Liam Shaffer, a 27-year-old wine salesman in New Jersey and supporter of Mr. Sanders, said working with a product directly affected by climate change had made the issue one of his top voting priorities. He acknowledged that he had not read Mr. Biden’s climate plan, but he said his impression was that Mr. Biden did not favor the sweeping changes that he believes are necessary.
“He represents a return to the way things were run under Obama,” Mr. Shaffer said. “I guess I just don’t feel that’s enough.”
And Alyssa Midcalf, a 25-year-old musician who owns a vintage clothing store in Detroit, said she disliked Mr. Biden’s willingness to accept corporate donations and the lack of respect she feels he has shown young activists fighting for aggressive plans like the Green New Deal.
“He has time and time again treated constituents like they don’t matter to him,” she said.
Sam Ricketts and Bracken Hendricks, Democratic strategists who helped write Mr. Inslee’s climate change plan, said Mr. Biden should adopt the plan, which Greenpeace hailed as the “gold standard.”
“There’s more that his plan can do,” Mr. Ricketts said of Mr. Biden. He pointed to specific renewable energy standards; a strategy for halting carbon emissions for individual sectors like transportation, buildings and electricity; opposing fossil fuel subsidies; and providing details for the promises his plan makes of fighting for low income communities of color most vulnerable to environmental injustices.
Maggie Thomas, who was Mr. Inslee’s deputy climate change director before joining Senator Warren’s campaign, has not yet thrown her support behind either Mr. Sanders or Mr. Biden. But she said if Mr. Biden does become the Democratic nominee, “He really needs to show that this is a priority for his campaign.”
President Trump’s re-election campaign already is painting Mr. Biden as radical on climate change, releasing a video after Sunday’s debate edited to emphasize his statements against fossil fuels and mocking moderate Democrats who had sought to assure voters in gas-rich states that the former vice president does not intend to ban fracking.
Mr. McEachin said he thought Mr. Biden was open to other ideas, but he said the notion that Mr. Biden is not aggressive enough was a misperception. “From a climate change point of view you can’t have a better candidate than Joe Biden,” he said.
Collin O’Mara, the president of the National Wildlife Foundation, which last week endorsed Mr. Biden through its political action fund, called Mr. Biden’s plan and approach to climate change “incredibly impressive.” He credited the activist movement for raising the standard for candidates to meet.
“In any other election, this would be the strongest plan that’s ever been put out,” Mr. O’Mara said. But ultimately, he added, “The best laid plans are just symbols on a page.” He said he supports Mr. Biden because the former vice president could actually get his ideas enacted.
Jennie Sweet-Cushman, an associate professor of political science at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, has been making a similar argument to her students. She cited climate change as one of her top three voting issues and said she supported Mr. Biden because he is a pragmatist, and her years studying government have shown her that major structural changes require bipartisanship.
But Ms. Cushman has had a hard time convincing students like Taylor Pelow, 20, a chemistry and political science major from Buffalo who said her dream was to one day run the Environmental Protection Agency. Ms. Pelow said she believes in banning fracking and wants to see a transition away from fossil fuels earlier than Mr. Biden does.
If Mr. Biden wins the Democratic nomination Ms. Pelow said she would vote for him in November, but only because she believes he is slightly better than President Trump on climate change.
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