We Asked Youth Climate Leaders What It Would Take for Joe Biden to Win Their Vote

They wanted Bernie, but now they're stuck with Joe.
April 22, 2020, 2:21pm

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The youth climate movement has a tough decision to make: Support Joe Biden, whose climate policies don’t go far enough for them, or risk another four years of President Donald Trump.

Young climate activists now wield some real political power. Their endorsements make headlines, and the protests have pushed the conversation on climate change to the left. The Sunrise Movement, in particular, one of the largest and most powerful youth climate organizations, threw its weight behind Bernie with an endorsement in January. So did Zero Hour, a group that helped to organize some of last year’s school strikes for the climate.


But Biden hasn’t pledged nearly as much money as Bernie did to combat the climate crisis. And he’s put forward his own version of a Green New Deal — that doesn’t promise to cut emissions nearly fast enough for the climate movement.

VICE News asked leaders of several youth organizations what they’ll need to hear from Biden to support him.

“I'm going to need to see him adopt a lot of Bernie's environmental policies,” Jamie Margolin, the 19-year-old founder of Zero Hour and a former Sanders surrogate, told VICE News. “There is no middle ground. You either survive this or you don’t.”

Even young conservatives aren’t sure that Biden’s plans are strong enough. Benji Backer, the founder of the right-leaning American Conservation Coalition, said the candidates’ stances on climate change will determine his vote — and many of his organization’s members’, too.

“If there is one candidate that has a climate platform and one that does not, it's going to leave a lot of young people who care about these issues, regardless of their political affiliation, feeling like there is only one choice,” he said.

Video editing by Brittany Ross.

VICE is committed to ongoing coverage of the global climate crisis. Read all of our Earth Day 2020 coverage here, and more of our climate change coverage here.

Cover: Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the White House Clean Energy Investment Summit in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, on Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)