WASHINGTON — When Michaelyn Mankel approached Joseph R. Biden Jr. at an Iowa steak fry last month to demand dramatic action on climate change, the former vice president clasped the 24-year-old’s hands and assured her, “You’ve got a better deal from me than anybody.”
He did, after all, introduce the very first climate change legislation in Congress, in 1986, before Ms. Mankel was born. He also helped to orchestrate the “green jobs” strategy under the Obama administration’s economic stimulus package. He supported landmark regulations on coal plants and automobile tailpipe emissions as vice president, and helped to secure the Paris Agreement, the 2015 pact to limit the rise of global temperatures. His climate change plan would spend $1.7 trillion over a decade, impose a tax on greenhouse gases and aim to bring carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.
Yet Ms. Mankel, a full-time volunteer for the youth-led Sunrise Movement, was disappointed. “This far along in his campaign, it seems he is still ill-prepared to answer a serious question about the climate crisis,” she said in an interview.
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And so it has gone for Mr. Biden, whose experience in the wars over climate change is unmatched among Democratic contenders for the White House, but whose image remains soporific to the young activists driving the debate.
“Times have changed,” said Nigel Purvis, a