Climate Change Mentioned in Only One Percent of Questions by Presidential Debate Moderators, Despite Widespread Voter Concern

April 13, 2016

Climate Change Mentioned in Only One Percent of Questions by Presidential Debate Moderators, Despite Widespread Voter Concern

Out of More Than 1,000 Questions, Climate Raised Just 12 Times

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Climate change has received relatively little attention in the 21 U.S. presidential debates held so far, despite 2015 being the hottest year on record and widespread voter support for policies to address climate change, according to a new report (PDF) by Public Citizen, ClimateTruth.org and Greenpeace.

Only one percent of the questions – 12 out of more than 1,000 – asked during the debates have touched on climate change. According to the debate moderators, several of those 12 questions were prompted by social media or local mayors for whom climate change is a priority. Of the questions related to climate change, only six called for the candidates to explain their position. The remaining questions dealt with the politics surrounding climate policy.

“Climate change poses an existential crisis for humanity,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “In raising climate change in only one percent of their questions, debate moderators are failing the public and effectively advancing the interests of the fossil fuel industry, which wants to avoid a meaningful policy debate over how to avert catastrophic climate change.”

“National elections should be a time when our country considers the great challenges and opportunities the next president will face,” said Emily Southard, campaign director for ClimateTruth.org. “While the climate conversation of 2016 is a modest improvement over the deafening silence of 2012, it’s still unacceptable. Climate change is the greatest threat our nation faces, and it is critical that the media and our next president treat it as such.”

“The Pentagon warns that climate change is a top national security threat, and we are already seeing its effects every day,” said Eva Resnick-Day, a democracy campaigner for Greenpeace. “What happens in the next four or eight years could determine the future of not just all Americans, but our planet and the human species. It should be a topic at every debate.”

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