45 Organizations: Debates Need to Include Climate

September 3, 2020

To: Chris Wallace, Fox News Sunday 
Steve Scully, C-SPAN Networks
Kristen Welker, NBC News
Susan Page, USA Today

Dear Chris Wallace, Steve Scully, Kristen Welker, and Susan Page:

Debates are among the very few, but significant, opportunities for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates to speak directly to the American people. Where candidates must clearly state how they will address our nation’s most pressing issues.

The 45 undersigned organizations stand with the vast majority of voters who favor bold government action to address the climate crisis. Together, we are asking you — the debate moderators charged with shaping these moments — to ensure the climate crisis is a central focus of all presidential and vice-presidential debates this year. It is imperative the candidates seeking our nation’s highest office explain how they will address and prepare us for the current and increasing effects of the climate crisis and how they will combat the environmental injustice that has plagued Black and brown communities for decades.

In 2016, moderators didn’t ask a single question about the climate crisis during any of the four debates. That was unacceptable then and would be nothing short of negligent and dangerous in 2020. This election will be a defining moment for our country. We are truly at the point of no return if we do not act boldly and immediately starting in 2021.

This is not a partisan issue. Research from Stanford University in August of 2020 found that 68% of voters want the US government to do more about global warming — with 82% saying the government should at least do a moderate amount to address the climate crisis, an all-time high for public opinion on the issue. While Pew, in March, found concern over climate change growing with 60% now viewing it as a major threat, up 7 points from 2016 and 16 points from 2009. And scientists worldwide are telling us we must act: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that to avoid the worst impacts of climate change we must nearly half global emissions by 2030, and reach net-zero emissions no later than 2050.

The climate crisis is here — the crisis is not a chart or a graph, or in some far-off future. It is happening now, in communities across America. From rising asthma and cancer rates in frontline communities, predominantly communities of color and low-income communities, who’ve been subject to toxic air and water, to the increasingly devastating extreme hurricanes, heatwaves, wildfires, and violent storms that have destroyed homes and small businesses, wrecked communities, and killed friends, neighbors, and family — we are living with the consequences of climate change every day.

We are a country deep in crises, and how we respond to one crisis magnifies the others.  As we look to our leaders to rebuild and recover from a pandemic-fueled economic crisis, the type of jobs we create is the defining question of how we get people back to work and if we are going to take genuine steps toward the clean future we need to tackle the climate crisis. We’re at the edge of a cliff, and voters must know what direction our next President will take us.

Any discussion on the economy, racial justice, public health, democracy, national security, or infrastructure must include the climate crisis. Voters deserve media coverage that takes the climate crisis as seriously as the science tells us we must and as the millions of people across the country who are currently suffering from the impacts deserve. As moderators, it is your responsibility to ensure all candidates provide clear answers on their specific plans to protect communities from the climate emergency starting on day one and throughout their term.

Thank you for providing the candidates with the opportunity to address their records and explain their plans on an issue vital to the present and future of everyone in this country — and our entire planet.