all the money in politics. So, we are not going to change politics in America unless we, you know, deal with the Koch brothers and the other billionaires who are now trying to buy elections. Furthermore, if we live in a society which is based on simply purchasing, purchasing, purchasing, consumerism, consumerism, consumerism, more and more development, without understanding sustainability, we’ll have long-term problems.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you deal with money in politics?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, first of all you do is overturn this disastrous Supreme Court decision called Citizens United, which gave a green light to the Koch brothers and the other billionaires to buy elections. The second thing that you do—

AMY GOODMAN: How do you overturn it?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Through a strong grassroots movement. And we had a vote a week ago, which the media forgot to cover—New York Times didn’t cover it at all—in which every single Republican voted against allowing us to proceed to a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. So that’s number one. That’s what you have to do. Number two, what you have to do, in my view, is move toward public funding of elections. I think it is just not appropriate that people who have the money or the support of people who have the money can buy elections.

AMY GOODMAN: The issue of whether you will run for president and what that means for a presidential candidate to be here at the climate march? Number one, will you be running for president?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, number one, I would be here no matter what my thoughts were. This is an issue I’ve been involved in for many, many, many years. You know, it’s no secret I’m giving thought to the possibility of running for president, getting around the country a little bit. But that decision is not going to be made for a little while.

AMY GOODMAN: Attending an event last night where you were speaking, the question of whether you would be running as a third-party candidate or as a Democratic Party candidate for president?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, that’s something also. There are advantages and disadvantages of going both routes. Very difficult. On one hand, there is a lot of unhappiness with the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. More and more people are looking to alternatives, looking to become independents. On the other hand, from a practical point of view, putting together a 50-state independent political infrastructure, that ain’t so easy either. So that’s one of the issues that I’m looking at. But mostly, here today, I am just delighted that we’re going to have hundreds of thousands of people who say, “Enough is enough. We’ve got to begin the process of reversing global warming.”

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think President Obama is doing enough around the issue of climate change?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I mean, I think he is trying. I wouldn’t say that he’s doing enough. He can and should do more. But the major impediment right now is not Obama, it is the Republican Party. And we’ve got to call them out on this, you know? And we don’t do it enough. These are people who do not even acknowledge the scientific reality, because they’re beholden to Big Energy money and the Koch brothers. That’s where we have to be focused.

AMY GOODMAN: If you were president, what would you do about climate change?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: We would move very aggressively to transform our energy system. And we could do this, Amy. There is unbelievable opportunity in terms of weatherization and energy efficiency. The technology is there now for massive efforts in terms of solar, wind, geothermal, biomass done properly. We could do it. We really could do it. And, clearly, this is a global problem, not just an American problem. What we could do in the United States is provide the technology and the support working with other countries around the world. But this is a crisis. We’ve got to address it.

AMY GOODMAN: There are scores of buses coming in from Vermont.


AMY GOODMAN: Maybe the most represented state per capita in the entire country.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Yes, I think that’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: Governor Shumlin recently said he would consider the state divesting from fossil fuels, a call that’s being made by 350.org, another Vermont resident, Bill McKibben, your neighbor.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I think it’s a great—I think it’s a great idea. I mean, we went through this with tobacco. We went with this through South Africa. And I think that it’s a great idea, and I applaud the governor for supporting it.

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve been listening to Senator Bernie Sanders.

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“This is History”: People’s Climate March Organizer Bill McKibben on 400,000-Strong Turnout

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