It seemed like the whole 90 minutes would be spent slinging insults about family members, interrupting and telling each other to shut up. But with 10 minutes to go of the first 2020 presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace said, “I’d like to talk about climate change.”
The results were revealing. Whether or not you agree with Joe Biden’s plans for getting the U.S. out of its environmental mess, just about any viewer would have to admit that Biden has a plan. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump works hard to avoid the topic.
“I want crystal clean water and air, we now have the lowest carbon … if you look at our numbers now we are doing phenomenally,” Trump said during the debate, adding that people were very happy that he withdrew the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord immediately on taking office. When pushed, Trump admitted there might be something to climate change. He then repeatedly turned the conversation to California’s fires, blaming the state for lack of forest management.
Wallace tried to steer Trump back to the topic. “But sir, if you believe in the science of climate change, why have you rolled back the Obama Clean Power Plan, which limited carbon emissions in power plants? Why have you relaxed fuel economy standards that are going to create more pollution from cars and trucks?” Trump again brushed off the question, this time talking about the safety of new cars.
When Biden got his chance to speak, he gave a quick sketch of his $2 trillion green energy plan, which would include replacing federal cars with electrical vehicles and weathering millions of homes to cut heating and air conditioning needs. Trump repeatedly interrupted, insisting that Biden’s plan was synonymous with the much-maligned Green New Deal and saying it would cost $100 trillion.
The 10-minute climate change debate was a surprise to viewers, as it wasn’t on the pre-released list of debate topics. The six planned topics were the economy, Supreme Court, coronavirus pandemic, race and violence in cities, election integrity and the two candidates’ past records. While climate change is relevant to people planning to continue living on Earth, it’s not the top issue in most voters’ minds. According to a Pew Research Center poll, 68% of Biden supporters cited climate change as “very important,” compared to 11% of Trump supporters. Overall, 42% of voters cited climate change as very important. The top three issues, according to the Pew poll, were the economy, healthcare and Supreme Court appointments.
Image via Milkovi