STATEMENT: Climate is Finally a Debate Topic, But the Questions Must Match the Seriousness of The Moment

Washington, D.C. — Following the announcement from moderator Kristen Welker and the Commission on Presidential Debates that climate change will be a topic for the final debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, Climate Power 2020 Executive Director Lori Lodes issued the following statement:

“At the start of the year, it had been two decades since moderators asked candidates questions about the climate crisis during a presidential debate. Now, climate change is a major topic for the upcoming debate, after also being featured in both the presidential and vice-presidential debates this cycle. This decision shows the politics of climate have changed and this crisis will shape the outcome of the 2020 elections.

“It is welcome news that climate will have a dedicated segment, but it’s important for Kristen Welker to pose questions that match the seriousness of this moment. Too often, climate questions hinge on whether a candidate believes in the science, allowing climate deniers to cast false doubt on the fact the climate crisis is here and already harming families across the country. Or questions are framed as an outdated choice between economic growth or clean energy. Environmental justice and climate racism are outright ignored.

“As climate fires rage across the West, the Gulf Coast suffers from a record-shattering hurricane season, and droughts and extreme heat put the health of communities at risk, people need to know what the candidates will do about it. We need moderators to press candidates on their plans to take climate action, and address environmental injustices.  And we need the media to treat the climate crisis as seriously as this existential challenge demands.”

Before the first presidential debate in September, it had been 20 years since candidates running for president were asked a direct question by debate moderators on climate change. Chris Wallace’s questions during the first presidential debate came after nearly 200,000 individuals across the country, 71 Members of Congress, 37 Senators, and 45 climate organizations forcefully called on debate moderators to focus on the biggest crisis of our lifetimes — the climate crisis — in their questioning.