LONDONDERRY — Donning blue hats that read “Make America Cool Again” two Londonderry High students spent one of their last evenings of summer vacation at Stonyfield Organic, listening to presidential hopefuls’ plans on combating climate change.

“Climate change is the issue of our generation, it’s the issue of our species,” said senior Kerry Daley. “As a future voter you aren’t getting my vote unless you have a plan for climate change.”

Stonyfield Organic wants to get the candidates to do just that — talk about their plans for climate change.

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and John Delaney, former Representative from Maryland, kicked off the creamery’s series of forums on climate change and agriculture. Every candidate has been invited, Gary Hirshberg, chairman and former CEO of the company said. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington was expected to be at the event, but dropped out of the presidential race the day before.

Ryan and Delaney talked about plans to incentivize businesses to reach zero net emissions by 2050, the year that the United Nations agrees is a tipping point for being able to combat climate change because the atmosphere will warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Ryan focused on bringing farmers into the climate change conversation through education programs run through a state’s agriculture extension programs.

Delaney focused on his plan to implement carbon pricing to incentivize people to reduce emissions.

“Climate change is by far we think the most important challenge we face now and for future generations,” Hershberg said. He explained especially as an agriculture-based company the company and its farmers see it every day as a threat whether it is ticks hurting animals, or animals and plants stressed under extreme weather conditions.

“We see the limit to what businesses can do through voluntary actions,” Hershberg said. “The world’s scientists are now in agreement that in order to keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius … we must transition entirely away from fossil fuels, we must ramp up opportunities for farming sequestration in a very, very short period of time.”

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report in October 2018 that said: “With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, the report found that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to 2 degrees Celsius could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society.”

Daley and his friend Will Heenan, a junior at Londonderry High, agreed this was the major issue presidential hopefuls should be talking about, and that it has been a critical issue candidates have talked about. Both students were impressed by the candidate’s ideas.

Heenan questioned how someone could put a could put a price on carbon, “I don’t know what the cost of the planet would be,” he said.

Delaney explained that he worked on a bipartisan bill in Congress to introduce carbon pricing, which would increase the price of fossil fuel energy, but then give that money back to Americans.

Working people would get more than they paid, Delaney said, adding that it wouldn’t be given as tax breaks, which could go to corporations.

Delaney’s plan would raise about $3 trillion over 10 years, he said, adding that it would pay for the transition away from fossil fuels.

Ryan did not mention funding for potential programs, but he talked about a farm bill that would build on current legislation. He wants to expand educational opportunities for farmers to learn regenerative farming, which is the act of sequestering carbon in soil to have richer soils. Ryan also said loan forgiveness and allowing farmers to buy into Medicare were potential incentives to get young farmers in the field.

As for green technology, Ryan said that it needs to be conveyed as a jobs program, and that there needs to be a way to replace the high-paying fossil fuel jobs with similarly high-paying green technology jobs.

“Coal miners were making $100,000 in those jobs… we have to come at them with similar-paying jobs,” Ryan said.

Delaney and Ryan agreed that this is an issue that needed to be a priority for the next administration.

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