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National Columnists

View: Bernie Sanders offers a clear choice on climate change

“It is no secret that we must transition away from fossil fuels. Period,” declared would-be Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders at a town hall event in California on Thursday. “End of discussion,” he added. “There ain’t no middle ground here.”

Suddenly, a bright line in the Democratic field. By proposing a $16.3 trillion “Green New Deal” via a New York Times interview, Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, confronted every climate activist with a stark choice. Former Vice President Joe Biden has offered a plan to stop emissions that racks up a $1.7 trillion price tag. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., saw Biden and raised her bid to a $2 trillion plan. Then Sanders walks in and says, in essence, “That is nothing, nothing! You are throwing pebbles at a battleship!” He didn’t say that actually, but he did say, “There ain’t no middle ground.”

Which means, of course, that Biden and Warren, along with South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and even industrialist and destroyer-of-the-Earth-turned-climate-activist Tom Steyer are all pikers when it comes to taking the apocalypse seriously. Sanders isn’t pretending. And if you take that doomsday scenario seriously, he has given you no choice. Get on the Bernie Bus or be exposed as a climate-change-activist poser.

Recall the 1998 end-of-days flick “Armageddon.” Nobody fussed about the cost of Bruce Willis’ mission to save the planet from an approaching asteroid. More to the point, the pencil-necked accountants didn’t drive President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wartime spending or the U.S. military’s vast expansion led by his Army chief of staff, George C. Marshall. They were facing the Nazis in Europe and imperial Japan in the Pacific. Imagine running against Roosevelt for the nomination in 1944 on a platform of slashing war spending by 90%! So Sanders has proposed what the rhetoric of climate change apocalypse demands: All hands on deck, and damn the torpedoes, provided you don’t use any fossil fuels in mounting your charge.

This is no mere “carbon tax,” no “cap and trade.” Sanders’ program mocks the Paris climate agreement, although not openly. Sanders is the real deal. And he just flanked the Democratic field for every voter who genuinely believes in the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 12-year countdown to the end of the planet.

No self-respecting climate change activist can win an argument for Biden or Warren now, not when Sanders has lapped them eight or 10 times in the fictional commitment game. What are they going to say? Our program can get through Congress and Sanders’ can’t? None of them can, unless the country is persuaded that this whole “existential threat” stuff is real. Sanders believes it. He put our money where his mouth is.

If you really think the world is on the edge of catastrophe, are you going to waste your vote on a pretend climate change “policy,” or go all in with Sanders?

I’m hoping Sanders is the nominee. A choice, not an echo campaign on climate change, is what we need. “There ain’t no middle ground.” Let’s put that to the people in a Bernie Sanders-Donald Trump vote. Sweep aside the pretenders and get to the candidate who is genuinely serious about changing everything to save Mother Earth. That’s Sanders. By about 14 trillion bucks total.

• Hugh Hewitt, a Washington Post contributing columnist, hosts a nationally syndicated radio show on the Salem Network.

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