Reason’s Nick Gillespie watched CNN’s 7-hour “Climate Change Townhall” the other night so that the rest of us didn’t have to.

It’s easy to mock the extreme plans put forward by the candidates, but Gillespie points out what is probably the most important takeaway from the evening: the attitudes of the candidates towards government and freedom. 

He writes:

[The] "Climate Town Hall" on CNN wasn't just long (seven hours!). It was deeply revealing about how Democratic presidential candidates think about government's power to regulate virtually all aspects of human behavior and how they approach policy and cultural change.

The Democratic contenders have laid out plans costing anywhere from about $1 trillion (Pete Buttigieg) to $16 trillion (Bernie Sanders) in direct federal spending on climate change over the next decade. About half of the candidates have endorsed the Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D–Mass.), which could cost as much as $90 trillion to implement. As important as any specific policy or position outlined last night were the general attitudes that were widely shared by the participants.

You’ve probably heard that fighting climate change was compared to fighting World War II. Gillespie notes that during the war effort there was a lot of government control. Industries were overseen, food and fuel were rationed, and civil liberties were curtailed.

You’ve also likely heard already about the apocalyptic tenor of the evening. The alleged imminent end of the world certainly creates leeway for drastic programs. In the light of this, there were calls for action but little discussion of how to build consensus. Can't stop to persuade when the world is ending, can we?

The attitude of the Democratic candidates towards government and freedom was the most important thing to remember about the evening. But what about specific proposals?

Describing Joe Biden as “the only fully satisfied Amtrak rider,” Gillespie notes the former vice president’s call for high speed rail to take cars off the road. The Obama administration proposed this idea, but it went nowhere, Gillespie recalls, despite California’s wasting billions of dollars on a system that will never be built.

Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, clearly believes (apparently based Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez misreading of a report on a climate change panel) that we face apocalypse round about 2030. Facing extinction, maybe we should consider alternatives such as nuclear energy, which is cleaner that fossil fuels or coal? Nope:

That makes the stance she took last night against nuclear power puzzling, since nuclear is much cleaner than fossil fuels or coal. "In my administration, we won't be building new nuclear plants," she said. "We will start weaning ourselves off nuclear and replace it with renewables."

Which is to say, she's in line with many progressives (including Bernie Sanders, Ed Markey, and AOC), who say simultaneously that the world is ending but nuclear power should remain off the table, even as they push "solar panels, [which] produce 300 times more waste for the amount of energy created than do nuclear plants," according to environmentalist researcher Michael Shellenberger.

Staring down a supposed existential threat, Warren and her anti-nuke allies still have principles, or something.

Kamala Harris would ban plastic straws and fracking. The latter has made us energy independent. Gillespie writes:

Harris wasn't simply trash-talking plastic straws. She also spent time attacking the eating of red meat, calling for the end of land sales for oil and gas drilling, and pledging to end fracking, the very technology that helped lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to record-low levels.

Senator Amy Klobochar said she was not in favor of banning fracking and has faced blowback over what apparently was one of the evenings rare forays into reality.

Senator Bernie Sanders made headlines with his call for better birth control and even U.S.-financed abortion throughout the world to, as Gillespie put it, “aggressively fight the phantom menace of global overpopulation.”

The evening featured this now-famous exchange between a school teacher and Sanders:

"Empowering women and educating everyone on the need to curb population growth seems a reasonable campaign to enact. Would you be courageous enough to discuss this issue and make it a key feature of a plan to address climate catastrophe?"

"Well, Martha, the answer is yes," Sanders said.

Many people of my generation take the notion of global overpopulation as a given—we were indoctrinated with the idea. But apparently population growth patterns have changed:

As the folks at Our World in Data note, "global population growth reached a peak in 1962 and 1963 with an annual growth rate of 2.2%….For the last half-century we have lived in a world in which the population growth rate has been declining." The United Nations has changed its projections for population growth; it now even suggests a 27 percent chance that global population will peak and start to decline by 2100.

. . .

If worries about the world ending by 2030 are overstated, so too are fears of a planet that can't support its population, especially given the incredible strides we've recently made in reducing global poverty and increasing general living standards.

The Federalist also has a good recap of the townhall, including the moment when Beto O’Rourke scares his kid to death by telling him that El Paso will soon become uninhabitable because of global warming. Beto suggested to the kid that they will be living in DC, perhaps also highly unrealistic.

The proposals might make us giggle but the attitude behind the proposals is not a laughing matter.