Washington, D.C. — Tonight’s presidential debate presented voters with a very clear contrast between how Joe Biden and Donald Trump would address the climate crisis, the most pressing threat facing our country. Biden came prepared with concrete plans to curb emission, create good-paying jobs, and stem the tide of climate injustice. Trump yelled about windmills.

This election marks the first time in 20 years that a presidential debate featured questions about climate change and likely was the first time the crisis was a dedicated topic. Tonight’s debate also made history as the first time a debate moderator asked about environmental justice and the disproportionate harm Black, Brown, and Indengious individuals face because of systemic climate racism. In total, the discussion of climate change occupied more than 32 minutes across the two presidential debates and the single vice-presidential debate.

Kristen Welker’s focus on substantive climate questions allowed both candidates the opportunity to detail their plans to address the climate crisis. Only Biden rose to the occasion. The former vice president offered concrete proposals to invest in American infrastructure and create good-paying, union clean energy jobs. He outlined how we can combat the climate crisis, address longstanding environmental racism, and boost the economy in the process. That is why voters back Biden’s transformational plan to invest $2 trillion in clean energy infrastructure by a more than 2:1 margin – 66% to 26% – according to this week’s New York Times/Siena College national survey. President Trump’s hobbyhorse, fracking, was only favored by 44% of voters in the same poll.

“Tonight we saw one candidate, Joe Biden, offer a bold vision for America’s future. A future where we take on the climate crisis while creating millions of good-paying union jobs. The other candidate, Donald Trump, who denies science, won’t listen to experts, and has no plans for climate action, doubled-down on spending billions on subsidies for Big Oil and ranted and raved about cows and windmills,” said Climate Power 2020 Executive Director Lori Lodes. “Trump continued his bizarre focus on fracking, while Biden laid out a comprehensive plan to transition to a carbon-neutral, clean energy economy.”

We just heard more of the same lies, distractions, and dissembling from Donald Trump, the most anti-nature president in U.S. history. While he touted false claims about clean air and water, the truth is that Trump has rolled back more than 100 environmental protections, including clean air, clean water, and auto efficiency. Instead of a plan, he delivered an incoherent rant about windmills and buildings with small windows.  

They want to knock down buildings and build buildings with little tiny small windows and many other things,” said Trump. He later said, “I know more about wind than you do. It’s extremely expensive. Kills all the birds. It’s very intermittent. It’s got a lot of problems.”

When Welker asked the first-ever presidential debate question about environmental justice and the disproportionate harm Black, Brown, and Indengious individuals face because of systemic climate racism. The two candidates’ answers could not have been more different.

“My response is that those people live on what they call fencelines. He doesn’t understand this. They live near chemical plants, oil plants, and refineries that pollute. I used to live near that when I was growing up in Claymont, Delaware… When my mom would get in the car in the first frost and turn on the windshield wiper, there’d be an oil slick in the window,” Biden said. “That’s why so many people in my state were dying and getting cancer. The fact is that in those frontline communities, it doesn’t matter what you’re paying them, it matters how you keep them safe, what do you do. And you impose restrictions on the pollutants coming out of those fenceline communities.”

While Joe Biden instantly understood what Welker was asking and how it feels to live on a fenceline, Donald Trump is incapable of understanding the disproportionate impact of polluters on Black, Brown, and Indengious individuals in Texas and other communities across the country. Instead of addressing the environmental injustices faced by these communities, Trump pivoted to praising his own failed record on the economy and touted Big Oil and his efforts to prop up the industry.

“Joe Biden understands what it’s like to live on a fenceline; Donald Trump didn’t even understand the question,” Lodes said. “Black, Brown, and Indengious individuals have been living with and dying from the pollution and toxic chemicals poured into their communities by the oil and gas CEOs that Trump blindly supports. Climate justice is racial justice and we must address these two issues in tandem if we’re to secure real climate action.”

The focus on climate change in the debates came after a summer and fall of climate disasters that upended daily life across the country: climate fires, supercharged hurricanes, and other extreme weather events. It was also the result of a successful push by  71 House Democrats37 Democratic Senators45 climate organizations, and nearly 200,000 individuals from across the country who called for climate to be a central focus of the debates.