Andrew Yang's Climate Plan Includes Getting People to 'Higher Ground'

By Susan Jones | September 5, 2019 | 8:52am EDT
Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang (Photo by Jim WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

( - Entrepreneur Andrew Yang's five-point plan to deal with climate change includes a plank to "get our people to higher ground."

"You're not on your own," Yang told a CNN town hall on climate change Wednesday night. "We need to start making our communities more resilient and protect ourselves. If you've heard anything about me and the campaign what's my flagship proposal?" Yang asked.


"Freedom dividend," he said. "Everyone gets $1,000 a month, $12,000 a year. That would help citizens of this country protect themselves in a natural disaster. Because we all know when Hurricane Dorian or Hurricane Harvey hits, who suffers? Poor people, people of color, people who don't have a car they can get into and just drive to some -- some relative's house. So we need to actually start protecting ourselves."

In a follow-up question, CNN chief climate correspondent Bill Weir pointed to Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, which is "slipping into the sea" and is "so doomed" that the federal government is spending $48 million to move about two dozen families 40 miles north.

Weir said about half of those families don't want to move. "Some don't trust the government. They think this is a land grab,” he said. “So if it's this expensive and costly to move less than 100 people, how do you envision a managed retreat for maybe millions from places like Miami, Charleston, elsewhere?" Weir asked.

"This is one of the great challenges of our time," Yang responded.

And most Americans like where they live. Most Americans do not have a strong inclination to leave, even in the wake of a natural disaster. So first we need to try and invest in making some of these communities more resilient. Which will not work in some cases, as in this town, but it will work in others.

New York is an example where if we were to invest significant resources, we might be able to save -- essentially it's one of those situations where you invest a billion and then save perhaps $5 or $10 billion in damages, if you do it right. So there's some instances where you pre-invest before the disaster hits.

The second thing is that when there are -- are communities that need to be rebuilt, we need to do a better job of frankly building institutional trust in our society and the government again. Because right now many Americans mistrust our government. We're living in a country where 78 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, almost half can't afford an unexpected $500 bill. So when you come to them and say hey, we have your interest at heart, they have their heads down and there's not much optimism or faith.

So the freedom dividend of $1,000 a month, it has many effects, but one thing it does, it gets people's heads up. And studies have shown that getting the boot off of people's throats economically, one, it gets them focused on the big problems like climate change -- because it's very hard to focus 10 years in the future if you're worried about next month's rent.

But the second thing it does is it restores public faith and optimism and trust in our institutions, and then we'll be able to galvanize more energy around relocation over time.

For the record, Yang's five-point plan includes a constitutional amendment "that makes it the responsibility of the United States government to safeguard and protect our environment for future generations." He also advocates "sustainable energy," international cooperation on renewables, moving people to higher ground, and reversing some of the damage already done through reforestation and ocean seeding.

He would stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and he wants a carbon tax on "polluters."



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