Elizabeth Warren, at Climate Town Hall, Says Action Must Focus on 3 Industries

CreditHilary Swift for The New York Times

Elizabeth Warren doesn’t want you to get distracted by light bulbs.

Or, for that matter, paper versus plastic straws. Or whether the Green New Deal will take your cheeseburgers away.

“Oh come on, give me a break,” the Massachusetts senator said at the CNN climate forum when Chris Cuomo asked her to weigh in on whether the government should mandate the kind of light bulbs Americans use in the wake of the Trump administration rolling back energy efficiency regulations.

“This is exactly what the fossil fuel industry hopes we’re all talking about,” Ms. Warren said. “They want to be able to stir up a lot of controversy around your light bulbs, around your straws and around your cheeseburgers. When 70 percent of the pollution, of the carbon that we’re throwing into the air, comes from three industries.”

The three industries contributing to the most carbon dioxide emissions in the United States right now, Ms. Warren noted, are the building industry, the electric power industry and the oil industry.

Ms. Warren repeatedly put the responsibility for addressing the Earth’s warming squarely on the shoulders of fossil fuel companies, and flatly accused major corporations of corruption. Campaign finance reform is critical to addressing emissions, she said, and warned of future climate change legislation “brought to you by Exxon.”

For the first time, Ms. Warren explicitly embraced a carbon tax before quickly pivoting away from the economic instrument as just one tool in curbing emissions. And she departed from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont who has called for public ownership of electric utilities.

“I’m not sure that’s what gets you to the solutions,” Ms. Warren said. “I’m perfectly willing to take on giant corporations. I think I’ve been known to do that once or twice. But for me I think the way we get there is we just say, ‘Sorry guys, by 2035 you’re done, you’re not going to be using carbon-based fuels anymore.”