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Why thousands of climate change activists are demanding more from the DNC

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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's plan to fight climate change isn't good enough for thousands of environmental activists who traveled from all across the country to march in Philadelphia on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.

The activists, mostly Bernie Sanders supporters, told Circa on Sunday that the Democratic Party is essentially denying the reality of climate change by not calling for total bans on fracking and offshore drilling, a tax on carbon emissions and the end of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Incremental policies are not going to do it anymore.
Anthony Rogers-White

"We are really upset that the Democrats are also climate deniers, and we're not going to let them greenwash us anymore," said Anthony Rogers-White, the policy and organizing director at Environmental Action. "Incremental policies are not going to do it anymore."

Sunday's march highlighted a longstanding rift between Clinton and the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party on environmental policies.

During her primary campaign against Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Clinton was consistently pressured to sharpen her stances on key climate issues. Before Sanders entered the race, Clinton hadn't taken stances on the Keystone XL pipeline, oil drilling in the Arctic, or federal subsidies for oil companies.

Eventually, as her race with Sanders intensified, Clinton came out against all of those issues.

But as Clinton is set to accept her party's nomination for president this week, many Sanders supports are still not satisfied with the former secretary of state's level of commitment to solving human-caused climate change.

Here's what progressive climate protesters in Philadelphia told Circa they want from Clinton and the Democratic Party, and why:


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Activists march down Market Street in Philadelphia on Sunday, July 24, 2016.

A nationwide ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking

Right now, Clinton's position on fracking -- the controversial process of injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand, and chemicals underground to crack shale rock -- is that she supports it, but only under certain conditions.

At the CNN Democratic debate in March, Clinton said her standards for safety and environmental regulations would be so high that "by the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place."

Sanders, however, has consistently been a hard-line "no" on the practice. And that's what most of the climate protesters outside the DNC on Sunday wanted, too.

"Fracking is inherently environmentally racist. Period," Rogers-White said. "The blacker and browner you are, the more chances you have of living near a fracking well or fracked waste or fracked infrastructure -- and this includes schoolchildren.

"So the Democrats and Hillary Clinton have to show that our public health is just as important in our vote."


A more believable stance against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal

Technically, Clinton has said she opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, which environmentalists say gives too much power to big, multinational oil companies. 

But because of delegates that Clinton selected to be on the Democratic Platform Committee, opposition to the TPP is not actually included in the party's official platform.

"She's trying to form a negotiated settlement with the oil and gas industry," said Brad Johnson, the executive director of Climate Hawks Vote. "The time for a negotiated settlement is over."

Why thousands of climate change activists are demanding more from the DNC

Video: Matt Bernstein, Circa

Strong advocacy for a nationwide tax on carbon dioxide emissions

All around Sunday's rally, it was hard to miss all the signs calling for a policy that puts a price or tax on carbon dioxide emissions. Clinton's climate plan does not currently call for a price on carbon, nor does the Democratic platform.

The absence of such policies is hurting Clinton with the more progressive environmentalist wing of the party, Rogers-White said.

"The Democrats have done themselves no favors trying to bring in the progressive wing of this party, which they're going to need," he said.

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Activists march down Market Street in Philadelphia on Sunday, July 24, 2016.

Sunday's march came amid recent news that the planet is continuing to set heat and ice melt records. Last week, NASA announced that the first six months of 2016 were the hottest ever recorded, and that Arctic sea ice now covers 40 percent less of the planet than it did three decades ago.

2016 is set to become the hottest year on record, according to NOAA.

These broken records -- plus the fact that Sunday in Philadelphia was swelteringly hot -- brought a sharper sense of urgency to the march. 

"When you see people braving this heat -- literally people risking heat stroke -- it should say something to you, and it should say something to the Democrats, that we're not happy," Rogers-White said. "We're not satisfied, and we're not going to go away."


Why thousands of climate change activists are demanding more from the DNC

For more news, check out today's 60-Second Circa

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